Newsletter Issue #840: The 2015-16 American TV Season So Far

January 4th, 2016

A former FCC chairman once referred to TV as a “vast wasteland.” In other words, lots of stuff to watch, but most of it not very good. Even when a show had greater pretensions, it was often saddled with less-than-stellar acting, poor production values and, when needed, laughable special effects.

Some shows managed to rise above the morass of junk. Certainly the original “Star Trek,” despite its charms, such as its penchant for social commentary, had its problems. Special effects were cheesy mostly due to the lack of a budget big enough to set the creative teams exploring the frontiers of technology. Remember, this show arrived more than a decade before the first “Star Wars” film, “Episode IV: A New Hope,” where director George Lucas had to reinvent the wheel to do what he could with a budget a fraction of what is now expected of a “blockbuster” film.

That “vast wasteland” comment came before cable brought us 300 channels and more, often with little or nothing to watch. But it also meant that cable-only channels, including the “premium” outlets that were ad-free, could expand on the creativity when they chose to do so. Nowadays, Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning performers, producers and directors often find a home on TV for their pet projects.

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