We're Gonna Need A Bigger Remote
April 10, 2016 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Some say that we are currently in a new Golden Age of TV, where quality and popularity of shows are at an all time high. Some would also say that we're in an age of Peak TV, popularized by John Landgraf (FX Networks CEO) in 2015. It refers to the amount of quality television programming, which gives even TV critics pause. Backing this up, FX Networks researched and released list of all 1400 plus primetime shows in 2015, including all 409 original scripted series that aired in 2015 between 8 PM to 11 PM Eastern (direct download).
posted by ZeusHumms (41 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
The availability of shows is also at an all-time high.
posted by benoliver999 at 1:10 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have nothing really to add, but Paskin's written a damn fine review of Mr Robot, a show whose complexity and panache and deep, deep sadness totally blew me away this year.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:32 PM on April 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


Uh, don't read that review of Mr. Robot if you are interested in seeing it unspoiled. 'Cause it's spoileriffic. But you've all seen Mr. Robot already, right? Because of how excellent it is.
posted by Justinian at 1:38 PM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


But you've all seen Mr. Robot already, right?

No, because two words: Christian Slater.

(sorry.)
posted by bigendian at 1:56 PM on April 10, 2016


The last page of that list is like a Ginsberg poem

KIDS ON SPEED
WHITE GUY TALK SHOW
SKEE TV
RELEASE THE HOUNDS
CELEBRITY CONVERSATIONS
posted by theodolite at 2:14 PM on April 10, 2016 [13 favorites]


Today I learned that ten million people watch CSI:Cyber.
posted by phooky at 2:28 PM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


bigendian: "No, because two words: Christian Slater.
"

You are wrong, in varied, profound ways.
posted by signal at 2:40 PM on April 10, 2016 [8 favorites]


Christian Slater undergoes a miraculous transformation, into a slightly different Christian Slater character.
posted by Flashman at 2:51 PM on April 10, 2016


I don't even know what to do with this information. I'm having trouble putting this data point in context. If we are indeed seeing more shows than ever before, I doubt that that means there is more variety - probably there's just more of the same, hoping to capture an increasingly small slice of the viewer pie. If that's the case then I expect it's mostly race-to-the-bottom stuff.

On the other hand, the wider the base the higher the mountain - thus shows like the expanse (something good from scifi! finally!), game of thrones, and Master of None. But, the more shows that are specifically tailored to ME as a thin-slice demographic, the higher the demand is going to be on those thin slices to make it worth it. I don't know how that will play out.
posted by rebent at 3:04 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


So tv is finally getting to the point that written entertainment has been at since, what, the 1800s?
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:29 PM on April 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


And yet tv news is getting worse.
posted by doctornemo at 3:51 PM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


"No, because two words: Christian Slater."

I feel you. Back in the 80s I enjoyed the tv show "Wiseguy" (yeah, well, so's your mother) until I read that one of the upcoming season arcs would feature Jerry Lewis as an ongoing character. "Uh, oh, self. Looks like I'll have to devote my crucial-demo attention to something else." But, Lewis turned out excellent in the part. Slater is the least crappy Slater personality ever in Mr. Robot. Props to second banana status.
posted by Chitownfats at 3:57 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Christian Slater

*Checks Wikipedia*

Just finished re-watching latest season of Archer. First time I made the connection.
posted by AdamCSnider at 4:25 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Considering the time it took written entertainment to get to the state it was in in the 1800s, TV moved at light speed.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:32 PM on April 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


No, because two words: Christian Slater.

For the infinitieth time, JUST SLATER. It's a mononym.
posted by Talez at 6:05 PM on April 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


I just assume Slater's character in Mr. Robot is a grown up Happy Harry Hard-on and it makes everything better.
posted by Justinian at 6:05 PM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Today I learned that ten million people watch CSI:Cyber.

Honestly, I only watched because every single time I thought it had reached its lowest point, it got worse. It was fractal badness.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:12 PM on April 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


The availability of shows is also at an all-time high.

NOT TO MENTION that services that were ostensibly set up to make watching TV even easier are also suddenly serving up a smorgasbord of classic movies (I just watched My Dinner with Andre on Hulu, and then discovered they're serving up international fare from Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! to In the Realm of the Senses, without commercials), so not only is there more good TV than every before but there is also more access to TV's most direct competitor for your attention.
posted by psoas at 6:29 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Looking at the big list, I like the idea that there are 3 pages worth of shows whose audience can't be measured by Nielsen.
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:29 PM on April 10, 2016


3 pages worth of shows whose audience can't be measured by Nielsen.

I was wondering if that was going to include Looking, which I liked but whose audience was described as a "little more than a rounding error" by someone in the know... and no, it's actually on page 20 right above The Knick. Not stellar, but still kind of annoying that HBO cancelled a niche show for turning out to be a niche show.

