You Will Finally Quit Network TV

It’s official: From now on the best television shows won’t be on television, or even exactly shows.

By Meredith Haggerty

Illustration by Ana Benaroya

The most anticipated new network show of 2015 won’t be on a network. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, created by Tina Fey and her 30 Rock co-creator Robert Carlock, won’t be seen on NBC, where it was initially developed; instead the show will stream on Netflix.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt stars Ellie Kemper as a gullible but hopeful young woman who has recently broken out of a doomsday cult — packing up her bags and moving to New York City. It’s the perfect project for Kemper, who made sheltered innocence simultaneously funny and dangerous as former foster kid Erin Hannon on The Office. With Fey’s involvement, an alum of NBC’s last large-scale sitcom success in Kemper, and a bizarre but incredibly fertile comedic premise, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt could have been a critical success, but the network loves to play it safe. And after spending years bouncing around fourth place — at one point finishing sweeps in fifth, after Univision — NBC has found itself as the number two network, having taken advantage of proven formulas: reality singing competitions, crime dramas, and, of course, the 2014 Winter Olympics. And it’s why NBC, once renowned for comedy, now clogs your Mom’s DVR with The Blacklist, The Voice, and bizarrely conceived live musicals. It isn’t going to take a chance on a show like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. While the network is doing better than it has in years, it might not be super busy come Emmy time.

At least we have the end of Parks and Recreation to look forward to — oh, wait. After Parks and Rec’s last show airs on February 24, 2015 will see the return of the best shows streaming has already given us. The eminently bingeable House of Cards and genre-defying Orange Is the New Black will be back on Netflix. Amazon Instant will stream the second season of the incredibly moving, beautifully human Transparent. And, best of all, the second half of the sixth season of High Maintenance will arrive on Vimeo. If you haven’t at least watched the free episodes of this web series — available now — then you should have to give your computer back to the computer store. No more computer for you, you haven’t earned it.

On top of all these old friends, there will be other exciting new shows premiering, like The Cosmopolitans and Grace and Frankie. Even HBO Go, the premium cable network’s streaming service, will be available as a standalone entity. By 2015, people will have no need for cable if they want to create a varied and busy television schedule. Without the strictures of advertiser-sponsored television, new shows can break molds we don’t even consider: from casting to tone to genre — even length. Unless you’re a show on Adult Swim, you’ve been beholden to the 22-minute half hour and the 48-minute hour for far too long — drawing out plots that don’t merit the time and wrapping up large concepts too quickly before the clock runs out. An episode of High Maintenance is however long that episode of High Maintenance is; the runtime is dictated by the story and not the medium. Without network constraints, television can continue to push the kind of boundaries that get audiences talking. It seems 2015 might finally be the year: Broadcast television is dead, long live streaming media content.

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