Bleats

There Are Too Many 'Must-Watch' TV Shows And We Need To Start Being More Picky

SOS.

According to my profile on Trakt.TV, I have spent 288 days and 21 hours watching 218 different TV shows. This isn’t a confession about my latent television addiction; everyone who knows me knows that watching (and subsequently writing about) television is one of the main ways I spend my time.

But I’m starting to feel overwhelmed. I’m overwhelmed by the sheer number of TV shows being produced, I’m overwhelmed by the pressure I’m placing on myself to watch every ‘must see’ TV show, I’m overwhelmed by the race to watch certain TV shows before they’re inevitably spoiled on social media.

At some point in the past decade, watching TV became less of a source of entertainment and a way to unwind and more of a job, and that was before I managed to talk my way into a field that allowed me to write about TV as part of my job.

Every week brings new TV shows you “have to” watch, every day brings more hype on social media for yet another show you’ve just got to add to your list.

This feeling isn’t just gut instinct – the numbers show that the number of TV shows have been steadily increasing. In 2016, 455 scripted TV shows aired across broadcast networks, basic and premium cable outlets, and streaming services; in 2017, it was 487, and last year, it reached an all-time high of 495. From 2002 to 2016, the number of shows increased by 150%, and from 2011 to 2016, they increased by just under half that, at 71%.

FX Networks CEO John Landgraf coined the term ‘Peak TV’ in 2015 to describe what he called an “overwhelming” increase in the number of scripted TV series, and since then, critics have been arguing about whether or not we’ve actually hit Peak TV yet. Semantics aside, nobody could argue that the number of shows hasn’t increased significantly, particularly thanks to the number of originals being produced by streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu.

As a writer who’s interested in culture, trying to keep up with every show I simply must watch means that a lot of my free time is spent watching TV, and in the case of shows like Game of Thrones, watching them as soon as possible so as to not get spoiled on social media (and simply avoiding social media isn’t an option in many lines of work).

When I was in the UK, where the show aired at 2am, this meant either staying up late to watch it before heading off to a job interview in the morning, or watching it in the morning while getting ready and also on the Tube, or watching it on a tour bus on the way to one of the castles from Harry Potter only to not finish it by the time we arrived, so I had to find a dark tunnel to watch the last ten minutes in.

These problems may seem self-inflicted – who is holding a gun to my head and forcing me to watch all this TV? But given we’re living in a ‘Golden Age of Television’, it’s practically impossible to socialise with anyone without a TV show coming up in conversation, and dissecting shows with friends is one of the few remaining television-related things I enjoy doing. But the rush to watch hyped-up shows or new episodes before encountering spoilers is something I could happily do without.

In addition, I can’t help but wonder what the wider implications of all this TV are, and a few questions come to mind, such as “which shows and stories are prioritised by executives?”

While this era of Peak TV means that more shows are being greenlit, and this inevitably means more shows about underrepresented groups are being produced, it hasn’t changed the way executives make decisions about which shows get renewed, or which shows get huge marketing budgets.

The Big Bang Theory is a show that comes to mind – it ran for so long that it became a joke, an example of a show that stopped being funny years ago, if it ever was.

Compare it to One Day At A Time, a show that featured a diverse cast, told stories that are often overlooked by television executives, and was celebrated for its humour and heart.

The Big Bang Theory, with the support of major broadcaster CBS behind it, ran for 12 years. One Day At A Time was cancelled by Netflix after two. The original iteration of the show ran for nine years back in the 70s and 80s, on CBS.

Shows that appeal to what television executives think is the broadest possible audience, like The Big Bang Theory, are the shows that keep getting renewed each year. Shows that they feel cater to ‘minority’ audiences feel like risky bets, so they often don’t even get a chance to catch on.

Look at the shows that have lasted the longest at Netflix: House of Cards, Grace & Frankie, Orange is the New Black, Bojack Horseman, The Ranch. All have sixty episodes or more, all are fronted by white people. Side note, but has anyone actually watched The Ranch? Anyone at all? Bueller?

Of course, that speaks to a wider issue that is by no means exclusive to Netflix, so let’s look at primetime as a whole: The Simpsons, Law & Order: SVU, Family Guy, NCIS, Grey’s Anatomy, American Dad!, Criminal Minds. Grey’s Anatomy is the brainchild of Shonda Rhimes, but besides that, primetime has the same problem as Netflix.

So executives play it safe, and shows that they don’t feel have the same widespread appeal as these stalwarts get one season to try their luck – two if they’re feeling particularly generous.

Shows aren’t given time to grow into themselves, or catch on with the wider public – if they aren’t immediately wildly successful, they’re cancelled, because there are a dozen shows that could take their place.

