Shipley wrote:The book is called "Everything Bad is Good For you" by Steven Johnson and it studies television and movies of today compared to those of yesterday and directly contrasts plot development, complexity of characters and the education and cultural background that viewers have to mee to even understand and keep track of all that stuff is worlds ahead of classic TV. Andy Griffith had one plot thread. Hill Street Blues had 5 on a good night. LOST, 24, Arrested Development, Sopranos, etc all require massive attention to detail and plot threads that number in the dozens. An event in an episodes might reference 3 or 4 past events from an episode a year ago, and the memory and comprehension demands far exceed that of any show in decades prior.
Think of how some opponents of Stephen Colbert and The Daily Show say they're silly and sophmoric but in order to get any of that humor, you have to actually WATCH the news and be aware of the world around.
None of that was in the older sitcoms.
Well, that's all well and good, but your conclusion -- TV is better now -- is based entirely on the assumption
that "plot development, complexity of characters and the education and cultural background that viewers have to mee to even understand and keep track of all that stuff" are somehow equivalent to "better writing", which is still nothing more nor less than someone's opinion. For my money, the simplicity of, say, Fawlty Towers
- both in characterization and in plotting - is far preferable in a half-hour comedy format than "plot threads that number in the dozens." Heck, one could just as easily argue that all those extra plot threads constitute poor, unfocused writing as any great leap forward.
As far as hour-long dramas go, the soap opera format (lots of characters and stories developing over many episodes or even seasons) isn't necessarily an improvement either. For example, the wife and I cringe every time we're forced to endure Law and Order: SVU
scenes about Det. Stabler's family life or Det. Benson's turmoil about her mother's rape, but we have to because the days of hour-long mystery shows focused on the case and not the detectives pretty much don't exist anymore. You may think that's an improvement, but Perry Mason
, Secret Agent
and hosts of others all delivered the goods.
And the goofiest claim of all is that television is automatically superior if it expects its audience to be educated or cultured. Not that I don't appreciate intelligent, culturally aware writing, but what snobbery! Tell me, what's "intelligent" about physical comedy or goofy sit-com situations? After you've told me, go tell Dick Van Dyke and Bob Newhart.
So essentially, your claim is faulty from the get-go. You've begun the discussion by making an assumption for which there's only one possible conclusion -- TV writing is at its best when its most like it is today -- and not surprisingly, that just happens to be the conclusion you prefer. And on top of all that, to make your case, you essentially have to completely ignore the vast heaping pile of absolute garbage which constitutes about 99% of shows broadcast today.
To summarize your approach to proof:
Step 1. Declare your personal preference to be superior. (Rocky road is the best ice cream flavor.
Step 2. Make an assumption for which there is no justification except personal preference. (Ice cream tastes better when it has a combination of flavors.
Step 3. Declare your opinion fact, based on the faulty assumption made in Step 2. (Rocky road is the best ice cream flavor because it's a combination of flavors and not just plain ol' chocolate or vanilla.