For the past 20 years, says Zoe Strimpel in The Spectator, telly-watchers have been treated to one “absorbing and pleasantly addictive” drama after another. The moment House of Cards or Breaking Bad wrapped up, you could simply flick over to Fauda, Spiral or Peaky Blinders. For the first time ever, to consider yourself a cultured person you had to know what was on TV. But something’s gone wrong. Now, we spend the first half-hour of any telly session searching different streaming services – five of them, in my case – and the ingenious thrillers of yore have given way to a “never-ending parade of untempting trash”. What happened?
The age-old balance between quality and quantity seems to have been forgotten. Netflix and other over-funded tech firms are engaged in a TV version of intensive farming, churning out “low-nutrient dramas” – The Diplomat, The Lincoln Lawyer – “by the ton”. Writers and commissioners alike “steer away from originality” because it’s considered too dangerous. “The pleasure and excitement have gone out of making TV – and it shows.” But maybe we shouldn’t mourn the death of good telly. With nothing decent to watch, we’ll be forced to look to other distractions. You never know, we may even return to an age of “voracious fireside novel-reading”.