Amateur Hour

KEENE, NH - SEPTEMBER 30 (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

A while ago, I was driving back to Indiana from the place of my birth and America’s most dysfunctional city, Chicago. As thoughts of Greek-style pensions for public employees, exorbitant property taxes, and sky high murder rates were passing through my consciousness, my car began emitting a strange noise on the expressway. It grew louder, and my stomach sank. It was a flat. The car wobbled onto a nearby exit ramp, and I slowed to the shoulder cursing my lousy luck.

Thankfully I had just renewed my Triple-A membership (after debating to myself whether or not the fee was worth it), so my luck held in the end. The incident led me to ponder the fact that it would not have occurred to me in my distress to try calling a real estate developer, a neurosurgeon, or a former CEO for help. That is to say, anyone lacking a background in auto repair.

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The Golden Age of (Pay) Television

There is a great deal of pessimism about the nation and the culture, so I thought it would be appropriate to mention one area where I think we are in a golden age: television.

I suppose that it is a little misleading to call it television.  What I have in mind are the cable (and mostly pay TV) series.  Shows like Game of Thrones and Mad Men (the early seasons were better for the latter), both of which just completed their seasons, House of Cards (which I am now watching), Boardwalk Empires, Downton Abbey, Dexter (again the early seasons), and a host of others.  All of these shows won’t appeal to everyone, and I am sure I am leaving out some favorites of the reader, but you get the idea.

In my view, these shows – for lack of a better term, let’s call them Pay TV series – are better than ordinary TV (a weak standard) and movies.  And the question is why?

There are various factors responsible.  One is that most of these series are on Cable and Pay TV and therefore are not subject to the restrictions on words and mature themes that govern ordinary TV.  Another is that these series are a new genre, if you will, giving the authors 12 shows in a season to develop characters and story arcs.  Unlike ordinary TV, the shows require that you watch them in order, so that they build plot lines and develop characters. 

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