"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Friday, January 2, 2009

The New Golden Age of Television Roars Back

Have you seen Heather Havrilesky's dyspeptic The year the small screen fell flat in Salon, subtitled "Lackluster pilots, slumping sophomore shows and the devolution of the serial drama. The golden age of TV suddenly looked tarnished in 2008."

Here's the picture she paints ...

2008 not only marked one of the worst years of TV in the last decade, but all of the momentum and promise of the past few years seemed to vanish in a haze of crappy, unoriginal new programming, lackluster sophomore shows, flaccid sitcoms and pointless cable comedies.

Some bloggers agree with this, at least in part. The Flaming Nose, for example, cites Dexter, Mad Men, and True Blood as exceptions to Havrilesky's screed, but calls it nonetheless "well reasoned".

But I don't know what picture, or screen, Havrilesky or the Flaming Nose have been looking at.

The past year - 2008 - brought us one of the best seasons of Lost, a cut-throat knock-down legal thriller in Damages, the best episodes ever shown of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, outstanding seasons indeed of Dexter and Brotherhood on Showtime, and The Wire, In Treatment, John Adams, and, yes, True Blood on HBO and Mad Men on AMC, to name just a few.

And here's what we have in store this and next month of 2009: the debuts of new seasons of 24 (January 10-11) and Lost (January 21) - among the top shows ever to have been on television - as well as Battlestar Galactica (January 16), Big Love (January 18), and Damages (January 7), plus the resumption of Fringe (January 20), Life on Mars (January 28), Heroes (February 2), and The Sarah Connor Chronicles (February 13). And, come to think of it, of The Unit (January 4), The Closer (January 26), and Bones (January 15) - none of which I've yet reviewed here on Infinite Regress (as I have all the others), because I've not yet thoroughly caught up with the earlier parts of the current season, because they're not yet on DVD, and I prefer watching these great shows on my television not computer screen.

And, while we're at it, there's also The L Word, which is coming back for its final season on January 18, and I reviewed the first four episodes of here last week. Another fine show.

So, is the new golden age of television - as I called it in an op-ed in Newsday in July 2006 - "tarnished"? Only if you're wearing some kind of rust-colored glasses...


Anonymous said...

It's ironic that someone expounding on a "golden age" of television holds up some hideously bad programmes as examples of good television. Every single title you mention on your blog is garbage, with the notable exception of Life On Mars - *if* you're referring to the BBC production. How anyone can bear watching trash like Lost is really beyond me, I was once stuck at a friends house with 24 on the television and I think being trapped in a sensory deprivation tank would be more exciting.

If you really think this is good television, you're only half alive. I say this genuinely as one human being to another, save yourself and turn the damn thing off and learn to enjoy reality.

Paul Levinson said...

:) I'm actually loving reality, a part of which is watching these and other like, great televisions shows, and discussing them, with my wife, family, and friends, which I've been doing for years.

In contrast, you're the one who doesn't seem very happy - at least, not by the pain apparent in your comment.

So here's some advice to you: get a life, and stop worrying so much if other people enjoy experiences that you do not, such as watching certain television shows. Different strokes for different strokes - that's another sparkling part of life.

RikerDonegal said...

I agree.

And disagree.

My feeling is that you are absolutely right about most of the shows you mention. Shows with the quality of 24, Lost, BSG, etc. inspire in me a great passion for this wonderful hobby of ours: television.


Except for Middleman and Flashpoint I have to say that every single new show to make a debut in 2008 was awful.

Yes, there were some good ones early in the year (New Amsterdam) and some fun to be had during the Summer (In Plain Sight) but the post-September TV landscape has been very, very bleak.

With regard to new shows.

I tried pretty much all of them and am currenly watching none. Except Worst Week, when I can find time for it.

And not only am I not watching them, I found many of them to without redeeming qualities.

Truly awful.

So, while I have still have more than enough truly superb quality television to keep me entertained night after night, I look at the new season and I worry.

Where is the next Friday Night Lights? The next Closer? The next Prison Break?

I don't see them.

And with the quality of the new breed being so low, I'm half afraid that TV has forgotten how to do shows that good.

Maybe Dollhouse will give me hope...

Paul Levinson said...

Hey, Riker -

I agree with you that the resuming series from earlier years are much much better than the series that debuted in 2008 ...

With one, powerful exception - Damages. Have you seen it?

RikerDonegal said...


And the new episode was amazing...