Is there any television network that doesn't have a fictional series these days?
We've long since dumped the days when NBC, CBS and ABC controlled what you saw on your TV. We're now in the age when anyone and everyone throws shows against the wall.
Cable stations such as FX and FXX, Syfy, TBS, TNT, A&E, History, Hallmark, Lifetime, even MTV (What, music on MTV? Get a grip) have their own shows. Streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime have grabbed the passing gravy train.
Mostly, it's a good thing. As many economists say, a free and open market is the beating heart of capitalism. Competition should make companies better, more efficient and offer better products. Yeah, not always. No one wants to be left behind in this moneymaking bandwagon, so programs that never should've seen the light of a stage lamp appear on our TV screens.
On the good side of the ledger, not being an over-the-air broadcast channel, which are overseen and restricted by the Federal Communications Commission, gives cable networks the leeway to be more daring in content, dialogue and visuals. You couldn't possibly put HBO's "Game of Thrones" on broadcast TV; "Orange Is the New Black," "Breaking Bad," "Penny Dreadful" and "House of Cards" would not work on NBC, CBS or ABC. Critically acclaimed shows such as "Stranger Things" and "The Man in the High Castle" would almost certainly be rejected by broadcast execs.
With the ability to take more risks, cable dramas are shoving broadcast out of the way like tofu at a barbecue. Since 2011, only PBS' "Downton Abbey" has been nominated as Best Drama Series in the Emmys. And it didn't win.
But all is not well in this open market of ideas. Not all ideas are equal; some are positively brain dead.
Take, for example, "Teachers" on TV Land. A stupider, more inane and utterly useless show would be hard to imagine. But there it is, splattered onto our TVs like an overripe melon. "Fuller House" is this something anybody really needed? Ever? "Vinyl" could've been a cool, insightful look at the music industry; instead it was a boring, aimless look at the music industry.
Sure, there are going to be duds among the diamonds; it's inevitable when so much is being slung about, and it's true on both broadcast and cable. The key is searching through the junk to find the jewels. Just keep your eyes open for the glow.
Contact Shawn Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6327.