The Golden Age of Television

Today is the first day I haven’t felt like writing since I started trying to blog everyday. But it marks the last day of the week since I started so I have to do it, I just have to. We had a sizable earthquake in Korea last week, followed by a typhoon, and last night we had a sizable aftershock and high winds. I live pretty high up in an apartment complex so I didn’t get much sleep what with all the blowing and shaking and clicking my heals chanting, “there’s no place like home.” But I survived, I’m the boy who lived, so I fight on for another day. And what better to talk about after a sleepless night pondering death than the golden age of TV?

I kept hearing the term, “Golden Age,” applied to TV over the last decade or so before I really started watching it very much. I was in a culture vacuum while in Bible college in the mid 2000’s. I saw plenty of movies, but it wasn’t a golden age of movies at that time, nor now. All the while Sopranos was wrapping up, as was The Wire, and a host of other shows that became known as the harbingers of this new golden TV era. Once in seminary, my housemates and I started borrowing DVD’s, even from the library (which feels weird to think of now), and we watched Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Lost, and the beginning of Son’s of Anarchy while we got our masters degrees in theology and started a church in our house. It was an interesting way to get introduced to this Golden Era. We had all grown up on standard sitcom television, and this new kind of TV, the kind with regular international instant cult classics being the norm (basically the definition used by wikipedia for this era), was something we were seeing after it was well underway. Like so many things in American Evangelical subculture, we were late to the larger cultural waves in both participation and understanding. While an increase in production of this caliber was interesting to me, and to my friends, what really stuck with us was the way TV was becoming a mythology machine for a globalized America, to such an extent that it was becoming the sacred space in American culture. The news media was losing favor and has continued to do so ever since. Politics, already nobody’s favorite source of American culture creation and appropriation, has continued down the stream of actual culture production such that it’s now just the last place at the receiving end, a thermometer verifying what’s wrong and not a virus. Every sociological survey on the matter is highlighting the ongoing waning influence of churches in America, evangelical or otherwise. And movies had already started to just remake themselves over and over. There have been some good ones, but nobody is saying it’s a golden age of film.

However, TV has become one of the primary places where American culture does it’s thinking, reflecting and hypothesizing. It’s become high literature in many ways. There’s an intertextuality in the storytelling that has actually changed the way film franchises work as well. I’m not saying all of this should be the way it is, just that it appears to be the case. I hope to spend more time in the details of this in the future, but for now here’s a first glance into my reflections on the golden age of TV, and why I think it’s an important reality for thoughtful minds to consider, because more than nearly any other platform, TV has become America’s pulpit. What is it saying?