(WTNH) I am one of many people, inside the television business and out, who believes we are living through a golden age of TV programming. Starting with “The Sopranos” in the late 90’s, and continuing into the present with one excellent series after another, an industry that for decades was labeled a “vast wasteland” of content has redeemed itself with programs featuring superb characters, plotting, acting, etc., worthy of the kind of acclaim only the finest in cinema was once accorded. It even has a genre title — “quality television” — which says as much about how bad episodic television used to as it does about how good it is now, due to the creative freedoms allowed by the proliferation of cable and pay channels.
But it’s created a whole new kind of problem: too many good shows. More than can be watched. Certainly more than I can watch, what with having a job and kids and stuff. Of course, it used to be if you missed a good show’s run…well, you missed it and you moved on with your life. Now, with every episode of every quality program just sitting there parked on Netflix or HBO Go, and good friends saying things like “You haven’t watched ‘Breaking Bad’?? What is the matter with you?’,” the heat is on to play a game of viewer catch-up that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to catch up to.
This is on my mind because I recently decided to attack and conquer a veritable mountain of episodes of one of the most talked about quality shows of recent years, “Game of Thrones.” After a good friend and colleague, Kierstin, whose taste I trust completely, gently shamed me about never seeing an episode (“You don’t watch ‘Game of Thrones’?? What is the matter with you?”), I decided I was goin’ in; all five seasons…all 47 episodes.
I am proud to announce today that with my first weekend of binge watching behind me, I now have only 46-more episodes to go! I binged on one episode! And even then, I thought I wasn’t understanding the story, because two characters who I first thought were brother and sister turned out to be having sex with each other. Imagine my relief when Kierstin confirmed they are, and….they are. So I’ve got that cleared up.
But so far to go! At this rate, and with new episodes still being turned out, I might never catch up. It’s like trying to pay back a student loan. How can I even begin to think about “Breaking Bad,” or “House of Cards,” or “Walking Dead”?
This is why my favorite “quality TV” shows of the past year, aside from their total excellence, were “True Detective” on HBO and “Fargo” on FX. Eight and ten episodes respectively, and then they were done. I can manage that. A completely new “True Detective” starts up next month, and I’ll be watching. Alas, that will slow me down even further on “Game of Thrones.” Man, oh man. What is the matter with me??