Wait, seriously? I have to wait a whole week until the next Game of Thrones episode? When did I forget that that’s completely normal? A few years ago, I would patiently wait for episodes of my favorite TV shows each week. That was before college, before I discovered Netflix, HBO and other cable television networks.
As college students at an Ivy League institution, we have a lot of things to juggle on any given week. But it’s said that Cornellians know how to work so hard because we also know how to play hard. Sometimes playing hard includes going to parties and hanging out with friends, but there are some days when you really just want to lay in bed and veg. On these days, is there really anything better than watching back to back episodes of a great show? It’s so easy to get caught up with some of the best programs today because most can be found on these video platforms.
This really encourages quality TV watching. Sometimes you start a new show when it airs only to realize a few weeks later that it’s no good. And now you’ve missed the first few weeks of some other shows that are widely considered to be great. We don’t have to be as selective because it’s all right there waiting for us to watch on a lazy day. Platforms like Hulu and HBO Go haven’t really changed how much TV I watch, just when and what I watch. Readily available episodes of high quality programming has gradually led me away from some of the network shows I’ve been clinging to. No offense to anyone that still watches Grey’s Anatomy, but I had to let it go. I’ve watched from the beginning, but recently realized that I was wasting time watching episodes I wasn’t enjoying. Letting go of Greys and other shows made time for some of the best shows on television. The change has allowed me to catch up on critically acclaimed programs like Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones. I was late to the game for both of these programs, but was able to catch up relatively quickly. I watched the first two seasons of Game of Thrones at the beginning of this year in time to watch the Season 3 finale live at the end of March. Imagine my disappointment when I remembered that I couldn’t just click the “next episode” button.
There are still many good shows on network television, but this feels like the age of cable TV. When you think of the most popular shows on television today, you’re likely thinking of Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Homeland and Girls, among others. Networked programs like American Idol, NCIS and Scandal will always have a strong viewership, but there is no denying that the strength of storytelling and visual effects lies in cable. I hate to keep using the work “quality,” but that’s what comes to mind as the main difference between network and cable. This doesn’t just refer to expensive special effects. In general, cable shows’ scripts are better, their actors more talented, and their stories more powerful. Some of the commercials for network television shows that air are followed by a resounding, “Huh?” from viewers. The quality of the story and its ability to develop as the seasons continue is possibly the most important part of making a show successful. And ABC has just started an all-new reality television series called Splash. It has something to do with celebrities diving into pools. Like I said, “Huh?”
Maybe reality and game shows are the future for network television. And that’s fine, viewers enjoy these shows too. But let’s keep the storytelling for the storytellers please. A lot of this is a matter of personal preference, but in my opinion there is no competition between network and cable in television today. It will be interesting to see where this conflict takes television in the future. Network television is still more available than cable, but cable shows’ increasing popularity might force a creative new solution that allows the greater public to enjoy them as well. Seriously, how did our parents survive college without shows like these?