Sorry, fans, but somebody had to say this, especially after the self-congratulation fest we posted below. And who better than Super Producer Gavin Polone?
by Gavin Polone
Given the attention paid to so many mediocre scripted series at Emmy time, what I really want to know is why more people aren’t talking about The White Crow? If you haven’t seen it, it could be because your cable package doesn’t include the TV24 network. If not, go to its website, where you can binge-watch the first four episodes for free (you can also purchase the whole season on iTunes). The first two episodes are a little slow, but the pace really picks up after that, and by episode eight, you’ll be totally hooked. The show stars Scottish actress Charlotte McDuffy, whom I loved as Virgilia in the recent film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. Her rural New England accent here is spot-on. The pilot was written and directed by Clarke Samboine, whose debut film, A Bottle of Moths, scored at Sundance two years ago. I didn’t really like that movie, but it got him enough notice to lock down the deal for this show, and it’s clear that TV is his true forte.
Or maybe the reason you haven’t seen The White Crow is because I just made the above shit up. Don’t feel bad if I fooled you; I mean, who has the time to keep up with all the new series being offered by the cable networks and streaming services you may have heard of — let alone those you probably didn’t even know existed, like Pivot, Esquire and Up (yes, those networks actually exist).
But we’re in a “golden age” of television, so why not make more of it, right? Wrong. The current era is less golden than those of the past, and part of the reason is the programming glut we’re experiencing right now.
Compare what you find on your current program grid with the ’72-’73 season. Back then, M*A*S*H,Gunsmoke, Laugh-In, The Mod Squad, The Waltons, The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, Room 222,Sanford and Son, All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show and The Carol Burnett Show WERE ALL ON THE AIR AT THE SAME TIME! Ten years after that, there were as many exceptional series, including my two all-time favorites, Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere. In ’92, Cheers, Seinfeld and Northern Exposure led a pack of the all-time best. In ’02, HBO alone offered The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Six Feet Under, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Wire. If we’re truly in a golden age, it started long ago and is now looking pretty geriatric.
Designating which shows are exceptional is subjective. But it is evident that the total number of outstanding shows on the air at one time hasn’t increased in decades, while the quantity of mediocre and bad television has exploded. The reason for this is that the number of talented people who write, direct, produce and act on TV also has remained about the same. It’s the nature of excellence: By definition, only very few from any category of endeavor are exceptional. Are there more world-class basketball players playing today on the 30 NBA teams than there were when Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West were the elite of the 17 teams during the early ’70s, or when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen won championships in the ’80s and the number of teams increased to 23? Again, no. Like with basketball today, the best talent working in television is spread out more thinly over a larger number of shows, bringing down the overall average level of goodness….