Breaking Bad won’t be around forever.
However objectionable it may be to say, US television is somewhere in the middle of a Golden Age. Everyone says so, from Kevin Spacey to CNN. Consequently, whatever is happening on America’s small screen has a greater-than-usual bearing on TV this side of the Atlantic. More than ever before, we in the UK count on quality US imports. Breaking Bad, for instance, is the closest thing to water cooler television since the tragic end of the water cooler.
So, as primetime in America wakes from its summer slumber in the coming fortnight, it’s worth casting a glance overseas to be in the TV-know. Here’s what to expect:
TV’s own Game of Thrones
This latest battle for supremacy in modern American television promises to be every bit as bloody as a wedding in Westeros. With both Breaking Bad and Mad Men, AMC’s giants of prestige television, ending their runs this season, the stage has been set for rival TV institutions to fight for a place beside HBO in the fast-coming future of the small screen. In one corner is AMC, which, having lost its most acclaimed properties, looks like it may be left behind. The quality of its 2014 slate will determine much about the channel’s future – there’s a Breaking Bad spinoff, and two period pieces of some promise. It faces a challenge from Showtime, once home to Dexter, now relying on Ray Donovon, Homeland and the new Michael Sheen series Masters of Sex. And then there’s Netflix; its shows, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, have been well received, but the real appeal is its progressive business model. We’ll soon know who will prevail – winter is coming.
Sitcom’s changing face
It’s been eight long years since a fresh-faced Ted Mosby, typically insufferable, declared his intention to meet the mother of his children, and this year it will finally happen. We’ve already met the mother (and she looks a lot like Lily), but we may have to wait that little bit longer as this popular sitcom wrings the last laughs out of its once exemplary cast of characters. As this comedy, a banner series for E4, comes to its end, another US sitcom will surely come to the fore. Hello Community! Previously of channels VIVA and Sony, this clever comedy is now set to air on Comedy Central. Expect it to succeed, and perhaps garner international buzz for this season’s return of creator Dan Harmon.
Return of the kings
It’ll be interesting to see how champions of television past will fare in this new age. In the 1980s and 90s, Michael J Fox was the cat’s pyjamas, starring in Family Ties, Spin City and many hit movies. After years spent treating the onset of Parkinson’s disease, Fox returns to television with The Michael J. Fox Show on NBC. His personality has endured, but he may find today’s television to be a rather less forgiving beast: the major networks are in decline, and rather more creatively-constrained by what’s showing on cable and beyond. This is a lesson that Joss Whedon, a TV visionary from the turn of the century, has learned a few times over. The question is whether he can make ABC’s Agents of SHIELD more popular than Dollhouse and his beloved Firefly.
Everybody loves Fallon
It won’t mean all that much to UK audiences, but Jay Leno is stepping down from The Tonight Show in 2014 (this time for real). Replacing him is Jimmy Fallon, an enthusiastic comedian formerly of Saturday Night Live. NBC is big on Fallon in a way they never were with Conan, because they’re counting on his internet savvy. Fallon, whose high concept goofs are a hit internationally, is tasked with enlivening the US talk show, bringing in a new generation of viewers. And he’s been doing a pretty great job, bringing in The Roots as his house band and engaging with his guests in a way unlike his competitors.
More cartoons please
One thing that you should expect of television yet-to-be is the continued absence of animation in primetime. And this is just a bit despicable. In the last few years, there have been very few cartoons that have survived the trigger-happy networks and cable channels. Yes, there’s Bob’s Burgers on Fox and Archer on FX, but beyond the ever-worse shows of Seth MacFarlane, there’s been nothing since the 90s. Why can’t primetime conjure a bit of that Pixar magic and give us the crossover cartoon we all want?
Featured image: Netflix