The New Age of 21st Century Television: The Good, The Bad & The Weird

* This piece is written as the first part of an ongoing series, “The New Age of 21st Century Television: The Good, The Bad & The Weird”, which will talk about the ongoing transition happening on both little & big screens, and the various factors causing that said transition.

* This piece involves spoilers for the series Lost, Gossip Girl, Glee, Game of Thrones; speculations for Game of Thrones & A Song of Ice and Fire Book Series.

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Source unknown. No copyright gain intended.

The television — not the actual product that is television, but rather the television as in the programs and series presented in a way known for that said product, of course — is living its golden moment right now. Sure, the viewing percentages might be much lower than what they used to be during the nineties, where there was nothing else to do during a week-night if you weren’t living the lifes shown in, you guessed it, the television: even Game of Thrones, which is undoubtedly today’s biggest TV series when it comes to popularity, isn’t able get the numbers that is needed to crack into the top ten list of the most watched television episodes, which finds its lowest point in Home Improvement’s 35.5 million in 1999 and highest in M*A*S*H’s reported 105.9 million viewers of 1983. The newest entry to that list is 2004’s Friends finale episode “The Last One”, which earned its place in number four thanks to 52.5 million people gathering up to watch it. Game of Thrones, with its ever-expanding viewership on each new episode, has the chance of rise above The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (19.9 million) or maybe Full House (24.3 million) one day, but even that seems like a stretch. But this doesn’t mean that people are not watching television anymore, it just means that they’re not watching it on the actual television.

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Official Netflix banner.

And although this is a problem for the traditional existence of television, there is a new era upon us: an era curated by the online viewing platforms such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, cable-based channels and their online curations like HBO Go, and acclaimed series that are carried by household names of Hollywood and beyond. Just this year, during its quarterly earnings call on November 9th, the entertainment giant Disney’s CEO Bob Iger announced that the company was in fact, developing a series of original television shows for its upcoming video streaming service, including new Star Wars and Marvel creations. This is now a world much different than what it used to be in 2011, when Netflix was the sole platform of online streaming and its main focus was on library titles that was a product of many licensing deals with multiple studios and not original series. Today, shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and Transparent are more talked about than ninety percent of their network counterparts, and Netflix is building a universe in itself based on The Defenders superheroes Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Danny Rand.

We now count TV shows as serious productions that hold their value among other big Hollywood pieces, and sometimes put them even higher on our lists: they are ambitious and complex, and because of the larger timeframe they hold over cinematic outlets, they have more chance to try something different and captivate people with it. Shows like Stranger Things, Westworld and Black Mirror all have earned their places in the cultural spectrum of our time by putting something on the table that wasn’t simply there before, just as Dallas and Seinfeld had done before them: and thanks to their their massive followings and critical acclaim, producers and companies are now more eager than ever to spend their sources on television.

But more than anything, the defining feature of twenty-first century television is the newly heightened focus on serialized character and plot arcs that has taken the throne from the episodic humor of old times and the case-of-the-week formula of procedurals.

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Promotional poster for the first season of Fringe.

If a strict explanation is needed, serialized television shows — which are also called as just “serials” — can be described series built upon ongoing, long form narratives that plant and reap different aspects of the told story across many episodes and seasons, rather than tying every loose end or answering every mystery in the duration of just one episode. This technique lets the writers build up characters, questions and themes a lot more; and creates an environment that enables those mechanisms to unfold in way that is continuous, as well as giving the characters a chance to have three dimensional story-arcs that allows space for more compelling stories. Unlike procedurals, serials are recommended to be watched in a chronological order, episode after episode a forest spreading its roots. Many of the well-known shows of last ten years, such as Breaking Bad and Homeland, follow this formulation with their various plot threads connecting with and crashing into each other, becoming one big, main storyline involving many characters and turns. The likes of Person of Interest start looking like procedurals and then turn into serials eventually, a background development on the main plot happening even during the case-of-the-week episodes; while J. J. Abrams’s 2008 outlet Fringe is known for its special form of “myth-arcs”: mixing the best (and the worst) parts of both worlds by laying out cases-of-the-week and mythology heavy episodes throughout seasons, giving the world room to breathe between revelations and plot twists, in a technique made famous by 90s classic The X-Files.

