In defense of the taste of the masses
: I was a TV critic during broadcast TV’s — and American pop culture’s — true golden age, when television was filled with good shows and those shows were also the most popular, proving — against all popular snarking — that Americans, the masses, do have good taste.
TV has changed but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost our taste.
Kurt Andersen wrote/spoke about this on Studio 360 this week.
Television in the 90s was defined by smart, well-written prime-time network sitcoms like Roseanne, Murphy Brown, Seinfeld and, of course, The Simpsons.
But in the 90s the best shows were also by and large the most highly rated shows. That had never happened before. And mainstream TV was arguably superior to mainstream motion pictures. That had never happened before either.
Looking at the Nielsen top 10 in the 90s actually used to made me feel a little better about my fellow Americans. Western civilization wasn’t necessarily in decline.
But that golden age, like all golden ages, was too good to last. In 1999, among the top shows were still ER, Frasier, Friends, 60 Minutes and The X-Files. But then within just a couple of seasons, the highest-rated programs were mostly,