I've been session-watching Breaking Bad recently and it's been awesome. I love that sort of must-see, premium drama. I'm happy to admit I'm behind the curve on this show, but not too far: it only concluded a few months ago. Now that I've had a chance to get through almost all the episodes, it reminds me just how much I love great television.
Television is one of my favourite art forms. As far as these forms go, I participate in music, writing and photography: television is my truly non-participatory passion. I don't act, I don't write scripts; I am only now really writing about television. And so I cherish it as something that I don't do, which for me is a little weird.
DVD had an impact that I don't feel like VHS ever did: it legitimised and brought to the mainstream the practice of watching television series box sets. Television became, like movies, a thing to catch up on and explore. Television started to be treated with the respect and care it deserved.
Classic runs of television shows, like classic albums, books or paintings, are terrific gifts given to us by the most talented creative people in the world. But television shows often have so much great content to get through. Albums last for about an hour, books take a couple of weeks at most to read. A season of a modern cable drama can have up to thirteen hours of viewing to plough through, and the great shows often have five or more seasons. While this presents a significant barrier to entry for new viewers, it also gives creators the ability to tell rich, detailed stories featuring multi-dimensional characters that develop and grow before our very eyes. At it's best, it's an extremely satisfying, layered experience that movies just can't match.
I'm of the belief that a lot of great, visionary art is created by auteurs - individual creators with a specific vision and understand of the thing that they are creating. Premium television programming is one of the last bastions of great auteur creation on the corporate dime in a world where so many other art forms have been taken over by taste-makers, panels and groupthink. The great, ambitious show runners of this era seem to be given a certain amount of licence to produce the stories they want, which is a wonderful thing. That's not to say that some of the networks don't ever try to interfere, but it seems to me that these people have a level of creative control over the work that seems atypical for people creating content for mass consumption.
Great art is a permanent gift to us all. The people who create truly transcendent work should be treasured and respected. Scripted television is currently the ascendant medium when it comes to entertaining mass audiences, which makes our great show runners the most influential creators of this era.
So thank you, Vince Gilligan.
Thank you, Matthew Weiner.
Thank you, David Simon.
Thank you, Matthew Groening.
Thank you, David Crane and Marta Kauffman.
Thank you, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David.
Thank you, Louis CK.
Thank you, Dan Harmon.
Thank you, Mike Schur and Greg Daniels.
Thank you, Victor Fresco.
Thank you, Mitch Hurwitz.