Monday, April 29, 2013

To the Dark Side

The NYTimes' David Carr documents a shift to the dark side in American TV: "We used to turn on the television to see people who were happier, funnier, prettier versions of ourselves. But at the turn of the century, something fundamental changed and we began to see scarier, crazier, darker forms of the American way of life." He dates the change-over to The Sopranos, of course. Reading from a book to be released in July, Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution by Brett Martin, Carr notes that this is not only a shift in what's on the screen, but in who's in control:
What becomes remarkable in retrospect is not just the rise of a new kind of storytelling, but the realization that an entire industry was built and controlled by writer-producers, men who typed for a living. Among others, Mr. Martin recounts the rise of David Chase, the creator of “The Sopranos”; David Milch, who came out of “NYPD Blue” to create “Deadwood”; David Simon, a former reporter for The Baltimore Sun who created “The Wire”; and Matthew Weiner, a “Sopranos” alumnus who conjured “Mad Men.”

That cohort and several others produced a small-screen equivalent to the revolution in American cinema during the 1970s, led by Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman and Francis Ford Coppola. The most remarkable narrative ambitions are now defined by a television season more often than a film, and show runners like Mr. Chase became all-powerful overlords of the worlds they created.
And now we have Netflix creating its own content, such as House of Cards. How will that play out?

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