There are various outcomes of a format change like this one: some good, some bad. From a pessimistic perspective, the fact that many network TV shows of our time rides on a risk of getting cancelled any minute, thanks to the low viewing numbers, makes it incredibly hard for writers create consistent stories that serve as both a finished book when they reach that moment of meta-textual uncertainty of existence and leave clues or open endings for possible upcoming seasons at the same time. And even if they are successful at doing this, both the long breaks taken between the seasons and changing interest of general public over time lead writers to drop many of their smaller plot points, leaving dead ends and rocky conclusions. The category of television shows that start as interesting and consistent but become incoherent don’t lack any examples in contemporary entertainment: Ryan Murphy’s Glee, a series that started with a satirized look into youth but quickly became its own clown after the first two seasons (three for some), comes to mind immediately as a prime one. One, cases such as this one, cannot help himself but to wonder that maybe if Murphy didn’t have so many storylines, so many characters, so many momentary conflicts in hand and didn’t try to handle all of them at the same time, the infamous piece of entertainment wouldn’t become such a quote on quote “cluster-fuck”. And then there are others like True Blood and 24 where no ending is thought, ever, when being written: characters and stories used as dimes that can be overturned in a second’s notice. This uncertainty and mobility is something that comes from the strategy of daytime soap operas, which were created with a certain aim of being able to create short-living storylines that may or may not overlap each other.

A second reason for this unnecessary crowdedness of TV shows is the truth that for many of the network channels, a season is a lot longer than their cable and online counterparts. Having to do more than twenty episodes for a season puts an enormous pressure on the writers, leading them to write filler episodes or unnecessary disputes, in an effort to keep to viewership numbers high and the conflict, even if short, apparent. The amount of episodes for a season wasn’t as big of a problem for the procedurals or shows like How I Met Your Mother, because they didn’t need to have massive plot points connecting to each other in a chronological order and every outing could be about another, low-stakes problem. Nowadays, on the other hand, when a conflict gets pushed aside for too long — it is bad because then people forget about it, loose interest and drop watching; but it is also bad if a conflict is focused on too much, because then it gets tidied up too fast to fill a 22-episode program.

Therefore, many shows use a trick of dividing their seasons into two, or sometimes even more, parts based on their winter breaks and place different conflicts for each section, with result of the former — or one of the side effects of the said result — opening the door for the latter. The Vampire Diaries was a show that ran for eight seasons, and according to its fan made wikia, its seasons had three singular chapters in them, each chapter with different main antagonists and also a main main antagonist for the whole season. The story arcs, in one or other way, were always centered on the same group of people; but the bubble surrounding them would expand with each new chapter and the shows mythology would go deeper and deeper, sometimes for the good (Katherine and Klaus) and sometimes for the bad (The Heretics). Show was an undeniable success, and even had a spin-off series based on one of its antagonists, The Originals, which is a truly rare chance for network shows.

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In his piece for The American Reader titled “The Cosmology of Serialized Television”, David Auerbach writes that from a financial standpoint, day-time soap operas are the best kind of shows: “one that is a universal container, able to survive shifts in actors, storylines, and writers with no damage to the overall franchise.” Soap operas were meant to be not-too-serious microcosms of entertainment and over-the-top storytelling, and thus, were great for what they were. But the self-righteous ways of so-called prestige western television try to be defined by qualities that are exact opposites of their daytime counterparts, therefore unable to carry out the same recipe most of the time. HBO series True Blood, a show focusing on the telepathic Louisiana waitress Sookie Stackhouse (played by Anna Paquin) entering into a strange world of blood-sucking vampires and witches, for example, became its own mocker in the end, even if unintentionally; ending in a way that was quite unrecognizable for its fans. Of course, there were — and there still are — better ones, such as West Wing, The Sopranos, Friday Night Lights and The Americans (although unfinished as of right now), that are successes in keeping the consistency of their storylines and characterizations throughout many seasons. In case of The Americans, or other period pieces like Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men, the fact that they are connected to an already-done reality of linear history is a visible help when it comes to their consistency. The sixties have already happened, and the progression of Cold War can be looked up just by asking Google. This permanency creates two different outcomes: first of all, the stakes are lowered — because the audience knows that a bomb threat has to be solved or the assassination attempt at the president must be a fail, because it already happened. On the good note, this low stakes reality allows writers to focus on the more personal side of dramas, and therefore present a grounded background for each twist and turn.

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Official artwork for The Americans from FX website.

