Here is a phenomenon that might be common to those of us who write about television, but it might also hold true for others as well.
Every once in a while, such as this time of year after the conclusion of another television season, I sometimes look back on the past season's output of TV columns and reviews -- in this case, this daily TV Blog -- and often come away astonished by how many of the shows I watched I have already forgotten.
This exercise often serves to reinforce a notion I have long held -- and even more so in recent years -- that the vast majority of TV shows (or content, or whatever ever you wish to call it) are inherently disposable.
There are simply too many of them -- and never more so than at this current moment in the history of small-screen video entertainment -- for most of them to last long, much less make a splash in the popular culture or collective memory.
Without giving any hint as to what these shows were about, who was in them, or what network or streaming service aired them, take a look at these few show titles from this past season and ask yourself if you have any memory at all about any of them: “The Red Line,” “The Code,” “The Fix,” “The Village,” “The Other Two,” “Proven Innocent,” “Miracle Workers” and “I Am the Night.”
This is a wholly unscientific exercise, but if I haven't missed my guess, few people will (a) remember these shows at all, (b) remember them vaguely or (c) remember at least some of them from stories they may have read recently in the entertainment trade press about shows that were not going to make it onto the network's fall schedules announced last month.
So much effort went into them all -- from the pitch, the go-ahead, all the pre-production, then the filming, post-production, scheduling and promotion of them. And then, most of them disappeared after a few weeks, never to be heard from again.
“The Fix,” pictured above, was a prime example. This was the drama that premiered just this past March on ABC about a fictionalized version of the O.J. Simpson case in which one-time O.J. prosecutor Marcia Clark was an executive producer. This show had a sprawling cast and enough intricate subplots to supply 10 other shows. It also happened to be a terrible show, and it flopped.
Now, not too many weeks since it was last seen, just about the only people who now remember “The Fix” are the people who worked on it.
Let me please emphasize that not all of the shows listed above have been cancelled. But the titles are likely all relatively obscure anyway.
Contrast them with “Game of Thrones.” Is there anyone reading this who has not heard of this show? Of course not. However, these days, TV shows with titles that almost everyone knows or remembers are rarer than hens’ teeth.
I reviewed every one of the shows mentioned above and I forgot most of them -- even one as recent as “The Red Line,” which was an eight-part “limited series” about Chicago race relations that just aired. But like so many other shows, “The Red Line” was here today, gone tomorrow.
The sheer tonnage of TV shows that passes before our eyes each week now means that few will be remembered. And it doesn't help matters when even the very lengths of shows are less than they used to be.
Conan O'Brien's one-hour late-night show on TBS was cut to a half-hour this season and nobody from the show protested -- at least not publicly.
The last time a network tried to put on a half-hour late-night show was in 2010, when NBC proposed that Jay Leno host a half-hour show at 11:35 p.m. weeknights following by a one-hour “Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” at 12:05 a.m. Back then, Conan quit. But that was almost 10 years ago and much has changed in television.
Only a few weeks ago, Sundance put on a show whose episodes were only 10 minutes in length -- “State of the Union.” It is doubtful that many people watched it. In fact, they probably (a) never heard of it or (b) heard of it, but then couldn't find it.
The disposability of the vast majority of TV shows today makes one wonder what on Earth has staying power anymore. Perhaps for one answer, please consult yesterday's TV Blog about ABC's revivals of old game shows from the 1960s and ’70s.