I watched the first episode of “Black Mirror” last night and, before I went to bed, couldn’t help thinking about how much television has evolved from when, if someone were to ask me what my favorite series were, I would have probably said something along the lines of “Friends” or “Dexter.” I’m not sure if it is because we have changed as a society, or the industry has changed in response to the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, but it is my personal opinion that the television industry has tried to become more profound and ambitious over recent years.
Although Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away, I would like to prematurely give thanks to the evolving landscape of the television industry, and of society, for the rise in popularity of series like “House of Cards” and “Black Mirror.”
I welcome this newfound open cynicism in television. There was a time when television was seen as, for lack of a better word, a crude form of entertainment. Television was something you watched to pass the time and that is all. Albeit they were successful in their own right. Their sole purpose was to entertain.
When I saw the first episode of “Black Mirror,” I was thinking about how well just the first episode could work as a standalone one-hour-long movie. Television was already such a close relative to movies, and now that they have become more ambitious, it has become harder to distinguish between the two. Another reason being their length, deviating from the original 20 to 30 minutes, making the distinction harder for all the right reasons.
And then we have the epics, like “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones,” where directors take an opposing radical approach in which the scale and timeline is so grand that it supersedes the conventional epic trilogy types like “The Hunger Games” and “The Lord of the Rings.”
Nowadays we have so many choices regarding television that we begin forming mini-cults or subcultures around them. It’s a win-win situation when directors are allowed to explore their creative pursuits, whether it’s on a thematic or epic scale, that is backed up by this subculture following.
The question now, however, is whether the directors and producers are willing to discontinue their pursuit once they run out of things to say. The fact that shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Archer” have come out beforehand to announce their final seasons long beforehand illustrates the producers’ ability to commit to their own creative integrity.
Personally, I would much rather see a successful series end at its peak rather than have the producers push on to make the most out of its following and popularity. Directors also have to be extremely cautious if, and when, they decide to make a spin-off of a successful show. One of the reasons why I believe “Better Call Saul” is successful is because although it is related to the timeline of “Breaking Bad,” it does not rely on the success of its predecessor to be successful.
Nonetheless, I would like to see more of what’s been going on in the television industry and would really be interested to see how far producers are willing to take it. There is still a hint of concern over the easily abused aspect of having a huge following, as it can easily be manipulated for financial gain. This is perfectly fine, so long as you admit it and not attempt to disguise it as creative expression — the pot’s already hot enough as it is.