A few weeks ago some friends of mine were hipping me to this new show on Netflix called “Narcos,” which is basically a serialized docudrama about Pablo Escobar’s reign as Colombia’s top drug kingpin during the 1980s. My friends weren’t just suggesting I should watch it – they were imploring that I get into it as heavily as they did, practically clocking off their favorite, oh-no-they-didn’t moments to each other.
I did watch a couple of episodes of “Narcos,” and I thought it was a’ight. I have yet to revisit it again. I also haven’t run into my friends again lately, perhaps out of fear they’re gonna bring up the show to me and grill me on what I’ve loved most about it. But seeing them practically salivate over a television show reminded me how much discussing and watching television – and lots of it – has become a major thing for people these days. Both cable and streaming video services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon appear to drop new scripted shows every waking moment, many of them actually worth your time. And, of course, since these streaming services offer up whole seasons of shows all at once, people can spend their weekends holed up inside, binge-watching one season after another and eventually talking about it with friends.
We’re living in a new age of television, people, where there’s just too much good TV out there. Tim Goodman of the Hollywood Reporter refers to it as “the Platinum Age of Television.” However, I much prefer Rolling Stone TV critic Rob Sheffield’s term for our new age: “Glut TV.” Even he finds the embarrassment of riches that is contemporary TV to be quite overwhelming. “Fact: There will not be enough hours in 2015 to watch all the TV you want to see in 2015,” Sheffield recently wrote. “It’s not humanly possible. If you give each of your eyeballs its own screen, then wire another screen directly into your cortex for a third rail, you’d still run out of time.”
But it’s not just critics who feel this way. Sheffield also pointed to a speech John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks and FX Productions, made at last summer’s Television Critics Association press tour, where he broke down the numbers of the current TV landscape (he believed 2015 will “blow through the 400 series mark”) as well as sympathized with both critics and audiences in their continuing search for the best of the bunch. “There’s just too much competition,” he said, “so much so that I think the good shows often get in the way of the audience finding the great ones.”
While this may be a wonderful time for writers, producers and actors to create decent material for television, especially those who feel culturally ignored or creatively stifled by the movie industry, it still seems like an overabundance of material. As a media and pop-culture junkie, I often take in so much media during the day, from reading books to watching movies to listening to podcasts (a friend of mine once called my apartment a “waystation for media”), it’s often difficult for me to take in a show in one sitting, let alone several.
I also fear that I’ll stick with a show for its entire run and get disappointed when it starts to lose steam or end on a flat note, making me feel like an idiot for sticking with it for so long. As a couch potato from way back (you know, those days when you had to be at your place to watch a TV show at the scheduled time it was on), I’ve often witnessed many TV shows overstay their welcome. Much like getting in a relationship with someone, I like my TV shows to be challenging and rewarding, keeping me interested even when we know our time is just about over. (If you haven’t figured it out by now, I also have commitment issues. But I’m working it out in therapy, so that’s none of your business.)
But those are my hang-ups. I know a lot of people who have no qualms playing the field and searching for shows to engulf like a bag of potato chips during this most plentiful age. And even though Landgraf predicts this peak-TV bubble will deflate in later years, all this original storytelling and top-notch talent behind and in front of the camera is proof that the tube is no longer for boobs anymore.