Also in his writing, Auerbach lists two other options for serialized show-making other than his “steady-state” model: “the expansionary” model and “the big crunch” model, both of which are based on two simple questions that come after the failings of the one before them. The first question, which is our focus point for this section of the article, that is asked is the reason the former exists, and it is the question of what would happen if a TV show was created upon a single mystery — a point that is the accumulation of every other plot thread and connects even the mot little details to each other. Can it be successful, what happens if it is successful, and how big of a mess is created if it is not?

When thought about it, many reasons come to light for a project like this to be a fail. First, there is the fact that these shows are not made for nothing: they are supposed to make money, and to make the most money, it is the logical thing to want them to continue as long as they are watched. Of course, no-one can blame neither the producers nor the directors for wanting to have an income and make the most of it while on the job, but the side effects that a behaviour of  this kind has on creative works are undeniable. Because of their focus on material outcomes rather then artistic ones, creating an answer for the said first question becomes nearly impossible for the content makers — as it is never good enough of an ending for viewers to keep them pleased but also  curious for a long time. Thus, there has to be another, more exciting question, a bigger conspiracy theory, a more unpredictable reveal – always and forever, as if the writers are Sisyphus and the satisfaction of the audience is the rock. No resolution can ever be the final one, only a step in that very, very long walk with no finish line visible in hand. The story goes on and on, a new player being added with each plot twist. This is in theory a promise of excitement and shock value, but when put into practice, turns into a clutter of illogically made decisions and road-turns that don’t really matter. Because, guess what, there is only finite number of doors one can keep the keys for; and even less if the said one is supposed to create both the doors and their keys on the go. What comes out of this vicious cycle, in most cases, is a pile of incoherent and often absurd endings that turn even the biggest fans of the production against it.

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Promotional poster for the seventh season of Pretty Little Liars.

One example that is perfect for the depiction of this problem is the teen-murder mystery extravaganza of Pretty Little Liars, which was never a particularly realistic TV show in its way of showcasing 15-year old teenagers getting away with a lot of things than they could have under any chances. Sure, it had its problems — problems ranging from the show putting a relationship between an underage student and her teacher’s “relationship” as a main romantic, consensual couple to having its high school-aged villain do many improbable things — but it was at least a somewhat consistent domino effect of puzzle pieces tipping each other off and clues coming together to reveal a maybe-not-very-unpredictable but convincing and interesting big bad. Then, it all went to hell, because ratings were good and therefore, the story had to continue: there was another, bigger big bad and then came the biggest big bad of them all. By the finale of series after six seasons, there were many blog posts on the internet unanswered questions left by the writers that had over fifty bullet points each.

Pretty Little Liars is just one in a bunch when it comes to these type of failures, and it is not even the most famous one — not when compared the Lost, which was once the biggest thing in American television. What once began as a show following the various survivors of a plane crash trying to survive on a seemingly deserted island that had polar bears and nuclear time machines on it as well as a consciousness godlike fog wrapped its run by pulling out one of, if not the most, cliché cop-outs in television history: by making it all — and by all we mean two or more different timelines, loops, various shady government organizations, and two men representing some of the most complex ideologies of western philosophy — a dream that the lead character, Jack Shephard, was having in the seconds leading to his death. Now tell that is not the worst ending you’ve heard.

This is not all the channel’s or the creator’s fault though, especially not in the twenty-first century. We, as critics or creators or audiences, have to accept that in many instances, the questions that are being asked themselves usually, if not always, are more interesting then the answers that they are paired up with. This lays on two different levels, one related to the time period we live in and the other the burdens of running a TV show. Think about it, how can a single answer can satisfy anyone after a build-up of many episodes or seasons, both for itself and the question that came before it? The answer is that it rarely does. There is an expectance of perfect roundness from human-made fiction, so that the audience might find the perfect closure that they’re deprived of in their own, problem-filled lives; and that alone in itself creates an impossible task of writing one simple answer while also making it so complex that it covers every issue in hand in a single click. That is a hard job to do – especially when coupled with other factors in hand, such as the uncertainty over whether a how might continue its life or not, as mentioned above.

