Why TV is so damned good these days

19th November 2014

When I think of the freedom of the 1960s, the romance of the 1950s, the adventure of the 1940s, I sometimes despair for the age we live in.

Is this it? Are we really to be made famous for being the epoch of vines, and news feeds, and ice bucket challenges? And just as the banality of life since year 2000 seems to overwhelm me, I switch on the television to remember we are, after all, alive in a gilded age.

Original television drama shines brightly, the most radiant star of our cultural firmament.

Through mammoth artistic achievements such as The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Sex in the City, Lost, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Girls, Love/Hate, The Bridge, and an incomprehensible series in Baltimore about drug-dealing, television has found its generous trade-wind and is currently sailing gracefully, on track to a wonderful New World. I’m expecting a sighting of Hispaniola at any moment.

I have heard competing accounts as to why this is so. Accounts attributing TV’s rise to Cable, or to its ability to tell non-linear, complex narrative, or to the proliferation of choice, or to cinema’s death-by-blockbuster. But today I heard a simpler, more intuitive explanation, which somehow makes sense of it all.

I spent two years studying psychology, a science deeply committed to understanding patterns and explaining the way things are (psychologists call this phenomenology, a word that sounds rather amusing when you hear someone actually say it).

Psych just loves that old adage – correlation is not causation. Because things appear to explain something, doesn’t mean that they do.

Getting to the why of things is a core human compulsion. We just love to understand our world better. Yet, so often, we get tossed on the winds of conflicting arguments: fat’s bad; no, sugar’s bad; no, fat’s bad…

Indeed, the same is the case for those of us trying to diagnose brand and marketing problems. There are so many competing theories as to why the problem is as it is. One often finds oneself adrift, sailing in circles.

An interesting way through is to trust your instinct. Or, in psychological terms, to trust your System One thinking. System One is that more animalistic part of our brain which thinks heuristically. Without losing a beat, it figures things out.

In short, the advice is this: follow your gut judgement. It usually knows best.

Which is why I now have a compelling answer for why the 2000s are a golden age of wonderful, masterful, genius television content.

It all comes down to the invention of plasma TV screens. Gone are the crappy, boxy, pixel-poor, ugly TV sets of yore. In the 2000s, suddenly, television drama-directors could aspire to make something beautiful that would actually be fully seen and be fully appreciated. And so they did.
© Brian McIntyre 2014

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