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Peak TV has turned into Peak Redundancy: Television has become littered with knockoff shows

  • Nearly three years ago, Netflix and Hulu raised eyebrows with dueling documentaries about the Fyre Festival released four days apart. "Since then I’ve blinked through dueling originals on fashion design, Wu-Tang Clan, 9/11," says Judy Berman. "Some of them are news-driven (proliferating Britney Spears docs), some seasonal (Baking Impossible, Bake Squad, Baker’s Dozen, Baking It), some the repetition of a microgenre (rich people at a resort in HBO’s The White Lotus, rich people at a resort in Hulu’s lesser Nine Perfect Strangers). I call this phenomenon—and the new era of television more broadly—peak redundancy. Every general-­interest streaming service has a knockoff of every other platform’s breakout title or perennial favorite. But they aren’t just reverse-engineering one another’s hits; they’re also emulating one another’s ever expanding mix of content. Netflix has spent years stockpiling originals to serve every conceivable audience. Now, other services that led with scripted series are dipping toes into reality and lifestyle, standup, sports and more. Each has at least one prestige murder mystery à la Big Little Lies, food shows, a trashy reality dating show (or five), creative competitions, newsy docs, teen dramas, children’s programs and true-crime fare. What might have begun as a strategy to court cord cutters looking to replace a whole suite of cable channels has escalated into a mandate to be everything to everyone. It’s exhausting. And now that franchises and other intellectual property (IP), from Star Wars to The Witcher, have proliferated on streaming services, it has contributed to my creeping sense that television is moving on from the merely overabundant era FX head John Landgraf dubbed 'peak TV' in 2015. We may still be deluged with viewing options, many of exceptional quality. But we also have too many shows that feel interchangeable." Of course, popular shows spawning copycats isn't new. There have been numerous Friends and Lost clones. "Part of the difference, now, comes down to scale," says Berman. "The number of scripted TV shows alone has ballooned from several dozen before cable to around 500 since the late 2010s, with recent growth primarily driven by streaming. More services means more content, and more content means more overlap."

    TOPICS: Nine Perfect Strangers, The White Lotus, Peak TV, Prestige TV