Secondly, there is the fact that this process is greatly fastened up by the reality of internet. There are now fan sites and YouTube racing with each other for finding the big reveal before it happens, looking for clues from episodes, trailers, even the set production photos. If the creators follow their actual leads and make the reveal as planned, most times it is already an answer found out by others long before and it is boring; and if they want to change it up in hopes of surprising their fans, which was what Pretty Little Liars allegedly did after one of their set workers answered many of the show’s biggest mysteries on Reddit, the whole thing falls apart.

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Lost creator Damon Lindelof in 2012. | Photography credits to Todd Williamson/WireImage.

In 2012, Damon Lindelof, who was one of the lead writers of Lost talked about this dilemma, saying that he just felt like “many shows have come and gone that are very focused on their mysteries and their mythologies and their ambiguity, and there’s no worse scene in the history of genre than the Architect explaining to Neo everything that happened in the Matrix”. He was claiming that it was all a plan, that he never had the intention of revealing all the answers. But the same guy was also saying that he could hand out envelopes with answers to all of show’s mysteries written in them during 2007, so it is the reader’s decision to pick which one of those two claims is a big, fat lie.

Or you know, maybe you’re watching Gossip Girl this time and then the reveal of Dan Humphrey being the person who tormented the elite of Manhattan youth just to get a girl happens, which is something you cannot explain under any Doylist reasoning and just plain bad. (Seriously, though, how did that decision got okay-ed by so many people until it made its run television? How could no-one get up and say, “hey, don’t you think that this is an insulting piece of answer for the biggest question of our whole show?”)

Still, against all the scatter of forgotten questions and never-ending story arcs, Lost was a cultural phenomenon: and that meant that even its worst aspects had an undeniable ripple effect on how the TV was shaped after its demise. At last, thanks to Lost, for example, the channel executives were finally able to see that a show’s success wasn’t enough for it the run until eternity because when there was no story left, it would become like Lost, and even the little percentage of people that still continued to watch would do it just for the mockery of it. If there was one lesson to learn from Lindelof’s and his co-writer Carlton Cuse’s fall from grace, it was that the prestige TV that was aimed to be achieved could only be done within the realm of coherent, consistent, interesting stories. With that question, came to search for a kind of storytelling where you could know the ending from the beginning as a writer; even if in the most abstract form; where you could keep the coherency and consistency somehow while still turning up captivating and headline-making moments.

If you didn’t know, this meant the opening of a whole new can of worms.

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Logically, one of the best ways one would be able to create a show that is cohesive until the very end is to adapt it from an already existing literary piece, be it novels or short stories or comic books; or even movies. In the end, not everyone has the mind of J. Michael Straczynski, who is infamous for planning out not just the main plot points of his masterpiece Babylon 5, but also several contingency plans for possible early cancelations or actor losses. Not many have the gift that Jonathan Nolan has in writing that made it possible for him to keep the series captivating for the audience long after the seemingly biggest question of his series Westworld (which also is an adaptation, although mostly just in setting and main concept), the identity of Black Hat, was found out just by the third episode of the season, either. So, people turn to adaptations, and create the likes of Hannibal, Orange Is the New Black, The Leftovers and Big Little Lies (which just got its renewal for a second season even-though there is no material left from the original material for a second book, so who even knows anymore); sometimes keeping it all the same, sometimes tweaking and changing it until it comes a completely different version. Hell, Sex and The City is an adaptation too, and it is based on a book of essays of the same name written by Candace Bushnell.

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Westworld, HBO.

As of right now, HBO-funded series Game of Thrones unarguably stands as the most famous TV adaptation, and also the most famous TV show, period — of our time. Having ended its seventh season during the summer of 2017, the worldwide famous show is created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, based on George R. R. Martin’s then-and-still ongoing book series A Song of Ice and Fire. The series was a success from the first moment, with the 2011 dated premiere episode “Winter is Coming” got more than 2.22 million people watching it during its first viewing. But even that number, which stands as an incredible success just by itself in today’s ratings, seems so little when compared to the latest episode. According the Nielsen Data, “The Dragon and The Wolf”, the finale episode of the penultimate season, drew a series record of 16.5 million viewers.

