As the Television Critics Association press tour gathering winds down in Los Angeles, a defining theme has emerged. It was the provocative assertion made by FX president John Landgraf that there is “too much television” — that we’ve reached the point where there is so much TV being made in such a variety of media that the industry is going to peak, quantitatively.
Landgraf spoke for many of us who cover TV for a living — and you who watch it, many of you as obsessively as the pros — when he said, “I [have] lost the ability to keep track of every scripted TV series.” He added, “Even though [I] do this for a living professionally, this year… I finally lost track of the ability to keep track of every programmer who is in the scripted programming business… There is simply too much television.”
You know the feeling. You want to get on board with Mr. Robot and Ray Donovan, and maybe you’ve heard that The Strain has gotten a lot better in its second season, and your friend told you HBO’s Ballers is fun and you should binge a bunch of those half-hours, and you really want to try Hulu’s Difficult People. But you’ve also got a life to live, and who has the time?
This theory follows a corollary my editor and I have, which we call “Will Nothing Get Canceled?” With every relentless announcement of the renewal of any obviously mediocre, worthy-of-disappearance show, we email each other despairingly, “#WillNothingGetCanceled?”
Landgraf’s statement has been the talk of TCA — well, that and how completely charming the upcoming CW show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is. It’s a pretty bold thing, when a TV executive says maybe his industry is getting too good at doing what it does.
There’s a theory Landgraf has worked out: That sometime during 2015 and 2016, the “last stages of a bubble” will burst, and the market will suffer some deflation from over-supply and under-demand. As an executive and businessman, his position is that he needs to make his brand, FX, as sturdy as possible to withstand the onslaught — to make viewers still watch his network, while those eyeballs are being lured toward original programming on Amazon and Hulu and Netflix, on Crackle and DirecTV, on niche cable channels that are scrambling for shards of demos (kids ages 5-9; men ages 40-60; household pets ages 0-3).
Your problem isn’t Landgraf’s, and I’m simplifying a more nuanced argument he was making, but you get what he’s saying. I certainly do: It’s not unusual for me to have a few weeks of sitcoms and sci-fi shows clogging up my DVR, because those aren’t genres that seem as important to me right now than various contemporary hour-long dramas. Heck, I might watch Syfy’s Face-Off — a friend told me I should check it out again — if I had more spare time, but I’ve got six hours of David Simon’s new HBO miniseries Show Me a Hero to plow through. (With pleasure, I should add.)
And if you’re like me, you not only have new stuff to watch, you also like to chill out with some TV comfort food. The summer ratings suggest an awful lot of you are watching Saturday-night reruns of 48 Hours.
Are you overwhelmed with TV options? Will nothing get canceled? Did this new Golden Age of Television become that Fatted Calf of Too Much? Let me know your thoughts.