Television has grown to the point where the scale of bigger budget series’ has reached the same level of epic thrills previously available only from movies. The term epic, overused as it may be, springs to mind for these larger-than-life shows that have captivated enormous audiences. What, then, makes television so different today than it was five, ten, or twenty years ago? Plenty.
Consider, first, how platforms like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and HBO Go are making access to new shows more portable. There is arguably at least one person in any crowd who is guilty of catching up on The Walking Dead, Orange is the New Black, Game of Thrones, or other titles while, say, in a meeting or during a particularly long, boring trip. These services are also responsible for driving demand for bigger, more impressive shows, with entire seasons available sometimes overnight. Essentially the new ‘available anywhere, anytime’ nature of TV means massive demand, for more and more series. As a result, there has to be supply and that supply is coming from an increasingly wide range of suppliers. For example- Netflix and Hulu have their own original shows, which come out by the season-load and need to be strong enough to captivate viewers from episode one to the finale.
Bigger, more awe-inspiring shows provide what movies can’t: regular entertainment that is quite literally addiction-forming.
With new mediums of TV enjoyment came the birth of binge-watching and so compelling shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead gained greater prominence. They had established audiences from their respective source material, and new audiences grew from a culture of people willing to marathon a season of a show over a weekend so long as it’s interesting enough. That’s where newer shows, which have developed a cinematic scale, stand head and shoulders above older shows in many ways (not to speak ill of old sitcoms and dramas, of course).
True Detective with its star-studded cast and the superbly dark atmosphere it consistently creates.
This continued growth of this ‘epic’ scale of shows is essentially a love-letter to fans of the established, massive scale stories like Game of Thrones with its sprawling lands and multitude of sneaky schemes and plots, The Walking Dead with its compelling characters (and capacity for meme material) and True Detective with its star-studded cast and the superbly dark atmosphere it consistently creates. The star-studded casting, by the way, is not just an element exclusive to True Detective, with more big name actors showing up in the once-lowlier medium of TV shows. Martin Freeman, Ted Danson, and Billy Bob Thornton, to name a few, were involved in Fargo. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is seeing larger names make their way into their TV adaptations (looking at you, David Tennant.), and the trend seems to be sticking.
Bigger, more awe-inspiring shows provide what movies can’t: regular entertainment that is quite literally addiction-forming. Whether viewers watch these shows while they air week to week or seasons at a time, it’s clear that studios know their audiences well enough to strive for more high production value, high budget TV titles than ever before- as a result we could have a lot to look forward to.
By Phil Gorski