Though, continuation of Game of Thrones was never dependent on its ratings — at least not after the first season. The fact that it became a cultural phenomenon that was known by even the people who didn’t watch it of course helped with its budget, but had near to no effect on the actual storyline structure of the series. In the end, it was based on a book series, and even if the series wasn’t isn’t completed, the creators were given the abstract outlines for main characters by the author himself. As with every other kind of adaptation, the question was not the “what” of it, but rather “how”. How closely were they going to follow Martin’s lead, for example. For many, the world of Westeros — with all its political chaos and hundreds of lords and ladies, was not an easy feat for anyone to cram into TV. They had valid reasons for their worries, such as the budget (the show didn’t have the giant budget it has now back then, not even the quarter of it) and the time limitations, as the seasons were to be just ten episodes, and how could one squeeze 800-pages worth of material into just that? They were quickly proven wrong for the most part by the end of first season, which was successfully able to tell the story of the first book with little to no alteration done to it, and all those in small details that didn’t seem important, at least not back then.

But then came the following seasons, and those changes built up on each other — becoming more and more visible with each new step. Some of these really didn’t matter, such as turning Asha’s name into Yara so that viewers wouldn’t mix her up with another character or taking away Daario Naharis’s blue beard and replacing it with a brunette one. Others could be explained on budget and visual aesthetics, like the fact that Tyrion Lannister didn’t lose half of his face during the Blackwater Battle or Daenerys Targaryen didn’t become bald after walking out of a funeral pyre. Lady Stoneheart and Aegon Targaryen storylines were cut from the series, and Tryion Lannister’s journey to Daenerys Targaryen was cut a lot shorter. Jeyne Westerling was suddenly named Talisa Maegyr and was from Volantis, Jeyne Poole’s role in the book A Dance with Dragons was given to Sansa Stark during season five. Those weren’t actual problems by themselves, but became problems because of how they were handled.

During his interview with The Guardian’s Alison Flood, George R. R. reclaimed that there were two types of writers in the world, the architects and the gardeners.

“The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.”

Martin himself is still gardening, it seems, as the last book published from the series was the fifth one in 2011. As you can expect, Game of Thrones has gone a lot further than the books itself by now — Daenerys Targeryen is not left on a barren land anymore, neither Jon Snow laying dying in snow. Spoilers, Cersei Lannister blew up the sept of The Seven and then his last living child committed suicide, Stannis Baratheon died, Ramsay Bolton got his face eaten off by his own hounds, Jon and and Daenerys finally met and made love to each other, a dragon died and then was brought back to life by the Night King himself. And most of it was done in a terrible fashion.

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One of the promotional posters for the season 7 of Game of Thrones.

Why? Because knowing the finish line isn’t enough. Benioff and Weiss both created unnecessary conflicts but also solved the existing conflicts too easily, making it all seem a mess, and a turning the show once that was loved not because of its CGI but because of its morally grey characters and their stories into a Marvel-like blockbuster of explosions and gore. Without the actual words of George R. R. Martin, Game of Thrones has started to looking more and more like a holiday special or a bottle episode, or worse, a badly written fan-fiction. Take the penultimate seven seven episode into hand, for example, where the audiences were greeted by magnificent fight scenes, beautiful scenery and a thrilling ending; all of which were both born out of nothing and led to exactly nothing, too. The setting is there, so is the action, but there is no foundation.

Adaptations are hard, I get it. You want the creators to be faithful to the original work, but also change it enough to keep you from rolling your eyes and closing the channel — and that is a hard thing to do, maybe even impossible. The request to have the best of both worlds is a lot from viewers’ mind. But the problem with Game of Thrones is not that it became disconnected to the original material, it is that it became a bad show while doing it. This is a show that made his name known by killing off the guy who seemed like the protagonist at the end of its first season; and his vengeful, seemingly war-winning boy at its third, and it looks like the co-writers are trying to keep that reputation up by doing what their many counterparts in network channels do to keep their shows going: getting bigger, more shocking, more controversial. But what they seem to forget is that Red Wedding was such a breath-taking event not just because it killed off two other “good guys”, but also because if you looked back and read the books again, you could see clues of it all along. Same with Jon being a Targaryen, same with the speculated Aegon reveal. Why a show that clearly doesn’t need to get saved by a surprise death would do this, that is beyond my knowledge, but it is clear that it isn’t working. With the show itself clearly out of help’s reach right now, one can only hope that its legacy will have the same effect that Lost one had, and lead the way to better ones to come after it.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D stands against Game of Thrones proudly. This is a network show that no one would even once think to mention in the same sentence with HBO’s biggest hit ever two years ago, but time changed a lot, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D actually did what Game of Thrones couldn’t the right way, and became a better show by distancing itself from its origin, Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is still not a great show but it is a lot better than what it was during its first season; which is the exact anti-thesis of the Game of Thrones situation. The freedom of not being tied up to movies that don’t really think about you can make writers write stories that are a lot better, it seems; just as not being tied up to a book that is not really about its dragons or battles might make your script look like that of a sixth graders Tumblr writing if you continued to look at it as if it is just about dragons and battles.

