The Hollywood insiders who are pushing “dark” and “edgy” dramas containing ever-more graphic sex, violence, and language love to claim that, as a result, TV is now experiencing some kind of “golden age.” But when it comes to programs most Americans actually watch – especially comedies – this is a lie.
As the Media Post‘s Gary Holmes notes in his recent article, “There Is No ‘Golden Age of Television’,” Hollywood insiders and “critics” like to claim that television only recently entered its so-called “Golden Age” with the rise of dramas about “morally compromised, frequently violent, antiheroes.”
Yet, as Holmes points out, it is hardly as though TV today features storytelling superior to that of the past. Shows like Hill Street Blues, The Defenders, and The Fugitive featured storytelling as tense and dramatic as anything aired now. It is only today’s narcissistic industry minds that automatically assume that a show is somehow more “sophisticated” if it features nudity, graphic disembowelment, and characters who spew the f-word.
In fact, in many ways the shows of the past were more sophisticated – for they managed to tell deeply dramatic stories without relying on the shock value of nudity and graphic dismemberment. The notion that The Walking Dead is somehow superior to Upstairs/Downstairs as a character drama, simply because the former features crowbars rammed into eye sockets, spurting blood, and graphic viscera spraying everywhere, is a dubious one at best.
But Holmes’ most salient point is this: from the beginnings of the television medium, TV in every era has produced superior comedies. From I Love Lucy to The Middle, according to Holmes, there has been an “unbroken chain” of top-notch humor on prime-time TV.
Holmes acknowledges there are exceptions – certainly, Family Guy, Two and a Half Men, and this season’s The Millers and Mom, are hardly examples of superior comedy. But in the broader picture, he is correct: Hollywood may claim that TV today is in a “Golden Age,” but in fact, that particular emperor is wearing no clothes.