Cable was supposed to be the demise of television. The corruption would come from the vast sea of under-financed oddballs trying to become overnight sensations with a lame idea and a few friends. Just about now, many predicted, viewers would be swamped in millions of Wayne's World –type shows filmed in rec rooms around the country with no way to tell one from the other.
The opposite has come true, as the vast stable of quality television available today demonstrates. Running through selections of my local AZ Direct TV listings shows that television is now entering its Golden Age with a seemingly endless supply of intriguing shows with quality production value, solid casts and strong script writing. As such, 2015 has kicked off a season with startling dramas and poignant comedies, just as we might have never predicted.
So, here's a list of some keepers from 2015. These shows are all spare-no-expense productions that tell you that television is far from rolling over in its grave; it is alive and kicking quite vigorously, in fact.
Ten days after its debut, Empire was picked up for a second season, much to the delight of its audience, which may have felt under-served, given the story-line that involves the business side of hip-hop music. Former drug dealer Lucious Lyon who now runs a hip hope empire is the pivotal character, who discovers that he has ALS, a neuro-degenerative disease, which forces him to pick one of his three sons to succeed him in the business.
Like the best of the new age of television, Empire simply takes the television audience to places it has not been before. Familiar themes of jealousy and distrust abound, but the setting is brilliant. Hip Hop Wars, here we come.
Agent Carter exemplifies the range and confidence of the new age of television. Not only is it based on Marvel Comic's Captain America series, but it is a film noir-styled thriller featuring Haley Atwell playing agent Peggy Carter, as a single woman spy in the 1940s.
That shows you how layered television has become. Marvel's sense of right and wrong, no end to surprises, a single woman, a spy, all set in the 1940s is all well and good, but the production also features Atwell, who played the role on the big screen. In the old days, film actors shunned the rinky-dink television remakes. Now, the actors feel television is on solid enough ground that they are wiling to continue playing roles they first played for a theater audience.
Better Call Saul also tells you how liberated television has become. First of all, it is a spin-off of Breaking Bad, which is frequently mentioned as one of television’s most ground-breaking shows. Better Call Saul revolves around small-time lawyer James McGill, who is Irish, living
in New Mexico, but takes the name Saul Goodman, because he thinks a Jewish name would be good for his career.
That said, owing to the popularity of Breaking Bad, which finished a five-year run in 2013, the spinoff debuted like the release of an iPhone or a new Beatles album. Its first episode was watched by 6.9 million viewers, including 4.4 million between 18 and 49-years old.
Babylon has talent both in front of the camera and behind it. Danny Boyle, who directed Trainspotting co-wrote the first season, which concerns an American public relations specialist traveling to London to help the police there remake their image.
While this sounds like a snooze, the series has received high marks for its wit and insights. It stars Brit Marling (from Another Earth), comedic actor James Nesbitt and relative newcomer Bertie Carvel.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
There’s always room for another sit-com, right? Wrong! However, the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt may be the next Friends or the next Mary Tyler Moore Show – which dates us, but still.
For a sitcom, however, there has rarely been a stranger premise – and that is going some. The story line involves the big-city life of Kimmy Schmidt after she was freed from 15 years of captivity in an underground bunker in Indiana as a member of a cult.
Talk about topical. The Netflix show is being hailed as the best sitcom in the Internet (or streaming) era and it has a solid starting point, as it was created by comedienne Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, who worked with Fey on 30 Rock.