Though, adaptations are not the only road the future of TV seems to be taking right now: there’s one more option, and although it is existing on a much smaller spectrum right now, it seems to have much more objective independence when it comes to storyline choices and seems to be getting a lot more critical acclaim, too. These are the anthology series, and even if not completely original to neither 21st century, nor Ryan Murphy: they are, as written in Phillip Maciak’s review for the Salon, the radio shows and programs of the 50s and the 60s. He continues:

“The direct forebears to American Horror Story are, of course, the classic anthology dramas of the 1950s and 1960s, descended, often directly, from radio anthologies that had been popular in earlier decades. Dick Powell’s Four Star Playhouse, The Philco Television Playhouse, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, and many others — many of these series were inordinately popular and functioned in similar ways. Each episode featured an entirely new story, though the production values and aesthetic points-of-view remained roughly consistent. And often, especially on the drama playhouses, the episodes would feature a regular repertory of actors. These series brought in viewers based on precedent. Philco promised a certain quality of upper-middlebrow performance while Hitchcock and The Twilight Zone promised perverse puzzles and scares. Though each episode could differ greatly in tone or subject matter, like a George Lucas production or a Spike Lee Joint, the imprimatur of Hitchcock promised that whatever came on the screen would be, well, Hitchockian.”

There is a big difference, though: the fact that the changing of the concepts and characters doesn’t happen on episodes, but rather in-between seasons.

When American Horror Story premiered its pilot episode on the October of 2011, no one knew what was exactly going on with this show titled “Murder House”. It quickly became clear that the show would be focused on a different era, a different section of horror genre in its each season. It had references to other cult classics in its episode names, character archetypes, plot developments; clues for the next season in its shots and in-universe calls. To be entirely honest, American Horror Story wasn’t a total success – some seasons were too campy, other too slow; some were just plain out uninteresting or inconsistent. But they were that, they were a stepping stone for other TV shows like them to be created, both by Ryan Murphy himself and others. The first season of American Crime Story, another one of Murphy’s anthology series, had its focus on the much publicized trial of O. J. Simpson, who was once put in the court for the accusation of killing his ex-wife and her boyfriend. The show was developed by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who are executive producers with Brad Falchuk, Nina Jacobson, Murphy himself, and Brad Simpson.

American Crime Story is now advertising for its second season, which is going to focus on another much publicized murder – this time of the famous designer Gianni Versace. It is possible that the rise of the show won’t last very long, and it will burn in its own flames, but many say that because of the fact that they are about real life events, one of Murphy’s worst qualities in television writing, which is creating too many plotlines without any ending planned for any of them, is already eliminated. With a strong cast, consisting of acclaimed stars of many genres, this series seems to be on the road to become the pinnacle of television perfection in the next year or two. In the end, anthologies seem to be a solution for the biggest problems of the television making right now, and luckily, many of them at once: it solves the problem of the need to create bigger questions for every season because the story ends in one season and another one begins in the next, the change of concepts and stars are enough reason to keep the audiences interested, and plot twists without a prominent need are less needed in a small-living story like them. Of course, this doesn’t mean that those problems won’t happen in anthology series – again, looking at you Murphy – but it says that their prominency is decreased as a whole.

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The question here is tricky, and there is probably not one right answer to it, but the fact that there is a question and a conversation around that question is a good sign. Sure, there are still wonderful shows loved by many that get cancelled for financial reasons (Sense8, The Get Down), shows that do it the procedural way or try to have myth-arcs, show that try to be the perfect adaptations, shows that use controversy to get views. One cannot truly predict what is the formula for great television by looking at neither the numbers nor the awards is it is, or even guess if there’s ever going to be a great television in the future; as these are not mathematical questions. Even if there’s, someday, going to be a perfect television show that is right for everyone from start to finish (which sounds pretty impossible) lot more wrongs and rights will be done in the way to that. And maybe, if only, after that — that show will be the Citizen Kane of TV.

We just know that this is the golden age of television, and that must mean something, right?

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