(I note too that this list doesn't include streaming services like Netflix, which famously doesn't release viewership numbers on its ever-multiplying stable of shows.)
posted by psoas at 6:46 PM on April 10, 2016


I have nothing really to add, but Paskin's written a damn fine review of Mr Robot, a show whose complexity and panache and deep, deep sadness totally blew me away this year.

Totally! Although I thought the middle episodes of Mr. Robot were irritating, and I'm pretty worried the showrunner won't be able to pull off a second season, the end of that first season was one of the most heartbreaking things I've seen on television. It absolutely ruined that Alabama Shakes song for me, but in the best way possible; I put it on sometimes when I want to go back there, to that moment of the show.
posted by cudzoo at 9:10 PM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Someone insisted that i watch Gravity Falls and i'm glad thst i did. WHEN DID SILLY CARTOONS GET SO GOOD!?
posted by ELF Radio at 1:52 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I love all the callouts for UnREAL because UnREAL is the greatest and I'm delighted to see everyone recognize that
posted by vibratory manner of working at 2:20 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I love that there's so much good stuff to watch these days. Marco Polo on Netflix may be incredibly not fact based but it's good for when I need to unwind and don't have brain left for reading.

I don't watch a lot of TV, but when I do, I like that I can watch an entire season in one sitting.
posted by sio42 at 3:11 AM on April 11, 2016


Today I learned that ten million people watch CSI:Cyber.

And my parents are two of them, though it's mostly my Dad. I sat a watch half of one with them. It was painful. I asked them why they liked it. Here's my anecdotal data.

The most important thing for my Dad is that it's a show that most of the plot is contained within one show. He's just not good at following shows with long plot arcs. Part of that is due to his age, memory isn't as swift as before and part of it is that for most of his mainstream tv watching life a good many shows followed a story of the week format. He regularly says that it's harder to find shows on TV now that don't need you keep track of things week after week.

The tech stuff related to whatever the plot is very easy to understand. My Dad likes it because he thinks it's helping him keep up with the times, even if it's just a little bit. He's not adverse to computers and has used them since the days of the first office IBMs but lately he's lamented about things happening so fast that he can't keep up. I talked to him about a lot of it just being BS but it's more the feeling that counts.

I tried watching Mr Robot with them. The computer stuff was too complicated and it actually stressed my Dad out.
posted by Jalliah at 5:42 AM on April 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Whenever I hear that we're in a "golden age" of television, a claim notably not-new considering This American Life was making it in the live show I saw in Chicago nine years ago, I can only retort that that's true if your tastes run to the gritty, dark, apocalyptic, horrifying, overwrought, and criminal, that's certainly true, but if that sort of diversion is not your cup of tea, TV is considerably less golden.
posted by sonascope at 6:04 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


That said, the US catching up to the British short-series model in our boutique programming, instead of the old blathering endless space-filler that used to be our stock-in-trade, in which plots repeated endlessly because of the desperate need for more cheap between-commercials stuffing, is a very good thing.
posted by sonascope at 6:08 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


The opposite of "gritty, dark, apocalyptic, horrifying, overwrought, and criminal" was just about the only thing on television for the first 30-40 years, so you've got alot of programming to go back to. Also, the Big 3 should have you covered for newer stuff.

I also think the turn toward "better" TV being darker is that there's more drama and story there. A drama show where everyone is happy and content doesn't have much to go on.
posted by LizBoBiz at 7:38 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, thank god for the rise of the scripted show again. There was a while there where it seemed like every new show coming out was a reality show.
posted by LizBoBiz at 7:40 AM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


The opposite of "gritty, dark, apocalyptic, horrifying, overwrought, and criminal" was just about the only thing on television for the first 30-40 years, so you've got alot of programming to go back to. Also, the Big 3 should have you covered for newer stuff.

Except I don't want the lousy, committee-room sitcoms of the past fifty years (see my second comment)—I want producers and writers to take on the challenge of writing series that tell stories that don't depend entirely on pessimistic antihumanism to maintain our attention. It doesn't have to be nonstop schlockified happy-happy television—there's the Hallmark Channel for that—but the notion that people are only interesting in moments of breakdown is the laziest variation on exploring the human narrative.
posted by sonascope at 7:58 AM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Well, to me it means that I can watch "No, You Shut Up!" on Fusion, which is on YouTube, so pretty much anywhere. The show is a fake news panel featuring Paul F. Tompkins discussing current events with puppets from the Jim Henson Company. PFT often says it's not watched by anyone, which is very nearly true, but they're still making it!
posted by krinklyfig at 8:40 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I can only retort that that's true if your tastes run to the gritty, dark, apocalyptic, horrifying, overwrought, and criminal, that's certainly true, but if that sort of diversion is not your cup of tea, TV is considerably less golden.

