Review by Jack Taylor
It is becoming increasingly apparent in this age of technological enlightenment that the techno-phobic amongst us – be it industrial traditionalists or casual consumers – are seemingly at odds with the idea of embracing new media formats as a natural successor to the impending death of the likes of print journalism and the luxury confines of the cinema multiplex.
With the advent of digitally streamed subscription services now keen to rule the roost, this has given rise to a new progressive outlook on how and when we are now able to access both TV shows and movies alike. And yet with many of these services still in their infancy it has also become apparent that licensing and copyright are still very much an issue, no doubt due in fact to the studio dinosaurs bereft of any or little ambition to stray from the pastures of old while simultaneously unable to recognise the value in their own adaptable commodities.
As a result, browsing through the likes of Netflix can be a somewhat disillusioning experience, almost like cherry picking your way through the bargain bin section of a Blockbuster Video closing-down sale before you can find something that vaguely registers – a grim experience indeed.
Yet, unfazed by this, Netflix have been revolutionary in their latest approach by being the first digital streaming service to commission their own TV series – an ingenious idea that has paid off in spades due to the success of the likes of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, which have been able to attract a number of Tinsel town’s finest into their ranks.
The days in which new episodes of a syndicated TV series were broadcast on a once weekly rotational basis are slowly becoming an antiquated and tired format indeed, with Netflix – as a reaction to this – now making entire series’ instantaneously available for the viewing pleasure of its converts. Good news for the gormandisers amongst us – who will happily feast on any number of episodes at a time – as this has become something of a telly-addict and movie-buff’s wet-dream, yet it can also be argued that this willingness for art and entertainment to be made so readily accessible through cyberspace has turned us into a society without context, a cultural abyss no longer able to come to terms with its own identity. One in which we can float aimlessly between momentary glances of Walter White and Don Corleone alike without giving pause to appreciate what it all means.
The term ‘water cooler show’ by comparison now seems almost like a vague anachronistic 90s cliché that no longer has a place among the annals of where it was previously able to define an ability to create a dialogue amongst work colleagues, keen to discuss and share ideas on topics raised on their favourite shows, while allowing for a careful period of reflection and observation before next week’s episode came around. However, nostalgia aside it is maybe worth noting that the quality of a number of shows that fell into this category often left a lot to be desired; products of an almost focus-grouped ratings war amongst networks that coveted any given opportunity to sell corporate advertising space. A cynical view nonetheless and while innocuous many of these shows may have been it may be a case of the less said about them here the better.
In the current televisual climate, which has produced some of the finest shows in recent memory ie The Wire, Game of Thrones, and the aforementioned House of Cards, it has become apparent that the cultural significance of a TV show can no longer be measured by its commercial or market value but instead by its artistic merit – through thought provoking narratives, detailed plot devices and character development that are now almost a staple part of any HBO production.
It now seems that while the technology has in many ways grown in tandem with the creative aspects of TV and movie production, for better or worse it has also afforded us an opportunity in which we are no longer held at the mercy of the inadequacy of network schedules and are in some small way the masters of our own destiny in relation to how we choose to access and perceive art on our own terms.
This is a sentiment that will hopefully inspire life, as we now know it, to innovate art instead of its previously cyclical nature whereby imitation was both the highest form of flattery, and yet the lowest common denominator.