The Pyriten Age of TV

Ignite Cardiff — January 29th 2014

This is what my talk was supposed to say — god knows what I did end up babbling about ☺

Depending on what you read you’ll be told it is a Golden Age. Not of philosophy, science or art. No. It is a golden age of television.

It started with HBO and the rise of the box set and was perfected by Netflix and their concept of releasing all the episodes of new shows in one go — perfect for binge watching.

You know the shows they are talking about. The Sopranos. The Wire. Mad Men. Breaking Bad. Game of Thrones. I’m sure the majority of you own the DVDs or bought at least a few of them on iTunes.

The funny thing is that when they first came out nobody watched these shows. Critics loved them but viewers? Well they were busy elsewhere. Except Game of Thrones because everyone loves boobs and beheadings.

It is a bit like the legend that evolved around the Woodstock concert in the US in the 60s. I once read that if everyone who claims they had been there that weekend actually were it would have filled the entire State not one farm.

I’m not here to talk about those shows. I’m here to talk about the pyrite — fools gold — not the gold. TV is all about guilty pleasures and for me that is all those TV teen dramas that go on forever..

Was there ever a better looking bunch of middle aged people playing teenagers in the history of television than the cast of Beverley Hills 90210.

Though they clearly made some kind of devils pact at a crossroads somewhere as the main cast never seem to have actually aged and there isn’t enough Botox in LA to account for that.

This show is remembered for many things — where Tom Cruise first spotted a future child bride, the first role of a future Oscar winner (and that can’t have happened often) and scripts that made teenagers sound like post-docs..

…but these days it is mainly remembered for James Van Der Beek and his ability to cry. Like really cry. To be fair to Mr Van Der Beek he has embraced his status as walking meme and plays along..anything for 5 more minutes of fame.

The one thing Dawson’s Creek did achieve though was to convince the powers that be to start casting people in teen shows who could at least remember being a teenager..

What I remember most about the O.C. is the fact it seemed to burn though every storyline ever used in other teen shows in about 4 episodes. It was relentless and simply rewrote characters to fit ever crazier storylines..

Actually that isn’t true — what I most remember about the O.C. is that everyone was always getting pissed. Or high. Or pissed and high. Like the fantasy of someone who never went to a party when they were a teenager.

I love this show. Sorry but I do. In the West Wing Aaron Sorkin famously wrote so much dialogue the actors had to learn to speak faster. Compared to the women in this show they were in slow motion.

My love of this show has nothing to do with the fact that it stars Lauren Graham. Nothing. Just like the fact that I am currently watching a show called Parenthood (occasionally on 5 somewhere) as well has nothing to do with her..

This is a funny one. Basically the creator of Gilmore Girls + all the cast who basically didn’t get jobs after that show ended all turned up in this weird little curiosity that didn’t quite last a full season.

There are no words for how much I love this show. Well clearly there are as here I am. Veronica Mars took every teen high school show cliche mashed them up with Magnum PI levels of cool and produced a classic..

Such a classic that fans clubbed together on Kickstarter to the tune of $5.7 million to make sure a movie got funded. I might have even contributed a little bit to that myself *cough*200 bucks*cough*

I guess one of the big differences is that HBO and Netflix shows. They want to win an Emmy. Or get a nice review in the New York Times or the Guardian. My shows, my shows just want to decent write up on Television Without Pity.

Thanks for listening. I realise the talk jumped the shark 5 or 6 slides in but like the best teen shows I had to drag it out to the bitter end..

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