Television’s Third Golden Age: What Is It and Where Is It Going?

Ed Newman


“I close my eyes, then I drift away, into the magic night…”
— Roy Orbison, In Dreams

Photo by Martin Jernberg on Unsplash

One of the events we host during Duluth Dylan Fest is a Dylan-themed Trivia Night at Carmody’s, a pub in downtown Duluth. The event is usually well attended and sometimes even packed.

This year’s Trivia Night was different. The place was nearly empty. Why? As it turns out, it was the last night for this season’s Game of Thrones, which averages over 25 million viewers every Sunday night for HBO. Zounds! This incident speaks volumes about the power of series television.

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In the mid-90s, when Michael Crichton spoke to the National Press Club he declared that because of the Internet, television would be a dinosaur in less than ten years.

What really happened was the emergence of what many are calling the Third Golden Age of Television, characterized by season-long stories year after year. The innovation and long-form story telling combined with multiple methods of streaming media has generated a wide range of new opportunities for creative expression.

This past year I read the book Difficult Men by Brett Martin, a deep dive behind the scenes a deep dive into the inner workings of television characters and storytelling, and cultural influence, in what he terms the Third Golden Age of Television. The book’s aim is to examine the elements and era “that made it okay for intelligent people to like television again.”

For most of my adult life I’ve avoided television. Privately, however, I became immersed in the show Mad Men, following it through six seasons via DVD.

One of the big surprises in this new age of series television is how big screen stars have been swimming back to this form of storytelling. It used to be that television was where you started, hoping to be cast as a “big name” on the silver screen. Today there’s no disrespect for assuming roles in a television series program.

Some, such as French scholar Alexis Pichard, prefer to call this the Second Golden Age. All agree that the Fifties was an explosive golden era where producers…



Ed Newman

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y3l9sfpj