April 25, 2019 | 52° F

'Peak TV': How streaming changed which shows live or die


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Today, there are more ways to watch television than ever. Turning on the “TV” has taken on new meaning with new shows popping up from several different delivery systems. Obviously, Netflix has become a content machine, pouring more than $10 billion into programming this year. Other streaming services like Apple, Amazon and Hulu also plan to spend billions on creating shows for anxious eyeballs this year. Cable TV is still not going away with the endless hours of prestige programs airing on channels like HBO and FX. It is estimated that more than 500 original shows will premiere by the end of 2019. 

This phenomenon has been dubbed “Peak TV” by FX’s CEO John Landgraf. Recently though, he said the landscape has shifted to what he calls the “Gilded Age of Television.” This new term connotes bloat. The massive amounts of television means that while shows may be well-done and entertaining, they will not find their audience. The sheer magnitude of content means some things will get lost in the shuffle. There is only so much time in the day for television – even if you don’t peel yourself away from the screen, there are still only 24 hours in a day.

The glut of the television industry leads shows to get canceled. A lot of those shows that no one has heard of are critical bombs. Cancellations have been around since the days when we only had three channels. But now, why do shows even need to be canceled? If the companies behind them have unlimited coffers, as they do, and do not care about profits, as they do not, why cancel anything?

Those are the questions being asked by fans of the Netflix sitcom “One Day at a Time.” The show, a remake of a 70s Norman Lear sitcom, follows a Cuban American family in Los Angeles. A critical darling, “One Day at a Time,” tackled contemporary issues like immigration, mental illness and homophobia. It was 1 of 2 traditional three-camera sitcoms to get unceremoniously canceled (see “The Carmichael Show”). 

Not only was “One Day at a Time” critically revered but it starred a Latin American cast primarily filled with strong female characters. Even with the abundance of television, there are few Latin American led shows in both comedy and drama. When Netflix chose to axe the show, the internet ruptured. 

As Netflix has gained recognition for prestige and is  increasingly expected to turn a profit, they decided to cut costs. This led to similar premature cancellations of “American Vandal,” "The Break With Michelle Wolf" and “Lady Dynamite.” 

Netflix also canceled all of its Marvel shows after Disney announced a rival streaming service. “One Day at a Time” feels different. It featured an underrepresented cast, critical praise and was definitely cheap. These are the shows that should survive in “Peak TV.” 

“One Day at a Time” may not be lost forever. In the streaming age, shows never really die. Every season there seems to be a show plucked from the chopping block, only to appear on Netflix. In fact, one of Netflix’s first original shows was the fourth season of “Arrested Development,” which was canceled nearly a decade earlier. CBS All Access has reportedly offered to pick up “One Day at a Time.” Even if it does not find a new home, the show itself will live on forever. More people will find it, and hey, maybe in 30 years there will be another reboot. 


Eamonn O'Neill

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