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The Modern Golden Age of Television: Coming to an End?

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Golden_Age_of_TV_2_Broke_Girls_billboard.jpgEvery day that I drive in to the Home Theater Review office in West Los Angeles, I have to stop at the intersection of Fairfax and Beverly Boulevard. While sitting at the light, I see three huge advertisements for new television shows starting this fall: Unforgettable, How To Be A Gentleman, and 2 Broke Girls. If you think those sound like awful titles for horrible shows, I can tell you that the billboards don't do anything to change that notion. It has often been thrown around that in our modern times television is the best form of media around - that we are in a "Golden Age" of television. Well, when you look at the new shows that are set to premiere, it starts to seem like that Golden Age is ending.

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Most of the quality shows that garner the praise are on their way out or are slipping in quality. Mad Men only has two seasons left. Breaking Bad had one more left, which happens to be AMC's best show from a ratings standpoint. AMC also has The Walking Dead, which garnered attention based on its production values, and AMC cut the second season budget by $250,000 per episode. That doesn't bode well for that series.

Another show faced with budget cuts is HBO's Boardwalk Empire. Game of Thrones should be soon to follow. After all, HBO has a history of spending too much money on shows, which often ends with the network cancelling the shows prematurely. Just look at Carnivale, Deadwood, and Rome for proof of that. On Showtime, Weeds will be seeing it's final season with the show's seventh. These are shows that offer incredible audio and visual quality. They're the kind of things you want to watch on your HDTV in your home theater to really enjoy the picture and sound quality. However with these shows on the way out, networks don't look to be trying to replace them. Instead the network execs are more worried about how to replace Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men, which many think will tank without its main character.

Looking at shows like 2 Broke Girls, it becomes clear that networks are aiming for the lowest common denominator. It's the same thing as parody movies like Epic Movie or Meet the Spartans that only try to sell a gimmick instead of pushing the creative envelope and telling a compelling story. I offer this: if a show looks like it is filled with stale jokes and is built upon a gimmick instead of a premise, it probably is. The solution? Don't watch it. If these mediocre shows earn poor ratings then they will disappear. Hopefully, that will leave space for better shows to come along to replace them. We've had it really good with television programming for a while now, which is all the reason to not settle for less now.

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