Last night, my boyfriend and I sat down after a nice dinner, and watched TV. Not an entirely unusual event, of course. What struck me as unusual about it was that I’d spent the day looking forward to it.
We’ve had to limit our TV watching nights recently, in fact, to two nights a week. That way, we’ve got tons of useful time elsewhere. Tuesdays, we watch Gilmore Girls, then Smallville, and then Buffy. Wednesdays, it’s a taped Everwood, then Angel, then West Wing. And it’s this Wednesday that I want to talk about.
First, there was Everwood. Usually, the show is pretty good; the writing is good, the acting is good, and the characters are well-conceived and executed. This episode, however, was amazing. With a parental advisory starting things off, the show went directly into an exploration of a teenage pregnancy, and its effects on the people involved. Somehow, the show managed to put me through the emotional wringer, and never came off as preaching; instead, it simply showed the characters as people reacting to a difficult situation.
Next, the season finale of Angel. There’s another thread around here that’s going into detail on the subject. Suffice it to say that this episode completed one of the most intricate, detailed, bizarre, effective, and just plain excellent season of a television show I’ve ever seen. And the last scene left my boyfriend in tears, and me pretty close to it.
Last, West Wing. An excellent episode, of an amazing series, where things are building to what may very well be an astonishing climax. Another thread’s discussing it as well.
So, three hours of incredible television later, my boyfriend and I are walking the dogs, and during our conversation about the evening’s viewing, we realize that we are totally, completely emotionally exhausted. Drained. The quality of the shows is such that we have been totally involved in them for hours, and they have affected us deeply.
Now, I’ve been watching TV for a long time. And I never remember feeling like this, ever. I don’t remember spending days looking forward to episodes of shows, I don’t remember crying while watching shows, and I sure don’t remember feeling numb because I’ve had an intense emotional workout after watching a few hours of TV.
So, on to my question. Is this really a golden age of television? If so, why?
I really believe it is. I think the way was paved by shows like Northern Exposure, which was revolutionary in its time. I think it had a lot to do with the abandonment of the reset button at the end of every episode; once serial stories crept into prime time, real character development could take place. I also place the credit at the feet of the networks, who have started to give non-formulaic shows a shot, and have given their talent a bit more leeway. Whatever the case, I think this is a golden age of television, a landmark season in a medium that’s seeing enormous progress take place.
Television has gotten good enough to compete with movies, and is becoming capable of some very sophisticated dramatic storytelling. It’s a medium that’s finally coming into its own.
Or am I wrong?