Television’s New Golden Age
THE SOURCE: “Storied TV: Cable Is the New Novel” by Thomas Doherty, in The Chronicle Review, Sept. 21, 2012.
A random episode of the multiseason AMC drama Mad Men or HBO medieval fantasy Game of Thrones is not likely to enlighten a first-time viewer. What’s this allusion to adman Don Draper’s secret past? Who rules the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros? Welcome to the world of “Arc TV,” Thomas Doherty’s name for a new breed of television shows that throw old conventions out the window. Tidy endings to every episode and static characters are out. Long arcs of character and plot development filmed in big-ticket productions are in.
Doherty, chair of American studies at Brandeis University, says this is a game changer: The tube may have pulled ahead of the silver screen as the premier medium in Hollywood. Arc TV is “where the talent, the prestige, and the cultural buzz now swirl.” These shows may appear on the small screen, but they are watched like movies and unfold like novels. “For the viewer who tunes in late, the strands of the intricate plot lines may seem too tangled ever to unthread, but the insular complexities are how the shows pack their punch.”
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