Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Can there ever be another Golden Age of Television

Assuming the writers strike ends as planned, some shows will go back into production, some will be halted till fall, and others will finally get the official cancellation notice. As producers ponder a changing economic tv production model, the choices they make will determine the shows we watch. Decisions may soon be made to commit to a season worth of shows even before a pilot is produced and tested. No extraneous production of pilots unless there is a serious commitment to air the series. Would the Seinfeld show gotten through this vetting process under this new economic model? Many felt it was too New York and wouldn't play well outside the major cities. It took 3 seasons before it became the monster hit it evolved into on NBC. Today, producers seem to lack the patience to keep a show on air.

The Golden Age of Television was filled with stars, variety shows, great dramatic series, and notable writers creating great characters and developing endearing and enduring stories. Today's shows, tend to push the boundaries of bad taste, more concerned with real life sad sacks than telling great, compelling stories. Comedies are crasser, dramatic series are simply more explicit soap operas.

I miss the shows of my youth and find it hard to find a show that the whole family can enjoy together. I miss the variety shows that showcased professional talent, not the amateur shows on today - Carol Burnett, Flip Wilson, Ed Sullivan, et al. I miss the guest-heavy series - Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Love American Style, et al. I miss the comedies - Lucy, Cosby, Cheers. I miss the dramatic series - half hour and hour - that weren't just ripped from the headlines, but told impactful and character studied stories. I miss the classic western, the medical drama (that didn't seem to alweays put a baby in danger in every episode!), the sci fi adventure that didn't make the special effects the story but let the story influence the special effects.

The writers strike is ending; the business model seems to be turned upside down. But the product can still improve. Reality programming is a bandaid, but the real health of TV is getting back to our roots of what made television great!