Can There Ever Be “Too Much Damn TV?”

We aren’t sure cuz…absolutely lurve TV, y’know? But this article makes some interesting points. Get ready to gasp at the statistics, and then dig into what they may mean to us as human beings as well as TV writers:

picbyemillendofby Kevin Fallon

Here’s some startling news for the couch potato in all of us: 1,715 TV series aired in 2014, of which 352 were scripted. That is absolutely insane. It’s also changing our lives.
The classic dad joke when cable TV exploded a little more than a decade ago was how there were “so many channels and still nothing’s on!” Good one, dad! Now fast-forward about 15 years and dad’s silly joke has morphed itself into a new meaning with a daunting reality. There’s still so many channels. Only now there’s too much on.

While at the Television Critics Association this past week, TV writers Tim Goodman (The Hollywood Reporter), Joe Adalian (New York), and Maureen Ryan (The Huffington Post) were marveling at, gasping at, and just plain didn’t know what to do with a piece of research that was provided to them by the FX network.

According to the research there are 1,715 TV series that aired in primetime in 2014. 1,715 TV series.

Good lord.

OK, you might think. Maybe that’s not so surprising. Remember what dad always joked about? There are so many channels! Surely most of what’s airing on those channels is white noise, the kind of programming that nobody cares about: reality TV, docuseries, weird news programs, or sports.

Shockingly, that’s not entirely true.

There are 352 scripted series on primetime and late-night TV. That means there are 352 original comedies and dramas with actual narratives and writing. 352 series that are fully staffed with writers and actors and directors. 352 series that are competing for Emmys and Golden Globes and SAGs and—even more importantly—your attention.

Those 352 series are broken down into 199 series on cable, 129 on broadcast, and 24 on streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. Those series aren’t further classified into half-hour comedies and hour-long dramas, but let’s, just for the heck of it, assume that they’re half-and-half each. That totals 15,840 minutes of television that were aired in regular episodic installments in 2014. That’s 264 hours. That’s about a week and a half.

Folks, I’m a television critic and reporter. I’m expected to watch as much of the TV—at least the scripted TV—that is available as I can. BUT THERE IS TOO MUCH DAMNED TV.

We all watched agape as AMC’s first dalliances in scripted programming were flawless: Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Then we all, well, just didn’t even bother to watch: Turn, Hell on Wheels, Halt and Catch Fire, Low Winter Sun, Rubicon.
To give you a sense of how quickly this rise happened, let’s just look at the cable numbers. In 2014, there were 199 scripted cable series. (Again, “scripted”! That doesn’t account for the myriad iterations of Real Housewives, Real World, and Keeping Up with whatever combination of Kardashians E! is hocking at that moment.) In 2009, there were just 87 series. In 2004, there were 45 series. And in 1999, there were just 26 series.

As helpfully computed by Adalian, that means there has been a 665 percent increase in scripted series between 1999 and 2014. Do you even know how big of an increase that is? IT IS A HUGE INCREASE.

Even just taking into account the leap from 87 scripted cable series in 2009 to the 199 in 2014, that increase is jaw-dropping. It is more than double in just five years.

Here’s the thing, folks. 2009 wasn’t that long ago!

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