Fall signals the start of many things: cooler weather, football, flavoring everything with pumpkin spice, etc. One of the things I get most excited for each year, though, has to be premiere season (usually starting in September), as television networks roll out their new and returning shows for our viewing pleasure.
I'll be the first to admit that I probably watch too much TV. When I get sucked in, I get sucked in hard. Even if a show is bad, I tend to give it the benefit of the doubt and try to see it through until cancellation, like *cough, cough* "The Muppets" last year. Cue the heckles from Statler and Waldorf.
Listen to anybody tied to the industry and they will tell you, though, we are in the era of "Peak TV." What that means is that even promising shows that have a few kinks to work out can become a casualty in this day and age. Personally, I'm still not over Fox's cancellation of "The Grinder," with Fred Savage, classic Rob Lowe and hilarious cameos from Timothy Olyphant. How could you Fox? THE GRINDER NEVER RESTS!
With so many network offerings, you can quickly forget about those shows gone too soon and find something else to enjoy. That's the difference between TV and movies currently. With a limited number of film studios, their output has become formulaic. For every original movie you see, the next three will probably either be a remake, sequel or adaptation of some book (or board game, or video game, etc.). Then, it's rinse, wash, repeat.
Diversity has worked in television's favor. From the big four (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) to basic cable, networks are telling a wide range of stories, not to mention what the premium cable giants like HBO are doing. Every voice is seemingly being heard (as acknowledged by FX receiving the second most Emmy nominations this year), and the advent of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu has only added to that.
Perhaps what stands out most is the ease with which shows can be consumed now. I hardly even watch live television anymore. Usually, I will stream shows on my Xbox, my laptop and even my phone in some cases. The advances in technology have also translated to the shows themselves, which is really exciting given my personal affinity for the sci-fi genre.
As repetitive as films have become, the fact that television can manage some of the big budget effects that are commonplace in today's blockbusters is quite the feat. If you've seen one episode of "Game of Thrones," you know what I'm taking about.
Now, HBO is doing the same for sci-fi with the sprawling epic "Westworld." I may be a little biased, given that the trifecta of creators behind it (Jonathan Nolan, J.J. Abrams and Michael Crichton) are like catnip for me, but it's easy to get sucked into shows like these. Just go online and check out the gorgeous opening credits.
Based on the movie written and directed by Crichton (a science fiction novelist known for "Jurassic Park"), the series explores a western theme park in which human guests interact with robot hosts. While it is technically a reboot, it also is not constrained by the same time limitations of a feature film, meaning I expect Nolan and Abrams to fully explore the inner workings of the park and the implications of boundary-pushing artificial intelligence (much like their previous show, "Person of Interest").
Even to a lesser extent, superhero shows on the small screen are catching up to their big screen counterparts. A perfect example is "The Flash," which premiered its third season this week. Previously, the show has featured the CGI villain King Shark in multiple episodes. King Shark is also a member of the Suicide Squad (in the comics), but he was left out of the self-titled movie this summer because of costs. In his place was Killer Croc, a character that could be created with more practical (i.e. cheaper) effects. That's a tactic you would expect from a TV show.
Television is rapidly closing the gap with film in terms of quality, if not just by the sheer volume of outlets available to creators. Heck, the best thriller I saw this summer was Netflix's "Stranger Things" (if you haven't binge-watched it yet, I encourage you to do so this weekend) and there are a number of horror shows currently flooding the market, like "American Horror Story," "Scream Queens" and the adaptation of "The Exorcist."
Fox is even trying to appeal to the sports crowd this fall with "Pitch," a show about the fictitious first female pitcher in Major League Baseball, perfect for anyone with a soft spot for the "Friday Night Lights" series (which includes me, as indicated by the title of my last column).
Once upon a time, you had to rely on movie magic to help transport you and engross you in another world. Now, with the advancement of technology and the era of "Peak TV," immersive worlds are closer than you think. Just grab your remote, click and you may be caught up in a new one before you know it.