Looking Back 2018: The Year in TV – 回顾2018年:电视年

About a decade ago, I took part in a panel discussion at Frieze Art Fair that centred on what television scholars call the ‘qualitative turn’, that which is more popularly referred to as ‘the golden age of television’. In short, TV that behaves like ‘art’, which is to say: TV that showcases the bourgeois socio-aesthetic gestures and postures that once set the novel apart from the fable, pictorialism apart from photography as mere recording, Italian neorealism from Hollywood, and so on. I was joined by the philosopher Aaron Schuster, the artist Melanie Gilligan and the BBC producer Jonty Claypole and, in spite of our individual disciplines, we all acknowledged this trend. We did not, however, see eye-to-eye on what it entailed: mode of narration, visual register, character study, tone, production values, politics?


Looking Back 2018: The Year in TV - 回顾2018年:电视年

The Handmaid's Tale, 2018. Courtesy: Hulu

In the years since, three critical developments have taken place within televisual culture. The first is that the golden age is behind us. Somewhat counterintuitively, the second is that its idiosyncratic gestures and postures have now become ubiquitous – formularized templates for just about every other show. The third pertains to quantity: there is so much new content, nowadays, that it is hard to keep track of televisual culture. (If you think you have a sense of where it’s at, just have a look at The Guardian’s top 50 best TV shows of 2018 and admit how much of it you haven’t seen.) The cause, of course, is capitalism: the innovative impulse has become exhausted by a need to consolidate through acceleration and multiplication – and increase profit. If you ask me, Game of Thrones (or as Stewart Lee put it earlier this year: ‘Peter Stringfellow’s Lord of the Rings’) and House of Cards (red-top sensationalism masquerading as the voice of reason) are exemplary cases of this process.

I realize that this is a cynical preface to what is a celebration of the best in television of 2018. Yet, every person who has recently turned on their television or opened the Netflix, Prime, HULU or HBO app on their laptop to a teaser-trailer of yet another new quasi-political stand-up, whodunit true-crime drama, protagonist-with-flaws thriller, ‘format-pushing’ sitcom, teen dramedy remake or generation Reddit cartoon will have noted the inverse correlation between the originality and quantity of what is on offer. You will also be aware that, if there is indeed an original new programme, the chances are you will have missed it. 


Looking Back 2018: The Year in TV - 回顾2018年:电视年

Atlanta, 2018. Courtesy: FX

In light of these developments, we should celebrate one of two televisual qualities: exceptional execution of the golden age formula and integrity. If the former pertains to the superior manner in which a story is told, regardless of formal innovation (i.e. craft), then the latter entails the confident, consistent development of a tone or world that sets a series apart from all others. In stark opposition to the dwindling attention spans of our contemporary time, what both of these qualities require from us, as viewers, is time, devotion and care. Whether this should be understood as a form of utopian opposition or neoliberal escapism remains to be seen.   

Series that I have found to be superbly convincing and/or confident, self-possessed storytellers this year are AtlantaThe Deuce, Mozart in the Jungle, Tales from the Tour Bus and Sharp Objects. Others that have rewarded dedicated time are The AmericansBarryBlack-ishThe CrownEasyGlowThe Good FightThe Good Place, The Handmaid’s TaleKilling EvePose, A Very English Scandal and even certain moments in the cry-time drama This Is UsThe Deuce was gripping like no other show this year, while The Good Place was lovely but notably less special than it has been made out to be. Atlanta remains the smartest show around (it knows it, of course), while the now cancelled Mozart in the Jungle demonstrated that comedy can rely entirely and exclusively on tone as opposed to, say, gags. Black-ish, one of the few network shows in my list, has been consistently funny while appealing to a broad audience, something that is impressive especially in our times, while The Good Fight and The Americans are conventional but absolutely expert storytellers. 


Looking Back 2018: The Year in TV - 回顾2018年:电视年

The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel, 2018. Courtesy: Amazon Studios

By some distance, my favourite show of 2018 was The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel, a dramedy about a divorcee – Midge, formerly known as Mrs. Maisel – who pursues a career in stand-up in spite of the repressive expectations of her bourgeois family and the prohibitions of 1950s patriarchy. The show combines the energetic warmth and frivolity of the small-town Gilmore Girls with an urban grit and the rebellious ethos of the women’s liberation movement, which makes for an important political statement, even if it is dressed up in fantastical technicolour: empathy, toughness and revolution can go hand in hand. Granted, not all of Midge’s moving hit-and-miss stand-up will receive applause from professional comedians, while the show’s portrayal of art and artists will no doubt make readers of this magazine cringe and there remain a number of political debates still to be had. But, in spite of that, The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel was one of the few series this year that opened up a spot of colourful joy on the bleak horizon and, in that, the reminder that change can occur.

Main image: The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel, 2018. Courtesy: Amazon Studios

Timotheus Vermeulen

Timotheus Vermeulen is associate professor in Media, Culture and Society at the University of Oslo and a regular contributor to frieze. His latest book, Metamodernism: Historicity, Affect and Depth after Postmodernism, co-edited with Robin van den Akker and Alison Gibbons, is published with Rowman and Littlefield.

