Around about the point where I hit my adolescence, I had a small yet significant moment of existential sorrow when I realized that there was no way that I could ever live long enough to read every book I’d like to get through. Hence within my wish for what I’d like the mysterious afterlife to be I hope for a full earthly library for me to draw on for eternity.

Regular readers of my column know my enthusiasm for smart TV and how it allows us access to so many shows and series. And how I feel that we’ve been in a golden age of quality television.

Yet both those modes have led to a parallel point to my youthful thoughts on more great and worthy books than I can ever consume. It feels to me as if we have reached a place of television overload where the offerings are so many and myriad that I am not sure if I will be able to get to all that I wish to view.

It’s the natural result of the proliferation of channels that came with cable TV. And how digital providers like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have been now creating their own original series and shows.

Many of them attest to how such series as The Sopranos, The Wire and Breaking Bad and more recently Game of Thrones have raised the creative bar of TV to impressive and impactful new levels. But has the peak of quality TV passed?

I wonder about that lately. Or maybe it’s just me. But certain shows of late that have gotten praise from both critics and friends whose tastes I trust have yet to grab or entice me.

Not so long ago, if HBO launched a new series, I was there, ready to jump in and become an avid viewer. Yet two of the network’s most recent offering, Westworld and The Young Pope, have yet to pull me in. Mind you, I want to watch them and intend to do so.

Maybe I haven’t yet tried “Westworld” because I feel like I am just not in the mood for chilling futurism and sci-fi with an old West core. I watched a bit of the pilot of The Young Pope and its pacing somehow left me less than compelled to continue.
After all, mood and state of mind are factors that affect what entertainment we consume. I was avidly watching the brilliant House of Cards until around about the middle of season three it got so dark I needed to take a break. It didn’t help that the reality in Washington and the White House also got dark yet at the same time the news so consuming that I only had room in my attention and also soul for one or the other.

I find myself scanning through the series list on Showtime wondering just when and maybe even if I might start viewing Billions or The Affair. My watchlists on both Netflix and Hulu have become so full of shows I want to see that I wonder if I can get to them.

There are far worse dilemmas, right? A wealth of offerings sure beats a dearth any day of the week. And I do ponder if it’s me or TV that has brought me to this place. Likely it’s both as well as being so busy with work that I haven’t the leisure time to get to it all.
But is the proliferation of TV offerings so great that it has spread out the talent pool to dilute the chances of a dynamic team uniting to create shows so marvelous and compelling that I must watch them? Have we reached a plateau of innovation and imagination? It seems that way to me.

But I’ll keep searching out shows that inspire and satisfy me. You’ll likely see some of the titles above in my picks in the future. But a sea change in TV seems underway to me even as we are blessed with so much that is worthy.

Populist Picks

TV Documentary: Becoming Warren Buffett – Capitalism doesn’t necessarily have to be pursued amorally and rapaciously for massive wealth to be accumulated. Buffett remains a common, modest and good man despite being one of the world’s richest. This HBO film shows how he did and still does it with insight into the influences that have kept him human and humane, especially his first wife Susan.

TV Documentary: The Spy Who Went Into the Cold – The BBC’s look at the most famed of the Russian moles that burrowed their way into the British intelligence services takes a no nonsense and non-judgemental look at the life of the notorious traitor who fled to Russia.

Book: A Most Wanted Man by John Le Carré – Speaking of English spies, I’ve read almost everything written by the author who had explored that milieu with literary greatness. This 2008 work underscores how he has continued to grow in eloquence and rich storytelling.

Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email

From The Progressive Populist, June 15, 2017

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