Just how dead is the Golden Age of Television?
“Modern Family” just skated its way to three Emmy nominations. Time to call it, Doctor.
You know all those shows that your coworker keeps hounding you to watch, and you keep telling them that they’re, “on my list, I just haven’t gotten to them yet?” You know how you have no real plans of ever getting to them, and the both of you know that, but engage in this pointless exercise anyway?
The just-released 2017 Emmy Nominations is that list of shows. And they’re still not worth your time.
Maybe I’m just a bit too skeptical here, but my gut says that when all the cards are down and the chips are counted, shows like “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and — especially — “Modern Family” simply will not go down in television history as worthy of the bevy of Emmy nominations with which they’ve just been blessed.
Let us count the injustices.
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” had a promising and wonderfully-weird first season, coming as close to anything has yet in serving up bonkers-smart fun a la “30 Rock.” But in its second season, “Unbreakable” nose-dove from being one of television’s most likable shows to one of its most immensely dislikable ones, and the just-nominated third season finds the show still struggling to climb its way out of that rut. Even the most casual viewer will recognize in a matter of episodes that “Unbreakable” has no clue what to do with its peripheral characters or where to take its once-intriguing premise, and the show’s attempts to answer those questions inspire little confidence. Time to lock this one back in the bunker.
“Modern Family” is, at this point, essentially a parody of whatever it once was. It’s been on the air for a decade, and, as with any show that’d be getting ready to head to middle school soon if it were a child, it should be working hard to justify its continued existence. Instead, Modern Family decuples down on the exact same formula its used as a crutch for the better part of ten years now — probably because “Modern Family” doesn’t have much of a justification for its sustained existence other than Nielsen Ratings. When does a crutch start to look more like a weapon with which a show can beat viewers over the head?
But longevity and aimlessness aren’t the only sins committed by today’s empty television comedies, bringing us to “Master of None,” which is, on so many levels, a total letdown. Aziz Ansari is an interesting man, and we as television-viewing Americans are better off for having experienced his perspective. But “Master of None” never to evolves into anything more than a poorly-acted — seriously — exercise in naval-gazing, and worse, it never really acknowledges any need to bother trying to. It’s ham-fisted moralism grows stale in a matter of episodes, but rather than evolve from what might have been a useful initial template, the show locks into it. How both seasons 1 and 2 have a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes is utterly beyond me.
And that’s just the comedies, folks. Though, as for the dramas, I’ll keep it brief.
I rank among the few fans who happen to believe that a show is not inherently worthwhile, noteworthy or good simply because it’s been blessed by the television gods with a big budget and a loyal fan base. Like “Game of Thrones,” “Westworld” has it moments of shock, action and intrigue, but they are littered throughout an extremely deliberate, slower-than-molasses plot, twisting away in a big-budget wasteland. While it’s certainly a bingeable show — and, if you’re going to watch it, I do recommend getting it down in one gulp — it takes, at least, six episodes to actually start, which is, in my opinion, as clear an indicator of weak writing as it is insulting to viewers’ time. Some critics initially speculated that “Westworld” would’ve been served best had it aired as a limited series, and though the season finale mostly put that idea to rest…I’m not so sure those critics were wrong.
So, here’s to another year hoping that “Veep” sweeps, or that a genre piece like “Stranger Things” will finally get justice for all the other sci-fi masterworks the awards community has snubbed over the decades. I’ll be trying to relive the glory days, back when we partied hard with actual modern classics like “30 Rock,” “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.”
At least your coworker seems to be enjoying the hangover.