Opinion /

Timotheus Vermeulen
The Handmaid’s Tale
The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel
Looking Back
Looking Back 2018

大约十年前,我在Frieze艺术博览会上参加了一个小组讨论,集中讨论电视学者们称之为“质变”的问题,也就是更普遍地称为“电视的黄金时代”。简而言之,表现得像“艺术”的电视,也就是说:展示曾经使小说与寓言相区别的资产阶级社会审美姿态和姿态的电视,与摄影相区别的仅作为录音的图画主义,来自好莱坞的意大利新现实主义等等。哲学家亚伦·舒斯特、艺术家梅兰妮·吉利根和BBC制片人乔蒂·克莱波尔也加入了我的行列,尽管我们各自有自己的学科,但我们都承认这种趋势。然而,我们并没有就它所包含的内容达成共识:叙事模式、视觉语域、人物研究、语调、生产价值、政治?5b17420220004200b93827.jpg Looking Back 2018: The Year in TV - 回顾2018年:电视年.《女仆的故事》,2018。礼貌:Hulu.自那以后的几年里,电视文化发生了三个关键的发展。第一,黄金时代已经过去。有点违反直觉,第二种是它独特的手势和姿势现在变得无处不在——几乎每场演出都采用公式化的模板。第三个是数量:现在有很多新的内容,很难跟踪电视文化。(如果你觉得自己知道它处于什么位置,只要看一看《卫报》2018年的50大最佳电视节目,并承认其中有多少你没看过。)原因当然是资本主义:创新冲动因需要通过加速和增殖来巩固和增加利润而耗尽。如果你问我,《王座游戏》(或者正如斯图尔特·李今年早些时候所说:《彼得·斯特林费罗的指环王》)和《纸牌屋》(红顶耸人听闻的伪装成理智的声音)是这一过程的范例。我意识到这是对2018年最佳电视节目的庆祝的愤世嫉俗的序言。然而,每个最近打开电视或者在笔记本电脑上打开Netflix、.、HULU或HBO应用程序的人,都会注意到这部电影中又一部准政治派别、乌托邦真罪剧、主角有瑕疵的惊悚片、“格式推动”情景喜剧、青少年戏剧改编片或雷迪特一代卡通片的引人入胜。诗歌原创性与提供内容的数量之间的相关性。你也会意识到,如果确实有原创的新节目,那你很可能会错过。《亚特兰大海报》jpg,Looking Back 2018: The Year in TV - 回顾2018年:电视年,亚特兰大,2018。礼貌:鉴于这些发展,我们应该庆祝两个电视品质之一:黄金时代公式的卓越执行力和完整性。如果前者与讲故事的高级方式有关,而不考虑正式的创新(即工艺),那么后者需要自信、一致的语调或世界的发展,从而将一系列故事与其他故事区分开来。与我们当代注意力范围日益缩小形成鲜明对比的是,作为观众,这两种品质要求我们的是时间、奉献和关怀。这是否应该被理解为乌托邦的反对派或新自由主义的逃避主义,还有待观察。我发现今年有非常令人信服和/或自信的、自负的故事讲述者系列有《亚特兰大》、《魔鬼》、《丛林中的莫扎特》、《旅游巴士的故事》和《锐利目标》。《美国人》、《巴里》、《黑色》、《王冠》、《安逸》、《辉煌》、《好斗》、《好地方》、《女仆的故事》、《杀戮夏娃》、《姿态》、《非常英格兰的丑闻》、《这就是我们》甚至《哭泣时间》中的某些时刻都很吸引人。亚特兰大仍然是最聪明的节目(当然,它知道),而现在被取消的《丛林》中的莫扎特则表明,喜剧可以完全地和完全地依靠基调,而不是,比如说,恶作剧。黑色,我名单上为数不多的网络节目之一,在吸引观众的同时,一直很有趣。d观众,这在我们这个时代尤其令人印象深刻,而《好战》和《美国人》是传统的,但绝对是专家的故事讲述者。《了不起的梅塞尔夫人》,2018年,《了不起的梅塞尔夫人》。礼貌:从远处看,我最喜欢的2018年剧目是《了不起的梅塞尔夫人》,一部关于离婚者——米姬,以前叫梅塞尔夫人——的戏剧,尽管资产阶级家庭对她寄予了压抑的期望,20世纪50年代禁止父权制,她还是坚持单身生活。这个节目把小城镇吉尔莫尔女孩的热情和轻浮与都市的勇气和妇女解放运动的反叛精神结合起来,构成了一个重要的政治声明,即使它穿着奇妙的技术色彩:移情、坚韧和革命可以携手并进。诚然,并非所有米奇动人的脱口秀都会得到专业喜剧演员的掌声,而该剧对艺术和艺术家的刻画无疑会让该杂志的读者感到畏缩,还有许多政治辩论有待进行。但是,尽管如此,《了不起的梅塞尔夫人》还是今年为数不多的几部在阴暗的地平线上开辟了五彩缤纷的喜悦之地的系列剧之一,并且由此提醒人们,变化是可以发生的。主图:2018年《了不起的梅塞尔夫人》。礼貌:亚马逊工作室罗宾·范·登·阿克和艾莉森·吉本斯合编的最新书《后现代主义的历史、影响和深度》与罗曼·利特菲尔德共同出版。《意见》/《提摩太·维尔穆伦》《婢女的故事》亚特兰大《了不起的梅塞尔夫人》回首2018年的意见


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