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27.04.13

On Television.

Posted 27th April 2013

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From a piece on the Red Bee Media blog, “Is the Golden Age of TV Here To Stay?”:

“What’s behind the rise of the Golden age of television and how are consumer habits tuning into it?

There has been much talk recently about how we are experiencing a ‘Golden Age’ for television. There’s certainly no doubting the quality of the programmes being produced; from Breaking Bad, Mad Men and The Walking Dead (to name but a few) in the US to the likes of Downton Abbey, Sherlock and Dr Who right here at home.

But what is it that has made this such a great time for TV and, as business models and viewer behaviours continue to change, how much longer can we expect it to continue?”

Now, I don’t really want to go down the road of debating whether we actually are in a golden age of television, or whether that was in the 60s, or whether it all went downhill once the resolution went past 30 lines. Such discussions have been had endlessly. What I want to examine is how the debate here – and elsewhere – is framed.

Breaking Bad. Mad Men. The Walking Dead. Downton Abbey. Sherlock. Doctor Who. All given as examples of a current golden age of television. And all six examples are drama. Television is not just drama.

Television is sitcom. Television is game shows. Television is chat shows. Television is news. Television is documentaries. Television is sport. Television is entertainment shows. And television is many other things, stretching outside genre boundaries. Whenever this debate comes up, drama is nearly always the focus; and of course, it’s hugely important. But by ignoring everything else that television is, you diminish it. Great TV is so much more than just drama.

The latest series of Saturday Night Takeaway was at times absolutely extraordinary; clearly made by a production team which put stupid amounts of effort into the show. Pointless could be just another mediocre afternoon quiz show; but a ludicrously clever format and the Armstrong & Osman double act turn it into fantastic telly. Peppa Pig is one of the funniest and most heartwarming shows on television, with a line in dry humour a lot of adult drama would kill for. All important. All part of how television can be great.

Discussions about drama on television and the rise of Netflix and the like are hugely valuable. But it’s important to frame that debate as just one part of the wider picture. We mustn’t forget the rest. It all needs attention. It should all be the best it possibly can be. And it should all be appreciated when it is.

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