If you’re like me, or anyone of the billions of people on this planet, then your dreams are usually an amalgamation of different scenes or moments, with constant jump cuts. One moment you may be an international spy saving the world from an evil threat. The next, you’ve fallen in love with someone you just met at the local coffee shop. And just when you’re about to swoop in for the kiss, you’re suddenly a gigantic baby stomping through the city like Godzilla. We can psychoanalyze my dreams another time, but you get my point. Most, if not all of the time, you wake up remembering only portions of the dream, which for me, is frustrating.
I bring this up only to say that we’re now living in a time, with peak TV, where our dreams have become our reality. Every year around this time, FX Network Chairman John Landgraf, shares his latest tally of the number of original scripted series on broadcast, cable, and streaming services. In 2018, there were nearly 500 (we’re still waiting to hear what the 2019 number was).
As a consumer, this is a dream. There is now enough content to service even the “nichest” of niche segments. From Crunchyroll, which is targeted to the Anime fan to Eros Now, for those Bollywood lovers, Revry, an LGBTQ-themed streamer to Nosey, which literally has “full episodes of the best of Maury Povich, Jerry Springer, Steve Wilkos, Sally Jessy Raphael, Joan Rivers, Trisha Goddard, and much, much more!” And let’s not forget that the richest company in the world launched its streaming service, Apple TV+, late last year, while later this month we’ll get HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s Peacock will get its national debut in July, thus bringing even more quality programming to our homes and mobile devices (did I forget to mention Quibi? oh well).
But with all this quality content, how does one keep track of the storylines and characters? Furthermore, how does one build an affinity, loyalty, even obsession with a program when within hours of finishing it, you’re moving on to the next? My top three favorite shows in 2019 were Succession, Fleabag, and Veep, with a ton of honorable mentions (euphoria, Barry, Dark, The Boys). But ask me to recount storylines, favorite moments, lines, characters, and it will take me more than a minute. It would be like trying to remember a dream. And the more I try to remember, the more I get frustrated.
In the past, where TV allowed us to connect with characters and follow story-arcs over multiple seasons, the proliferation of content has made it a burden to keep up, even for our favorite shows. Summer and cable reruns, as well as the early Netflix programming, would allow us to re-watch our favorite episodes and seasons to the point one would ask, “you’re watching that again?” However, unlike a re-watchable movie where the commitment is only a couple of hours, trying to re-watch a season, let alone multiple seasons, is a couple of days, even months, worth of time. Even during this time of quarantine – where time in front of the TV appears to be plentiful – instead of re-watching The Wire, Breaking Bad, or Battlestar Galactica, you’re more likely to check out Solar Opposites on Hulu, Defending Jacob on AppleTV+, or finally getting around to watching Better Call Saul of which there are five seasons.
All this is to say, peak TV has changed our relationship with the medium, and perhaps for the worse. The push of media and tech companies alike to create more exclusive content to attract eyeballs and stay relevant, has made the process of discovery and connection more like music. There are countless great artists or bands I’ve never heard of or sampled, yet several of my friends have and I’ll never be part of that community. Watching TV has become and will continue to become an individual, nonmonocultural pastime. That isn’t to say there won’t be the occasional Tiger King or Ozark capturing the cultural zeitgeist, but like music, those big acts are a thing of the past.
So where do we go from here? Well, having the easy accessibility to those who share your TV passion will be important. Finding that community and having a dialogue with them in a way that seems more conversational and casual can help make the commitment to a series feel worth it. Over the years, 1iota has made it possible for fandoms to gather in a safe and welcoming space. Whether it’s for the season premiere of Stranger Things S3, the Talking Dead, or The Voice, 1iota has fostered these communities and will continue to do so in the post-pandemic era. Our new digital platform, now.1iota.com, allows those of different fandoms to keep up to date with their favorite shows, movie franchises, celebrities, and artists, and communicate and interact with each other virtually through watch-parties and SuperFan Sound Offs. After all, who better than to help you remember a dream than someone who’s had the same one?