In the very old days on television (old for someone as old as I am), we had only three channels to watch—CBS, NBC, and ABC. Take ‘em or leave ‘em, that’s what we had. HBO made its move slowly, sort of creeping onto the national scene beginning in 1975, and in 1983 went as a national subscriber network. And then along came ESPN with its strictly sports coverage. Then Ted Turner decided to buy into the act and TBS and TNT appeared. And the Golf Channel and the Weather Channel still later. Somewhere along the way FOX showed up and became the fourth major network (some would say, even bigger than the big three). The point I want to make is that now we have a bunch of networks that are producing really quality shows that compete with and sometimes surpass anything the old Big Three came up with.
Consider TNT, which now has four very good hour-long shows: The Closer, Men of a Certain Age, Southland, and Raising the Bar. And many would include in that list Leverage. And last season there was Saving Grace, which is still on but with a very limited run. Kyra Sedgwick has taken The Closer and made it competitive in the Emmy awards with the other networks. Ray Romano, in Men of a Certain Age, has a light drama about three aging buddies that raises the bar for situational dramas on the other networks. And speaking of raising the bar, Raising the Bar is as good as or better than any courtroom drama on the tube now or in the past. Southland was too good for NBC, which dropped it after a short initial season. I guess their viewership demanded more reality bologna, most of whom probably couldn’t understand this gritty drama about L. A. cops. So TNT picked it up. Good for TNT. Hurrah! for TNT.
And one more example. CW’s Life Unexpected is about a 16-year-old’s attempt to achieve emancipation after spending her life in assorted, unsatisfactory foster homes. Instead of emancipation, she is put under the joint control of her two biological parents, a near-failing bar owner and a popular female radio jock in Portland. The parents are just barely older than their daughter, who often seems to have more adult sense than they do. This is a moving, dramatically solid hour, besting by a bunch anything on the standard Big Three. If you haven’t seen any of the above, be sure to tune in. You won’t be disappointed.