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"That's the kind of wooly headed liberal thinking that leads to being eaten."
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December 08 2009

When TV Became Art. Emily Nussbaum of New York Magazine writes of television in the 00s. "But for anyone who loves television, who adores it with the possessive and defensive eyes of a fan, this was most centrally and importantly the first decade when television became recognizable as art, great art." Several references to Joss.

Nice piece, although it last a few points from me (and probably no one else) when it dissed Studio 60.

I said this about another article discussing television of this decade, but I still think it is true that many of the elements both of these pieces raise as exemplifying the past ten years of t.v excellence could be said about the 90s too. To begin with, I would always consider Buffy as a 90s show (particular as the most influential, although not necessarily best seasons, were during that decade,) so I don't think it can really be included in Nussbaum's argument. She also highlights DVDs and the Internet as being beneficial for allowing shows that required a great awareness amongst the audience for what has gone before, but this has also been attributed to the X-Files, which I believe was the first show to build a big Internet following and to show how successful season length video releases could be.

In reality, I think it is more that T.V has built upon what has gone before it and good television ha become much more widespread. There is now a large number of T.V shows that can accurately be described as great works as art, which wouldn't have existed if the handful hadn't of gone before.

Edit: Also, is aughts a new term? An American term? I've not heard of it before, but have seen it crop up in a few articles posted on here in the last few days. Sure beats the naughties.

[ edited by Vandelay on 2009-12-08 02:32 ]

[ edited by Vandelay on 2009-12-08 02:33 ]
would always consider Buffy as a 90s show (particular as the most influential, although not necessarily best seasons, were during that decade,) so I don't think it can really be included in Nussbaum's argument.

Except that, for example, one of the Buffy moments she cited is from the end of season four, which happened at the start of the 00s. This isn't a "best of" list for a decade anyway, it's a commentary upon the television experience and landscape of the 00s. So anything that aired during those years certainly qualifies for the discussion.

One wouldn't, for example, leave out "The Body" or "Once More With Feeling" from a discussion of 00s television just because the series of which they are a part began in the 90s.
Vandelay, I totally agree that this movement began in the nineties with shows like The X-Files and later Buffy. And I think the X-Files had the first large online community (of which I was a member) and was the first real DVD hit (long before 24).

But good article nonetheless.
Emily Nussbaum has officially become my favorite TV critic. Although I agree with Vandelay about Studio 60, no one is ever going to be 100% on the same page as a fan.

I also think her short mention of BSG as a show that "explored religion" missed the bigger picture by a mile and BSG is one of my favorite series ever. Kinda like saying that BtS "explored vampires".
But she writes beautifully and with incredible insight.

This about The Wire:
"Despite the shows tiny fan base, it symbolized what truly brilliant TV could be. - Over the seasons, the Wire generated a sheer narrative density that demanded and assumed an intelligent audience was out there, willing to interpret".

Joss, are you listening? You + cable = made of win. :)
Totally lovely article -- I'll salute any critic who appreciates BtVS and the Wire as much as I do -- but I'm beginning to think I know why Joss is so leery of announcing, "Yes, I'm going to go on the internet and Do Cool Things!" It's like the whole net is expecting him to revolutionize entertainment now. That's gotta be a world of pressure.
I think about what Joss has done on network television, with all of the network-warlocks breathing down his neck (TRUE FACT: FOX executives eat kittens for lunch). And then I think of all of the amazing work done on cable channels like HBO and Showtime. Not just Deadwood, Carnivale and other such sensational fare, but softer shows like #1 Ladies' Detective Agency.

And then I try to imagine Joss on cable and my brain kersplodes! I want with all my heart to see what he can do with a free hand and the support of a large cable network. Of course, it would end up being so awesome that I'd never leave the house again, but that's why god invented delivery, right?
this was most centrally and importantly the first decade when television became recognizable as art, great art


Well in America maybe. We'd been doing that sort of thing in the UK since the 60s. When you have well funded public broadcasting, producers, writers and directors are willing to take more risks.

I would however argue that this was the decade where US television finally caught up with British tv and then surpassed it.
There were indeed some brilliant shows in the '00s, but there were some truly great ones in the '90s and even the late '80s too. Programs like Babylon 5, China Beach, E/R, Once and Again, and the Wonder Years.

The West Wing was indeed great, but Aaron Sorkin's '90s show Sports Night was darn good too.
There were great shows in every era. The argument is that the quantity of not only great shows but in a sense transcendent shows came to a head in the 00s.
Risch22 wrote:
There were indeed some brilliant shows in the '00s, but there were some truly great ones in the '90s and even the late '80s too. Programs like Babylon 5, China Beach, E/R, Once and Again, and the Wonder Years.

The West Wing was indeed great, but Aaron Sorkin's '90s show Sports Night was darn good too.


And now I'll also have to mention Twin Peaks.

These few examples not withstanding overall I would agree with her analysis for the US (as Simon pointed out in the UK there has been a longer tradition of quality shows and in the Netherlands sadly the opposite happened: it seems all the creativity and ambition in Dutch tv somehow was killed in the early '00s). Anyway I'm not that qualified to judge, as I have almost only seen tv from the later half of the '90s onwards and little bits from before.
Well in America maybe. We'd been doing that sort of thing in the UK since the 60s. When you have well funded public broadcasting, producers, writers and directors are willing to take more risks.

Hear, hear Simon. "Boys from the Black Stuff" and "Edge of Darkness" spring immediately to mind as what you might call "angry art" from the 80s UK tellyscape. But cable has definitely allowed US TV to take chances and explore less commercial subject matter in the way publicly funded TV has been for decades AND with a lot more money (low though cable budgets may be i'd bet they're still higher than many BBC shows for instance).

In general, I agree with the author that the quantity of shows that took long-form storytelling and character seriously went up in the 00s but nearly every supposed innovation she mentions had a 90s (or earlier) precursor. For instance, she mentions the fantasy sequences of 'Scrubs' - anyone remember a comedy from the early 90s called 'Dream On' ? Great show which featured frequent "magic realism" interludes based on the TV obsessed central character's fantasies. The arc story ground was arguably broken by 'Babylon 5'. "E.R." featured real-time stories, live episodes, long non-reset character arcs etc.

I'd also say that as movie budgets expanded to insane proportions it became too risky to take risks in studio films and so writers/directors/actors looked to cable/TV in general for that so that talent and ideas cross-pollinate more. Again, that's been happening in the UK forever but it's a definite sea change in the US IMO and means you see a lot of ideas from films - even indie films - make their way to TV (so you have the "fractured chronology" of 'Memento' or the real-time element from various films - slightly naff 90s Johnny Depp thriller "Nick of Time" springs to mind - appearing).


ET move a parenthesis

[ edited by Saje on 2009-12-08 12:49 ]
And a lot of the tricks of the trade (including, I'm told, the phrase "previously on...") came from Hill Street Blues. Plus there's always the original Prisoner.

Thing is, Babylon 5 did an arc never matched until the Wire -- but you'd never get the mainstream to admit it, since B5 was never exactly popular. And people would give the season-long story arc idea to 24, despite Our Hero's season-long stories that began well ahead of that.
Yeah, B5 doesn'tget the credit it deserves, certainly among the mainstream (partly because, much as I love it, there's some pretty clunky writing in there but also partly because it's balls to the wall unashamed sci-fi). Or in the UK 'Doctor Who' which was doing "season" long arcs as far back as 1978 (totally different sort of show but an arc's an arc).

Still, by quantity (rather than novelty) the article has a point about the 00s, it's a good time to like TV IMO.

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