The Linoleum Age of Television

Serviceable yet uninspired.

Good god, I think I’m in a television dry spell.

This goes beyond COVID-19 issues: we’re still getting new content. In fact, it’s the next season that’s screwed.

Somehow, in this boom of streaming and green lights and adult cartoons, I’ve lost the magic that made me love television. The only moments that made my breath catch in the last six months is when Andy Samberg says “It’s the best” in Palm Springs and when they turn into zombies in the first episode of Midnight Gospel. Okay, maybe the dance at the house party in Dickinson, which is one of the most inspired deconstructions I’ve seen.

I used to relish Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays because there were four distinct shows that I couldn’t wait to see every week. What a luxury! I had to watch them immediately, otherwise Vulture or Twitter would spoil them for me the next day. Now all I have on the schedule is RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars and mawma, I’m starting to think that the function of All Stars is to make me hate my former favorites.

Normal People has lovely sex scenes but absolutely no narrative question. I’m literally forcing myself through The Mandalorian. The same thing happened to Schitt’s Creek in its last season that happened to the fifth season of How I Met Your Mother – the creators finally found an audience and choked. The Magicians ended on a high note, but NOTHING WILL EVER MAKE ME CRY LIKE “A LIFE IN A DAY.”

I need more moments that make my breath catch. Because yes, I watch television as a distraction. I watch it so that when I’m stressing instead of falling asleep, I have something else to think about and can distract my mind. I watch it to inspire me for the show I’m writing myself.

But the most important reason I watch television is because it can beautiful – telling a long form tale over months or years, engaging with an audience, relishing in how tantalizing a story can be.

Below, some scenes I need more of, included in a handy dandy playlist below below:

  • Hot Priest asking the narrator about her fourth wall on Fleabag

  • “American Bitch” episode on Girls

  • Gretchen and Jimmy say I love you for the first time on You’re the Worst

  • Mad Sweeney shouting in Gaelic after the truck accident in American Gods

  • The ADHD of The Good Place’s second season when the neighborhood runs through all those scenarios

  • The character switch episode of GLOW

  • “A Life in a Day” from The Magicians, of course

Handy dandy playlist here (except for GLOW, can’t find that one):

With the exception of American Gods, none of those clips are from the first season of a show.

My real pleasure comes in these wonderful moments that can only result from a few episodes’ worth of buildup, sometimes even a few seasons’ worth. It comes from recognizing characters and their motivations and wanting to cheer them on. It comes from well-told stories that have waited years to be told, slowly gestating and developing.

Commitment to good television.