The rise of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu brought with it the rise of web series. Shows like House of Cards, Transparent and The Handmaid’s Tale have recieved attention from the Emmys.
Although traditional cable networks are still knocking it out of the park with top-shelf dramas like Homeland, The Americans, Fargo and Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul.
Some of the best science fiction and fantasy in recent years has also come from cable television and streaming platforms, like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things and Westworld.
The broadcast networks are struggling as more writers flock towards Netflix in pursuit of creative freedom, but the old guard still has some life left with Shonda Rhimes, Dick Wolf, Chuck Lorre and Seth MacFarlane being the MVPs keeping commercial television relevant.
Surprisingly, the most successful broadcast network is The CW. Ever since 2012 with the premiere of the television adaptation of DC’s Green Arrow, developed by Greg Berlanti (Dawson’s Creek, Everwood), The CW has had a winning streak unlike any other network. Rarely do any of their shows get cancelled and rarely do they deserve to be. Their shows aimed at younger viewers, which include The Flash, Jane the Virgin, iZombie, Riverdale, The 100, Crazy Ex–Girlfriend, and Supernatural, have struck a chord with genre fans that is rivalled only by Netflix.
In addition to drama, some of the funniest comedy in TV history has also originated from our current era.
Some of the funniest shows are actually some of the most deep, to be honest (Louie, Girls, Silicon Valley, Rick and Morty, Black–ish), but there are many without an ounce of drama that are just as funny (Veep, Broad City, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Difficult People, The Mindy Project).
Some of the funniest sketch comedy of the current TV era has come not only from SNL but also from Key & Peele, Inside Amy Schumer, Portlandia and Kroll Show. Although some of the comedy in our current television era is so weird it defies traditional descriptions like “sitcom,” “variety” or “sketch comedy” (Nathan For You, Documentary Now!, Drunk History).
The retirements of talk show hosts David Letterman and Jon Stewart in 2015 put a pretty huge dent in the quality of most late night talk shows, as those two were undoubtedly the best.
A lot of dramatic shifts happened in late night since the beginning of the 2010s. Allow me to explain:
- Conan O’Brien had The Tonight Show for a while, but NBC realized Jay Leno got better ratings, so they gave The Tonight Show back to Jay for four more years until Jimmy Fallon replaced him in 2014. Now SNL Weekend Update anchor Seth Meyers hosts Late Night in Fallon’s place, Conan has moved to TBS, and Jay Leno is retired.
- David Letterman, the host of The Late Show on CBS, was also retiring, and Stephen Colbert, who had ended The Colbert Report on Comedy Central a year earlier, would replace Letterman as the new host of The Late Show while British personality James Corden replaced Craig Ferguson as the host of The Late Late Show in the same year.
- Meanwhile, Jon Stewart was also retiring as the host of The Daily Show. He was replaced by Trevor Noah, and Colbert’s old post-Daily Show spot on Comedy Central was taken by Larry Wilmore (until he was replaced by Chris Hardwick). Plus, after Jon Stewart departed The Daily Show, Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee went to TBS to replace George Lopez.
Of course, there is one host who is absent from that jumble I just described who has emerged as the smartest comic in late night. Daily Show correspondent John Oliver, whose star rose after guest-hosting so that Jon Stewart could direct the movie Rosewater, left Comedy Central to host his own show on HBO called Last Week Tonight. He does not do interviews, but his non-stop 20-minute monologues that go deep into a single subject are brilliant, hilarious and memorable. His humorous ability to summon outrage while maintaining composure makes him the closest thing to Jon Stewart’s spiritual successor.
It is also nice to see more racial and ethnic diversity on television. Shows like Black–ish, Empire, Fresh Off the Boat, Jane the Virgin, Orange Is the New Black, Master of None, and Insecure were a long time coming, and luckily, these shows are award-worthy pieces of entertainment that have regularly claimed their place alongside the most acclaimed television of the year, which makes the inclusion of more shows about minorities more likely.
The current state of television has me optimistic about the future. The options have never been as endless and yet writers still continue to surprise me. 10 years ago, it would have seemed impossible for a star to release a television show starring well-known celebrities on their own website with zero warning just because that’s what they wanted to do, but that’s exactly what Louie C.K. did in 2016 with the release of Horace and Pete, and that show won a Peabody! Just goes to show that when it comes to television, there are no rules anymore, and that’s why people are calling it the golden age.