"It was an everything year in TV because TV is too many things now," says Kathryn VanArendonk in a year-end discussion with Vulture colleagues Jen Chaney and Roxana Hadadi. "It’s a giant monolith of cultural production. My own impression, looking over the list of things I watched in the past year, is there were exquisite seasons of television and there were crummy ones, but the vast yawning middle of 'just fine' grows larger each year. There is a place for 'just fine,' don’t get me wrong. I personally enjoyed Peacock’s Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol way more than it had any right to be enjoyed by anyone. But do we need that much 'just fine'? Does the ever-increasing bulk of it dilute our ability to feel like it was a good year in TV? I don’t know." Jen Chaney adds: "I’m inclined to lean toward 'it was a good year' based on the width and breadth of quality television. I’ve recently gone through the process of voting for both best television and movies for various groups I belong to, and choosing the best TV was a much more challenging proposition because there was simply so much. Which is not to say the movies are bad, but 2021 was a super-weird year for movies, and so many of the great ones are bunched up in the last month or so. Whereas I felt like I could find something exceptional to watch on TV at any point in the year." As Hadadi notes, "it also felt like the first year where we really felt the impact of all these new streaming services creating their own original content. I put a lot of that streamer-created storytelling firmly in the 'good' column. It allowed for perspectives that are typically underrepresented in mainstream TV and pop culture to be foregrounded, as in We Are Lady Parts or Genera+ion or Y: The Last Man. On the other hand, we hit upon the nostalgia ceiling too often this year with reboots or remakes that lost some of the appeal of the original series. I’m thinking about Gossip Girl, Cowboy Bebop, and Walker, all of which struggled to find their own identities. The impact of having more also means we’re bound to sometimes look backward instead of forward, which isn’t the stuff that excites me."
TOPICS: The White Lotus, Gossip Girl (2021 Series), Hacks, Squid Game, WandaVision, We Are Lady Parts, Donald Trump, Prestige TV