I read, or a friend of mine suggested—I don’t recall which, that we are in a golden age for television. Numerous excellent programs are available. So, I’ve been thinking about this: Are we really in a golden age for television programming?
As a child, we had to center our schedules around our favorite TV programs. If you missed them, they were gone unless they did reruns later that season. Today, I simply can not imagine scheduling my time around TV programs, and I don’t—never did.
Then VCRs came out. You could, theoretically, program the thing to record a program when it aired, and then watch it at your convenience. This was such a huge leap forward! I bought a VCR. Programing the difficult beast was time consuming! You had to know when the program would air, on what channel, have the VCR correctly setup with date and time, and then go through the tedious process of setting up the recording. (Remember, computers were just becoming a “thing.”)
To make matters worse, I lived in the southeast. We frequently had short power outages. Even a brief second of power disruption and the VCR started blinking 12:00. O god! No!!
I won’t even go into the betamax versus VHS war! Recording a TV program was not easy. And even with cable, the number of channels available still restricted access to programming.
We got a TiVo about 10 years ago. Now that made recording programs realistically doable. You didn’t need to know when or on what channel a program would be available, just it’s name. Programming a TiVo is something mere mortals can actually do, easily! And who cares if the power blinks out; the TiVo knows the date and time automatically.
Golden Age of Television: Not Just Content
But even with the ease of recording TV programming on the TiVo, no one was talking about the golden age of television. Content was still an issue. But, you see, I think it’s more than just a content issue. It’s also availability. And it’s not just what’s available through the airways or a cable subscription.
Today, content is available online through services like Netflix, Hulu, and others. Today I can access an enormous library of old television content as well as new, current programming at almost any time. To me, that’s what makes this the golden age of television: massive content availability almost any time I want to watch it.
I never saw Prime Suspect when it aired years ago. I didn’t know it existed as I just recently discovered it (because of Netflix recommendations). It’s awesome television! Brilliant writing and acting. I’ve now seen all of the episodes and wish they produced more. Fantastic story telling.
House of Cards blows me out of the water. It’s only available through Netflix. True Detective is stunning and available 24/7 through HBOgo. Scandals is compelling, and available both on network (reruns), and now season three is available on Netflix. I was excited to see how quickly the third season moved to Netflix. I could list numerous exciting stories that are available to us now.
Yes, I think we are in a golden age of television, but not just TV, a golden age for visual story telling. You can find awesome content to watch any time.
And the battle for net neutrality is raging because a lot of money can be made by choking this unfettered access. Great. Just Great!