And as a viewer, I feel like I’m barely given any time to sit with a show and enjoy it at a relaxing pace. So many shows are released a season at a time now, which sounded great initially, but in reality, it means that it’s easier than ever before to finish one show, move on to the next one, and repeat ad infinitum until you wake from your streaming-induced stupor and realise you haven’t left the house all weekend.

One thing I’m going to try and do is adopt a Marie Kondo approach to my viewing habits: if a show doesn’t bring me joy after one episode, I’ll turn it off. While that might mean I miss out on shows that get better over time, it will also mean I’ll be able to claw some of my free time back, so I think it evens out.

As for what those who product TV should do, I don’t have any easy solutions. But I would like to see them adopt a policy of quality over quantity and give shows telling unique stories the attention and funding they deserve, instead of simply choosing to play it safe.

Kelsey Grammer Reveals There Are Currently Six Different Ideas For Frasier Reboots Despite Nobody Wanting Even One

Please, keep all of them.

Kelsey Grammer made an appearance on British talk show Lorraine late last week, and teased the potential return of his hit show Frasier, letting slip that there are not one, but six different ideas for what a new series of Frasier could entail.

This all started last year, when Deadline reported that Grammer was in talks with CBS to bring the show back. Then, last month, Grammer was papped walking around London carrying a binder with ‘FRASIER’ printed on the front, in what has to be one of the most obvious ploys to get media attention in a minute.

This is despite nobody asking for a Frasier reboot, because the last thing the world needs is yet another reboot. Please, someone, have an original idea, I’m begging you, my crops are dying.

Grammer explained:

“That little folder is filled with six different ideas that are all in contention for what may be the new Frasier. A continuation of Frasier. They’re similar, it’s a new life, in a new city.”

He added that Martin Crane would have to be replaced, following actor John Mahoney’s death last year:

“Of course, John Mahoney died so you’d need to replace that energy, perhaps like they did on Cheers with Coach, they found Woody, who had the same kind of sensibility.”

While the show was incredibly popular, and has found new life amongst viewers who were too young when it was originally on air thanks to streaming services, is a show that picks up where they left off in 2004 the best idea?

There are so many more TV shows in production now than there were in 2004, and for fans of older shows, they can watch any and all of them on Netflix or Stan whenever they want. Is there still an audience for Frasier in 2019?

I don’t have all the answers, but as I’ve made clear, I am positively fatigued by the number of reboots coming out of Hollywood right now, and a reboot of a spin-off of a show that started in 1982 probably won’t appeal to younger audiences.

If You're Staying In This Mardi Gras, These LGBT Shows Will Make You Feel Like You're There

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If parties and large crowds aren’t your thing and you’re planning on staying in for tonight’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. With these delightfully gay movies and TV shows, you’ll have all the fun of Mardi Gras with none of the hangover or glitter in unpleasant places.

RuPaul’s Drag Race

Guess who’s back in the house for yet another season? All Stars only just ended, but Ru is already back with a brand new season and fourteen new queens (and one familiar face).

Episode one premiered on Stan yesterday, complete with an accompanying Untucked episode, and it’s a good ‘un. I won’t give too much away, but everyone’s favourite meme is back for round two, and the guest judge knows a thing or two about getting the Best of Both Worlds.

Pose

If reality shows aren’t your thing, check out Pose instead. Created by Ryan Murphy, it’s set in New York in the 80s and focuses on the city’s famous ball scene, where predominantly black and Latino gay men, drag queens and trans women laid the groundwork for things like RuPaul’s Drag Race. The amazing cast includes Billy Porter, who you may remember from his show-stopping red carpet moment at last week’s Oscars.

Kickin’ it old school

If you’re after something friendly and familiar, why not put on Will & Grace or The L Word? All seasons of both shows are available on Stan, including the Will & Grace reboot.

Netflix Originals

Netflix has been delivering some brilliant original shows with LGBT characters and storylines lately, including Sex Educationseason 3 of One Day At A Time, and season 5 of Grace & Frankie. 

If you’re in the mood for a show that reminds you of Skins, give Sex Education a go. Or, if you want something that’s heartwarming and family-friendly, try One Day At A Time. And if you want to watch gay icons Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin try and navigate life after their husbands divorced them to marry each other, watch Grace & Frankie. Any of these shows will keep you entertained for hours, and their representation of LGBT characters and narratives is some of the best on TV right now.

Keeping it real

If you’re in the mood for a documentary, check out Paris is Burningon Netflix, which is the documentary to watch if you want to learn about New York’s ball culture.

Or you can sit back and enjoy seasons one and two of Queer Eye ahead of season three’s release later this year.

Whatever you watch, make sure it’s as fabulous as you are, darlings. xoxo

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