Adventure Time and Louie are, on the surface, vastly different shows; one's a kaleidoscopic cartoon, the other a Woody Allen-esque sitcom about a middle-aged comedian. So how is it that they have come to be so fundamentally similar in a way that is radically reshaping TV storytelling?
An article in the archives of The Atlantic, dated August 1st 1969, bears the title, ‘What’s Good About Children’s TV’. Its author, Norman S. Morris, assesses the state and value of children’s television at the time, discussing Mister Rogers, The Friendly Giant, and prognosticates the impact of the Children’s Television Workshop (CTW), established one year before in 1968. The CTW, of course, is now known as Sesame Workshop thanks to the recognition afforded to it by the show it was founded to produce, Sesame Street.
For those of us who have grown up with television, which by now is most people, it’s difficult not to feel nostalgic for the programming of our youth. Programming from Scooby Doo, Where Are You!, which began in 1968, to Tom and Jerry (which made its TV debut in 1965 after winning 7 Animated Short Film Oscars as theatrical cartoons beginning in 1940), to the aforementioned Sesame Street, all shows whose ubiquity has allowed them to remain a cultural touchstone for millions of people worldwide.
Saturday Night Fever gave us disco, the men's flared jumpsuit, and John Travolta's career. Wednesday Night Fever gave us more of Amanda Bishop's Julia Gillard impersonation, a cardigan with the words "RAT F-CKER" knitted into the back of it, and the unshakeable sensation that somebody's going to get fired this morning.
Many have claimed that House of Cards will revolutionise TV, but it has all but faded from cultural consciousness before its season would have even ended had it aired in the traditional weekly manner. Is the streaming service creating a television landscape in which the forgettable is supreme and the supreme goes unseen?
One of the reasons The Simpsons will prove to be, in this writer’s haughty, look-at-me-I’m-a-TV-blogger opinion, television’s greatest achievement is because it’s almost impossibly enduring. Those classic seasons just don’t age; even a generally under-appreciated episode like “A Streetcar Named Marge” only increases in stature the more I revisit it (if you don’t cackle hysterically at this The Birds reference at The Ayn Rand School for Tots — genius in itself — then I can nought but pity you).
The reason I mention The Simpsons is because of how progressively it became so brilliant and iconic. It started as brief little sketches on The Tracey Ullman Show, blustered through a good but uneven first season before finding its feet in its second, and now it’s probably the most oft-quoted body of work since Zombie Shakespeare wrote a bunch of plays. Even its increasing detachment from the original characters and persistent refusal to die can’t sully its legacy. But if you turn the clock back, even at its peak the show struggled to please everyone — thankfully, those dissenters’ ridiculous opinions on an episode like “Itchy & Scratchy Land” live on in the internet’s memory.
FX’s superlative cold war espionage drama The Americans isn’t just Felicity and that guy from Brothers and Sisters brandishing guns, it’s the biggest wigfest since Alias. Vulture has a disturbingly comprehensive slideshow of all the wigs worn on the show so far.
The UK’s Channel 4 has renewed Misfits, Howard Overman’s wildly successful and then not-so-successful ASBO-kids-with-superpowers drama for a fifth and final season.
And over at CollegeHumor, a brilliant supercut of every video game ever mentioned on The Simpsons: