"Art is dead," declares Amy Poehler's hilariously delirious Art Dealer character in Old Navy commercial. (No, I'm not quoting the Old Navy ad.)
"Culture is dead," I acknowledged the other day, heart aching.
"Except for TV," I got in reply.
Yes, TV (and here I include all of its forms - commercial broadcast, basic and premium cable/satellite, as well as streaming media) is the last place where NEW cultural achievements of quality still occur. With their installment-based capital risks and an ability to get out of ventures at any time, television productions can afford to cater to narrower slivers of potential viewing audience and undertake some seriously daring creative leaps. The extended storytelling real estate is also a plus. As a result, TV has been attracting great writers, famous directors, and an array of first-class actors for the sake of producing great (some even better than great) entertainment of superior cultural value (in comparison to the slush all other contemporary arts and entertainments churn up).
However, there is a problem: The creators are in a permanent face-off with the collective mind of hundreds of thousands viewers fused together through the numerous social network outlets. In isolation, average members of the TV audience can be kept engaged, surprised, and wondering by watching the lives of their beloved characters unfold at a regular pace; but as a multi-headed guessing and predicting monster they need more, much more. It's harder to keep the interconnected viewing machine hooked without sacrificing the storytelling quality; and by upping the ante, many shows (not all, of course - see my collage for reference) are running the danger of either pushing themselves into a treacherous territory of nonsensical and forgettable ridiculousness or of running completely out of steam.
And it's not just me who sees the potentially suffocating aftermath of this trend. Now, the quote (finally):
"The newest, hottest TV-storytelling model is all about fan service, and it throws so much plot at viewers that the result sometimes recalls that old video game of the firefighter rushing up and down a sidewalk, catching falling babies in a basket."
Matt Zoller Seitz for New York Magazine
May 18 - May 31, 2015