7 Shows That Prove We’re In a Golden Age of Television


Last week Darth Gandalf wrote about the future of cinema. I found this to be a tad optimistic as cinema seems to be determined to bury itself under a mountain of unprofitable multi-million dollar blockbuster franchises that come 2018 will have a minuscule opportunity to turn a profit. There are already so many blockbuster movies due for release in 2018 that the average annual number of cinema-goers cannot sustain the studios backing them. The system will have to adapt or crash, and the multiplexes will crash with them.

As a life-long movie buff this should bother me, but there’s something already taking the place of blockbuster movies and that is television. Although TV (along with VHS and the internet) was predicted to kill the big screen that eventuality never came about. The quality of TV shows simply couldn’t compete.

But this is a new era of television, one where the ease of streaming content, more accessible effects work, Oscar winning actors coming on board and more daring content makes it a competitive medium. One could argue that TV has never been better. To back up that argument, consider the following programs…

BLACK MIRROR

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This show is many things. Funny, satirical, thought provoking and above all – dark. Dark and disturbing. Like the title suggests the show gives us a dark reflection of our own society and the trends currently dominating our world. Reality TV, augmented gaming, social media, sensationalist news coverage, cyber-bullying and more comes under scrutiny in this anthology series. Every episode gives us a unique nightmare and nothing is off the table. This is the show in which the debut episode centred on a political leader being forced to fuck a pig on live television. With actors such as John Hamm, Bryce Dallas Howard, Hayley Atwell and Domhnall Gleeson involved it’s all the better. Thank goodness Netflix doubled the number of episodes available.

BOJACK HORSEMAN

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Speaking of Netflix, it wasn’t going to long before we got into one of their originals. One could be forgiven for thinking this show is just out to be quirky and weird with it’s anthropomorphic animals and entertainment industry themes. It is certainly odd, but it’s also a blisteringly funny and unexpectedly moving examination of depression as washed up TV star Bojack continuously spirals downward. It’s a gift of the creators that they walk the line between their title character being sympathetic and loathsome. The phenomenal voice cast of Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, Aaron Paul, Paul F. Thompkins and Alison Brie are consistently on point with their characters. And if you want something more crass, Archer is just as good.

GAME OF THRONES

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It’s amazing in itself that one of the most expensive shows on the tube is a brutally violent, shockingly sexual adaptation of a fantasy book series with dragons, zombies and a body count that rivals most war movies. Game of Thrones, based on George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series, has become a cultural landmark with most actors becoming household names and ratings records being smashed. Every season ups the ante, with the recent climactic battle outside Winterfell setting a new high bar for impressive action sequences. Now what will end first, the TV series of the original book series?

 ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK

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What comes to mind when you think of TV shows with largely female casts? Sex and the CityThe View or Desperate Housewives perhaps? It’s a surprisingly narrow field considering the television watching demographics. Orange is the New Black, based on the autobiography of the same name, mixes things up with it’s honest subject matter and vastly diverse cast. Unafraid to steer away from taboos or challenging the viewer it’s compelling and enjoyable storytelling that’s perfect for binge watching.

GRAVITY FALLS (and other kid’s animated shows)

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Growing up in the 80s it was standard operating procedure that our televised entertainment was primarily created to sell us action figures. TMNT, Captain Planet, Transformer, Dino Riders…fun shows yes, but hardly driven by a love of the art form. These past few years we’ve seen a shift towards story driven content that refuses to talk down to it’s audience. I watch Gravity Falls with my kids and while they like the strange monsters and funny characters I can’t help but get drawn into the carefully crafted two-season long mystery plotline. Then there’s the Avatar shows, two different runs focusing on different generations of characters and giving the audiences a martial arts epic drawing on different cultures. Adventure Time is surreal lunacy that discusses gender and gender politics with its young audience to great acclaim, whilst Steven Universe takes an extra step by introducing a transgender character. As a parent I’m thrilled to see so much fantastic material for my kids.

WESTWORLD

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Ok, yes, it’s only three episodes in but HOLY MOLEY this feels like the culmination of all the great trends the past decade have been working on. J.J. Abram’s is producing, Jonathan Nolan is writing and the cast includes Sir Anthony Hopkins. Based from the 70s sci-fi movie by Michael Crichton it takes an in-depth look at the concepts and philosophies surrounding artificial intelligence. Complex, thought provoking and aesthetically stunning we only hope it doesn’t let us down.

MARVEL’S SUPERHEROES

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Aaaaand back to Netflix. The DC characters may have earned themselves a slot but they pale in comparison to the slow build up of The Defenders. What’s particularly satisfying about the Marvel Cinematic Universe is how well it captures what it is that makes us love comics. If there’s one problem it’s that it only covers the spandex crowd, not street level crime fighters such as Daredevil and Luke Cage. Four seasons down and it just gets better and better. These shows are simply perfect – bring on Iron Fist.

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