“My sense is that 2015 or 2016 will represent peak TV in America and that we’ll begin to see decline coming the year after that and beyond,” John Landgraf, the president of FX Networks, said during the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles. The past year saw more than 370 scripted series on television, he said, including on streaming services; this year, he estimates there will be more than 400. The glut of shows, he says, “has created a huge challenge in finding compelling original stories and the level of talent needed to sustain those stories.” It has also had, he added, “an enormous impact on everyone’s ability to cut through the clutter and create real buzz.”
Is Landgraf right? Have we reached Peak TV? Is the much-applauded (second) Golden Age of TV coming to an end? And will it possibly be replaced with, as the critic Emily Nussbaum half-jokingly called it, “The Caramel Epoch”—an age of shows that are “perfect for a binge” and “suggestively diverse,” and that allow for “equal celebration of comedy, melodrama & varying genres”)? Atlantic staffers Megan Garber, David Sims, Lenika Cruz, and Sophie Gilbert discuss.
Garber: The Caramel Epoch! Oh, wow, I love that. And the basic democratization of quality shows that Nussbaum is describing—ones that aren't necessarily preoccupied with Prestige so much as with being compelling to watch on their own terms—rings totally true. It's the kind of brow-flattening—high- and low- and mid-, all mixed together—that the Internet does so well, applied to TV. Breaking Bad and The Big Bang Theory and old episodes of Boy Meets World and all the others are all bobbing along on this ... the image that keeps coming to mind is one of those all-you-can-eat sushi conveyor belts, but insert your own preferred metaphor here ... and the flattening is productive. And (sorry, the sushi again), delicious.