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Not Just Junk Food

24 July 2013 | Blog

Remember the death of TV content?

Back at the turn of the century, a little show called Survivor kicked off a reality TV craze. There had been reality TV before, of course—thank you, MTV—but when it combined with the game show juggernaut Who Wants to be a Millionaire, suddenly everyone was declaring the end of scripted television. TV had always been considered a bit déclassé, but now we had hit a new permanent low. All that stretched before us was a never-ending parade of bachelors marrying millionaires on islands with immunity idols, junk food for the mind.

And yet here we are, in what could be argued to be a new golden age of scripted television. The Sopranos opened the floodgates for smartly written TV to pull in intelligent, affluent viewers, from Downton Abbey to Mad Men, The Wire to Game of Thrones. By the end of 30 Rock, no one could complain that Alec Baldwin was slumming it on the boob tube.

That doesn’t mean that we’ve given up our guilty pleasures, of course. The success of Duck Dynasty and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo has shown that the genre of reality television is going strong, and competitions like Dancing With the Stars continue to attract millions of viewers. But the diversity of programming is astonishing. A decade ago, who would have thought that we would be engrossed in the dilemmas of geeks (The Big Bang Theory), the threat of zombies (The Walking Dead), or the tendency of teenagers to suddenly burst into song (Glee)?

So what does that mean for TV? For all that we complain that the internet is killing our attention span, the most talked-about storytelling going on today is all on the long form of television. Compared to movies, which these days seem to feature mostly superheroes and explosions, TV is where writers and actors have the luxurious space to create richly detailed worlds, nuanced characters, and intricate plots. Social media has only added fuel to this fire. Our favorite TV shows generate endless speculation week after week. And for all that executives fret over the abandonment of TV, to keep up with the conversation (and avoid the spoilers), we have to keep up with the shows in at least near-real time.

Storytelling has always been one of our driving passions. In this new renaissance of television, we’re enjoying a banquet of options, with a broader range of types of stories told than ever before. With programming for every possible audience, TV is a great place to efficiently reach practically everyone.