During a rather ho-hum Emmy Awards Show (unlike many others, I was not fawning over Neil Patrick Harris), winning Mad Men writer-producer Mathew Wiener referenced the “golden age” of Television and expressed how lucky he is to be making his show. I would broaden his scope here- we are fortunate that he and others like him are making the shows they do.
In case you missed it, the last ten years have been a Renaissance in high-quality video entertainment. The rising costs of film production and the addition of new TV channels interested in producing original work to drive their brand have raised the bar on quality while breaking the stranglehold the networks held on content for decades. This quality infusion came when the competition for audience attention was elevated by the internet, video games, and other hitherto unavailable entertainment choices.
The result is that some terrific programs have been produced and seen by a few. Take Mad Men, for example – the average viewership last year was less than 1 million per episode. Hardly enough audience to sustain it financially. What AMC (the network that produces Mad Men) knows is that viewership extends beyond the broadcast date (thanks to DVD and on-demand services), and these sales offer a chance to recoup the production investment (given enough time).
There now exists a significant inventory of high-quality entertainment that many have not seen. So if watching a little TV is your thing – and it should be thanks to affordable high-def home entertainment systems – there is no need to be a slave to your DVR or “see what’s on” ever again. You can carefully select shows that interest you and ensure every hour spent in front of the tube is excellent.
Best of all, I have found watching serialized shows with running plotlines extending through the season (think 24, Lost, and Mad Men, among others). Viewing back-to-back on DVD is a superior experience to watching them during their original broadcasts. This practice has become commonly referred to as binging. It is easier to keep track of details of the plot and nuance of the character, allowing one to become more emotionally engaged in the material. If you haven’t tried this, you should. You, too, will be hooked.
In the coming weeks, I will provide reviews of some of the absolute best shows Television has ever produced and some shows with a specific appeal or charm – all available on DVD for serialized viewing.