Let's just cut to the chase. Yes, there's too much television. Not only is there too much television, but there's been too much television for quite some time. Not only has there been too much television for quite some time, but there is more television on the way, whether you like it or not.
But here’s the thing: Outside of Los Angeles and New York, very few people care. As passionate as I feel about HBO's “Succession” and as much as it seems as though the entire world is obsessed with it, but the show's spectacular Season 2 finale had just 1.1 million viewers between first run showings, encores and digital platforms. Or, approximately, the whole of the entertainment industry. That’s it.
There's a disconnect between those inside the TV industry and the rest of the world. Look at Netflix’s earnings report this week: The company is still reeling after upping its price to $12.99 a month earlier this year. Analysts once anticipated people subscribing to “three or four” streaming services; that now seems horribly naive.
While it feels like Disney and Apple joining the streaming lineup are game-changers — or backbreakers, depending on how much TV you need to watch professionally — the reality is that your Kroger cashier doesn't care, because her cable got too expensive and now she exclusively watches Netflix and that’s it for the forseeable future.
The TV industry needs to get out of this gated community. It's been more than four years since Chairman of FX Network and FX Productions John Landgraf bemoaned this very concept. In 2015, the executive coined the now infamous phrase “Peak TV” and predicted that the market would see its peak that year or the next. Months later, an FX study revealed that television had boasted a record 409 scripted series.
Last year? There were 495. Honestly, maybe that's enough television for now.
As a medium, TV has always thrived as a collective experience. People mourn the death of water cooler television, in part because it gave people a common ground to meet on, where you could discuss something you felt passionate about without coming to blows over it. Nowadays it feels like nothing fills that void.
When, and if, the general public cottons on to the new players in the streaming space, then yes, some difficult choices will have to be made in each household. Or, some crafty sharing of log-ins will have to be exchanged. Something Disney is already on the warpath over.
But ultimately, John Landgraf was right. There's too much TV. The problem is, TV wonks are the only ones that realize it. The rest of the world will probably be fine settling with what they already have.
Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Show: The Secret History of Hollywood
Where You Can Stream It: The podcasting app of your choice.
The Pitch: The Secret History of Hollywood is the most compelling, immersive, and emotional podcast I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. Each season consists of deep dives into a major Hollywood figure, tracing its subject’s rise to prominence and giving incredible insight into their home lives, painting a portrait so captivating and well-rounded that biographies or books on the subjects could only dream to achieve.
Why It’s Essential Quarantine Listening: I’ve been thinking about this podcast a lot since I first stumbled across it several years ago, but I think it’s especially appropriate to recommend it right now because some of its episodes are incredibly lengthy – many clock in around an hour and a half, but some of them stretch to four, six, or even nine hours long. Yes, really. Some of you may scoff, but isn’t being in quarantine the perfect time to give a long-form podcast a chance?
Adam Roche, the voice behind the show, had no background in sound editing or sound production when he got started, but he could have fooled me: the series reminds me of an old-time radio show, complete with sound effects and Roche doing voices as he plays the people in a given scene. I realize that may sound cheesy, and it absolutely would be in less-capable hands. But trust me: Roche’s mellifluous voice and incredibly researched accounts are perfect for this type of storytelling.
The show has brought me to tears multiple times over the years, and I think a huge part of the reason for that is because of the long episode lengths. Like a great TV series you never want to end, you get to spend hours and hours with the subjects of these episodes and build emotional connections to them, so when they they experience hardships, a project goes wrong, or they lose a loved one, the results can be unexpectedly powerful.
The show has earned the attention of Hollywood vets like Peter Ramsey Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Mark Gatiss Sherlock, Game of Thrones, the latter of whom lends his own terrific voice to introductions of the most recent season, which covers the prolific producer Val Lewton Cat People, The Body Snatcher, The Ghost Ship. I knew nothing about Lewton or his work before I listened to the eleven episode season, but by the end, I feel like not only do I know all about him, but I feel I’ve experienced his highs and lows right alongside him. It’s truly spellbinding stuff, and it comes with my absolute highest recommendation.