Following Up: Is Television Better Now Than Ever?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bob Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television and professor of Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University and author of Television in the Antenna Age: A Concise History, follows up the question of whether the quality of television programming is better now than it has ever been, and how we can decide.


Bob Thompson

Comments [15]


The answer is no. No way! YouTube an episode of All in the Family. That was different.

Apr. 01 2012 01:12 PM
Eugenia Renskoff from Brooklyn

Hi, I Love Lucy in the 50s (and even now) is/was a great show. It makes me laugh. And Law and Order is outstanding. Not only is it great television, it makes a viewer think. It is real. Masterpiece Theater has always been a favorite as well. Eugenia Renskoff

Mar. 30 2012 04:10 PM
Louis from New York

I got tired of paying for cable and not finding anything worth watching for the amount of money I was paying. Two years ago I disconnected the cable and a year and a half ago and bought myself a Casio Previa piano and taught myself how to play. Today I can play two Bach two part Inventions and a few other pieces by memory (not to fast and not perfectly). Watching TV is one of the biggest wastes of time there is and in impediment to creativity and self fulfillment. I still listen to too much public radio!

Mar. 30 2012 12:05 PM
John A.

A rebooting of Adam-12 for a more violent age, but keeping a moral message. It really threaded a fine needle so it had to be cancelled FAST!

Mar. 30 2012 12:05 PM

TV is more expensive than it's ever been. One pays a hefty cable fee for shows with way too many commercials, multiple reruns of shows previously aired on "free" channels and paid infomercials. And in spite of today's advanced technology the picture quality stinks! ("I Love Lucy" and "The Honeymooners" are clearer visually, than shows made decades later.)

Mar. 30 2012 12:04 PM
ellen from nyc

i am amazed at this can anyone assert that it's seems much worse. i watch less and less even on pbs, and i never would watch the garbage on main media maybe i'm missing something?
I think public tv has gotten much worse....the drama shows have long portions with no dialogue, just music for mood setting, showing people walking, or driving or doing various things.....and little character definition, and the scripts are not interestingly written. Maybe the public has gotten used to junk over the years, and wouldn't appreciate quality now. The writers and directors are same. i can't figure out where your idea came from that tv might be better now.

Mar. 30 2012 12:04 PM
bob from flushing

It's no surprise that a few years ago, some critics asked to rate the best films of the year said that if it was shown in theaters "The Wire" would have been one of the best films of the years.

The best of cable is better than anything broadcast TV or the film industry has to offer, especially the longform show such as "The Wire" and "Breaking Bad."

Also, broadcast TV today, is significantly worse than it was in the pre-cable era--with the exception of some of the British products available via PBS.

Mar. 30 2012 11:58 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

Breaking Bad
Mad Men
The Sopranos
The Wire
Boardwalk Empire
Battlestar Galactica (the second incarnation on cable)
The Walking Dead
Game of Thrones
Boardwalk Empire
The Killing

and there is more but all of these shows BLOW AWAY anything "classic" tv had to offer

Mar. 30 2012 11:57 AM
Anna from UWS

Just read an interview with Terry Southern in The Paris Review. The interview took place in 1968. He foresaw the rise of pay cable and the relative decline of movies. He was amazingly prescient. The best of cable, especially premium cable, is superb.

Mar. 30 2012 11:55 AM
John A.

Why is it that Rock music was always better when the observer was 18, and TV is always better now? Either one seems just pure subjection.
TV is certainly intensely fickle right now. Series are started and cancelled after any number of episodes, series can skip a year, series can have any number of episodes, and on and on.

Mar. 30 2012 11:54 AM
the_hme from Jersey City, NJ

No, for the most part TV shows are the most noneducational, most IQ dropping shows now than ever before. The worst part is the many people actually like to watch all these useless shows, like the reality shows garbage.

Mar. 30 2012 11:54 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Most broadcast TV SUCKS! Now I mostly watch old shows on Hulu or via Netflix and other streaming services from off the Internet. When you watch many of the old 1950s episodes from say "World of Tomorrow" or Hitchcock, Outer Limits, or the old Sherlock Holmes TV series, etc., it's obvious how much better most were, IMO. Today's shows are drenched in sexual innuendo and with young cookie-cutter looking "actors" with no discernable characteristics of interest. It's all bland, intended to continue to dumb down Americans as much as possible to buy all the stupid products on their endless commercials. The only good TV shows are the Simpsons, Colbert Report, Monk, and very few others. The rest is sheer garbage, IMO.

Mar. 30 2012 11:50 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Yes and no. Network television is the worst it has ever been. Shows on cable - that's a different story.

Mar. 30 2012 11:50 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

Network is pretty bad
But there is high quality on cable that is better TV than ever before, yes (most notably on HBO and AMC)

Mar. 30 2012 11:49 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights


ABC is the NY Post of the airwaves.

FOX has an interesting collection of shows.

NBC has fallen but is the best of the lot.

And Conan O'Brien is where he should have been from the start, on some obscure cable channel.

Mar. 30 2012 11:23 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.