I mentioned Looking before (which I totally get is not going to be everyone's cup of tea), which is none of those things, and would also recommend Catastrophe, Casual, Adventure Time, Childrens Hospital, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Another Period, Broad City, and Veep, just in the comedy/whimsy category, with Casual coming closest to "dark."
posted by psoas at 10:31 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


... And Steven Universe.
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:51 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Re. dark television, I'd like to point out that two of my favorite dramas don't really fit Sonascope's list of adjectives. I am also exasperated by the Game of Thrones style where something can't be interesting unless a pregnant woman's getting stabbed in the baby.

Anyway, yeah, my favorite dramas are Mad Men and The Good Wife. (I suppose The Good Wife has crime, but the protagonist is not a villainous anti-hero. She's good! It says it right in the name!) Contra LizBoBiz, these shows have plenty of drama and story without having zombies, cannibalism or the prime minster fucking a pig on live TV.
posted by zeusianfog at 10:53 AM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I didn't mention any of those things, and I would consider them only one part of the "dark" definition. So, I guess we have different definitions of dark then. I would classify anything that has to do with humans being bad, dealing with the fallout of their own poor choices, dealing with emotional pain, as dark, so yes, The Good Wife and Mad Men I would consider dark. They have affairs, people die, corruption, lies, etc.
posted by LizBoBiz at 11:29 AM on April 11, 2016


I was going off of Sonascope's definition: "gritty, dark, apocalyptic, horrifying, overwrought and criminal." I would agree that foreclosing on every negative aspect of human nature would stifle drama, but what repels me is the gratuitously "edgy" in television. It strikes me as juvenile. Maybe I only feel that way because when I was 15, my absolute favorite TV show was Oz.
posted by zeusianfog at 11:31 AM on April 11, 2016


Justinian: I just assume Slater's character in Mr. Robot is a grown up Happy Harry Hard-on and it makes everything better.

You're not imagining things:
Esmail: Hard Harry is a huge inspiration for Mr. Robot. It’s fun to write a character like that. He’s the mouthpiece to your id, and it can come off incredibly corny or annoying or whatever if it’s not the right guy. But here I get Christian Slater, who couldn’t be more perfect because he played that part in Heathers and Pump Up the Volume, which were huge parts of my childhood.
As for this list: I'd like to be a total nerd and try to classify shows as: 1) never-dying, 2) spin-off, 3) reboot/media shift*, 4) live action or 5) moderately original scripted show.

The top-ranked show, The Big Bang Theory, is in its 9th season. There's a handful of NCIS and a few CSI shows, some reality contests, *shows based on comics or books that did well on their own before becoming shows.

In other words, the original programming isn't all that original. There are more safe bets sticking around, or getting supported.

But I will agree that there are more shows that are decently original and unique, and it seems like there's more of them than before, so I think the "golden age" isn't wholly without merit.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:20 PM on April 11, 2016


So, I guess we have different definitions of dark then. I would classify anything that has to do with humans being bad, dealing with the fallout of their own poor choices, dealing with emotional pain, as dark, so yes, The Good Wife and Mad Men I would consider dark. They have affairs, people die, corruption, lies, etc.

I guess there's always... the Smurfs? Or something?
posted by Justinian at 12:24 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


or the prime minster fucking a pig on live TV.

We're discussing scripted TV, not documentaries.
posted by el io at 12:26 PM on April 11, 2016


The most important thing for my Dad is that it's a show that most of the plot is contained within one show. He's just not good at following shows with long plot arcs. Part of that is due to his age, memory isn't as swift as before and part of it is that for most of his mainstream tv watching life a good many shows followed a story of the week format. He regularly says that it's harder to find shows on TV now that don't need you keep track of things week after week.

It is much harder to find those shows, and I don't like it either. An episode of tv - at its best - has the potential to be as weighty and dramatic as a full-length movie, just a short story can have even more weight than a full-length novel. And I've seen some really poetic episodes, that are even more powerful for being so compressed. "Supernatural" has a lot of good ones; they more-or-less set out to make a half-length horror movie each week.

Nowadays, episodes get strung together, like a triple-length movie, and it's totally unnecessary, and inefficient, in my opinion. Like the double-length premiere of "The Librarians" last year was so slow, I almost turned it off. It's not two episodes worth of story; it's just stretched out. (The polar opposite of that is episode 5.10 of "Supernatural", which covers so much story that it feels like a double-length episode, but it isn't.)

"Sense8" and "Jessica Jones" are also really stretched out. I think the first episode of JJ would probably have been condensed into the first fifteen minutes of the pilot, on network television. I'm certainly glad Netflix has the space to experiment like that, but I don't like the results.

The new Xena reboot is going to be much more serialized too, and I'm a little sad about that.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 12:35 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I guess there's always... the Smurfs? Or something?

Are you kidding? Not only is their species doomed because almost all of the women have disappeared, but they live in constant fear of being devoured by a gigantic monster.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:38 PM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


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