Once upon a time, there was a television writers' strike. In 1992, writers, fed up with the tiny slice of compensation they were offered by networks for their creative craft, decided to hit them where it hurt by not producing any scripts for shows in production. And it created a monster.
The networks responded by developing and airing unscripted entertainment with the misnomer 'reality t.v.' It had been done before in the form of game shows and some documentaries, but not in such an intimate manner. All of a sudden we were thrust into a living room or contest with REAL people. People like us! We could be them! The television networks were on to something. Not only did they not have to pay writers, but for the most part, Everyman was ready, willing and able to star in a show for a pittance compared to what actors and actresses expected to be paid. The networks opened the floodgates of 15 minutes of fame to Everyman and it was novel and awesome... (for about 15 minutes.)
Chefs and models and designers and singers and dancers flocked to the airwaves and television audiences ate it up. Interesting hobby? Moderate talent? Quirky family? Odd behavior? Exploitive lifestyle? Then YOU NEED to be on TV! Somewhere between Iron Chef and Honey Boo Boo, television jumped the shark. I'd say it happened around 2010 or so but I'm not really sure because I'd stopped watching TV long before that.
But wait! Cable networks saw a void and started to produce high quality shows where they no longer ceased to exist. But of course, who can afford a $180/month cable bill in order to get a weekly fix of Breaking Bad or Weeds? Within a few short years, must see TV was back, but with a twist.
This is where Netflix and Hulu come in. Not sure you want to emotionally commit to a show? No problem. Instead of investing time and energy and then finding out it sucks, you can sit out the entire season, read what the critics and listen what your friends say and then - get this! BINGE on tv! How terribly American is that? Five years of Breaking Bad in one month! Almost instantaneous gratification. And once you binge, you never go back to weekly viewing. Why waste your time once a week when you can live your life oblivious to TV and then get caught up on a whole season in one weekend while you have the flu?
It's so very American - Extreme TV. Like Power Yoga, an oxymoron and idea completely gone awry. A medium meant for entertainment and relaxation turned into some intense emotional marathon and we eat it up like super-sized fries. So very American.