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Is TV better than ever before?

The Sopranos. Mad Men. Westworld. The Wire. The Americans. House of Cards. Transparent. More and more, critics are lauding the rise of the ‘prestige’ television series, which undoubtedly began to rise in popularity back in 1999 with the debut of The Sopranos. All of the sudden, the offerings on cable TV were rivaling what you could see on the big screen, and more and more people began compiling their lists of “best TV shows to watch” if you wanted to join in on this cultural zeitgeist.

Ever since those early days of HBO event television, the past 2 decades have been marked by a renewed interest in television. All of the sudden, the office water cooler talk is no longer about new release movies – people are talking about television instead. This is the era of peak TV, and personally speaking, it has been taking me ages to get – and stay – caught up with all of the amazing television programs on both cable and network stations. I find that TV series box sets can really help, allowing me to catch up when I have a chance.

Cable sets the trend

One thing you will usually notice is that the most prestigious television trends seem to start on the most elite cable channels. Yes, the HBOs and the Showtimes out there always seem to set the trend when it comes to the best TV shows. Just think about it – The Sopranos and The Wire were both on HBO, Mad Men showed on AMC, and Homeland and Dexter were on Showtime.

After this trend was set by the mid ‘00s, all of the other smaller cable channels followed their example (including FX, TBS and The USA Network ), attempting to launch their own ‘prestige’ television series and garner accolades and awards, no matter how incongruous their brand may be when considering this goal. The more mainstream American networks, such as ABC, NBC and CBS, have all also tried to capitalise on this style of TV, and over the past decade they have all premiered their own series in this same vein.