If by some happenstance you have yet to delve your soul into the current golden era of television, then this will be your guide for navigating the minefield. After finishing this guide, all other television will appear before you eyes as a theatre stage filled to the brim with actors over-acting, sparse sets, thin plot lines, and unrealistic everything.
Follow these 3 easy steps, and fall into the wondrous world of televised series overcoming the movie market that had previously held it down.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the show that started it all. The Wire is a running campaign between the police and the drug market of Baltimore; not something to portray lightly. As an Economist, this show was absolutely riveting in depicting the inner-workings of the drug market, and the writers were very well informed. It launched in 2002 and didn’t look back. The perceived reality that The Wire delivered to the viewer was far and away unlike anything before. Broken, conflicted characters littered the field. Tough situations that we can easily find being played out a few blocks from our own homes bring this show closer to our realities, but only realized after we were done pushing them into some other realm.
Dexter, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Girls, Downton Abbey, etc.
This is the bulk of what you’ve heard around the water cooler, across the lunch table, and in passing. I will only mention a few.
Dexter openly, and quite assertively, keyed the idea of an anti-hero into our minds. Torn between his relatable character and his evil nature, we clashed with out conscious selves until ultimately, though not completely, sided with Dexter. Breaking Bad soon followed, but instead opened the series with an ethical dilemma before delving deeper into the twisted plot and dynamic characters.
Game of Thrones, while very enjoyable, is the most lacking in character development. It’s a classical case of a fantasy series. However, what separates Game of Thrones from the pack is it’s indeterminate patriotism for the viewer. The audience is unable to choose, and stay with, a main character (I won't say why in the case that you haven't seen it yet).
House of Cards is arguably the furthest along of the bunch in regards to it’s complexity. Kevin Spacey signals the migration of Hollywood actors to the world of television (or other online mediums), soon to be followed. Worth noting are the Shakespearian asides and the liberal use of portraying text to the viewer.
Community, Louie, 30 Rock, Arrested Development, Wilfred, etc.
Let’s face it, by this point you will be needing a bit of a break.
Seinfeld was great, but you’ve seen the Soup Nazi episode 38 times now; it’s time to let go. Most of the these (listed above) shows build on the previous episode with cascading story lines and running jokes. It’s been called ‘Intelligent Comedy’. This is not your ‘Two Broke Girls’ or ‘Big Bang Theory’ mind-numbing, background hamster-wheel comedy. You must pay attention, but once you give in, you’re in for the ride of you life.
I am still wrapping my head around this one. True Detective is an anthology series; the first season of which stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson chasing a serial killer though Louisiana. One only needs to watch the title sequence to realize the scale of film talent encapsulated in this new HBO series, from the creator and director back to the actors communicating the message through to your light-emitting rectangle.
Dare I call True Detective unequivocally perfect after only witnessing half of the first season? Yes. Hopefully this is just the start to a real golden age, one that we’ve never seen before.