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Golden age of television?

I was listening to a discussion show on the radio this morning and the suggestion was put forward that we are currently living in a new golden age for television.  I suspect that we’re all used to thinking that the time of our childhoods was the real golden age of TV, no matter how old we are and so the suggestion was easy to initially reject as preposperous.  After all, whenever I turn on the TV I am greeted with reality TV, terrible talk-shows, magazine soundbite discussions masquerading as news and the ever present danger of Anne Robinson.  However, the point was made that we need to think about television differently to how we’re used to watching.

In the past, there was a small collection of channels making it a very passive medium.  You switched on, picked your channel and then just sat down and watched.  You had a limited choice for channel surfing, maybe 3 or 4 options, and by and large, everyone watched the same programmes which were then discussed at length the following day.  24 hour broadcasting wasn’t the norm and a few big budget programmes fought for our attention, but were easily found.  On the other hand, many programmes which might find a niche today wouldn’t have been made at all, given the scarcity of the broadcasting space available.

Things have changed however, and watching TV like that today could be compared to visiting a library and reading every book one after the other, without any attempt to pick and choose.  There’s a lot of terrible TV out there which never would have made our screens in the past, but there is also lots of great TV which wouldn’t have reached a large enough audience in the past to be made which can now be seen.

Of course, with all the extra choice it’s easy to lose track of the diamonds in the rough, but they are still there.  We just need to hunt them out.

What do you think?  Was TV better twenty years ago?  What shows should we be watching now which we might have missed?  Leave a comment and discuss it!

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