The Newfound Impact of Instant Streaming and Quality Television

Jordan Meaker, Center Stage Editor

Once upon a time, a time not too long ago, in fact, I accidently introduced my younger brother to a T.V. show called Parks and Recreation. I have yet to decide whether this was a good decision or a bad one, because my parents and I did not see him for at least a week after that. After he finally emerged from his bedroom, exhausted laptop in hand, bleary of eye and parched of throat, he proclaimed, “I watched all 5 seasons. It was worth it,” and then promptly fell asleep for 14 hours. A similar scene has most likely played out in many of your houses as well. You get tied in to a new T.V. show, you become obsessed, and pretty soon, you end up crying in the fetal position because there are no episodes left to watch. So what is it about the T.V. shows of the first half of this decade that has so captivated watchers, and can they continue to do so?

For one thing, there is no doubt that the quality of the T.V. shows produced in the last few years has greatly improved. Kevin Wu, a data whiz, created a program called GraphTV that allows you to type in the name of a show and then view a graph showing the trends in popularity of each season of that show. Fan favorite T.V. shows such as Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Orange is the New Black have all shown upward trends in popularity within each season and across each series as a whole. This is due to a shift in the way that T.V. shows are being produced. Better writers and directors are moving away from the silver screen and to television. Big name movie stars want in on the action too. The legendary Robin Williams returned to T.V. in the comedy The Crazy Ones, comedian Andy Samberg stars in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and early 2014 saw the premiere of HBO’s crime thriller True Detective, starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey.

Big name movie stars aren’t the only thing drawing more and more appreciation for television. T.V. shows offer audiences something that movies never truly could: unless you’re watching a Lord of the Rings movie, most movies don’t have the necessary time needed to fully flesh out characters and offer detailed character development. T.V. shows offer their audiences comprehensive backstories of main characters, and have the time to show character arcs. Since, for instance, a show could come on once a week for 12 weeks or 20 weeks straight, the watchers can become more emotionally attached to the characters and enthralled by the plot as a whole. Plot twists and cliff-hangers add suspense that keep viewers watching every episode.

Sometimes you don’t even have to wait an entire week if a cliff hanger has you biting your nails in anticipation. T.V. is more accessible and instantaneous than ever before due to online streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu. I predict that in the next five years of this decade, many people won’t even have cable anymore, and they’ll watch all of their T.V. online. HBO already plans to offer its network on an online-only basis, where users can watch HBO shows as they would watch shows on Netflix. Ideas such as this could even make traditional television viewing obsolete in the last years of this decade. Our society is all about convenience, and what’s more convenient than carrying your T.V. in your pocket? Online streaming allows you to watch quality television shows with incredibly easy access.

From the dramatic twists and turns of shows like The Walking Dead and Mad Men to the laugh out loud comedy of shows like Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the high quality television produced in the first half of this decade is captivating audiences like never before. And I believe the trend won’t stop anytime soon- the television industry has many lucrative years to come, and avid T.V. watchers have much to look forward to.