Monday, February 28, 2011

The Golden Age

The best Best of TV in the 00's list I've ever read. Lest you think that's an insubstantial distinction, I'm willing to take it to the bank that the television of the past decade was a cultural golden age: akin to the movies of the studio system in the 1930's and 40's or the novel in the 1860's and 70's. It was simply an era in which the conditions to make a certain kind of great art got easier. That isn't to deny that there is ten pieces of trash for all the great product, or plenty of shows which never got the chance to grow. But the achievements on TV are staggering, and they comprise the lion's share of the culture that defines our time. Best of all, this age shows few signs of abating yet. Good movies get harder to produce, the art world is a slave to money, the music world remains in disarray, but TV is no longer the idiot box - and hasn't been in a long time. As Clive James once said, "Anyone afraid of what television is doing to life is probably afraid of life too."

Addendum: One or two bones to pick though.

1. Where the hell is Everybody Loves Raymond? Fusty and traditional sitcomy as that show might seem, it is one of the greatest comedies ever made for TV. It may have seemed like a 'family' sitcom, but unbroken and solid as the family was, Ray's was the family of everybody's nightmares - far scarier than Arrested Development for being that much more believable.

2. Maybe I just have a weakness for loud, tight-knit families, but I thought Malcolm in the Middle was a great show. Perhaps because it mirrors my relationship to my brothers perfectly. But I was always amazed that it could have been such an emphatically goyish family, yet Lois was the perfect ballebooste Jewish mother.

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