Summer is not, traditionally, television’s strongest season. Most shows run on a fall to spring schedule, leaving us without our favorite characters on the warmest nights. But this summer there were some interesting trends, especially on cable and Netflix which shy away from the traditional fall-to-spring model.
The Legitimization of Netflix
Orange is the New Black was something of a surprise hit this summer. It was certainly not the first Netflix-original show. Both House of Cards and Arrested Development made big splashes before it, but OITNB makes three and three, my friends, makes a trend. Netflix doesn’t release any metrics so there’s no way of knowing just how many people watched Jenji Kohan‘s based-on-a-true-story prison dramedy, but using less scientific measurements like Twitter mentions suggests that that number was somewhere between a lot and everyone.
A New Kind of (ABC) Family
Summer television typically means shows about rich people yelling at each other about wedding planning or home selling or wine (or whatever the hell it is the Real Housewives are always fighting about). But in the words of Katy Perry, I know a place / where the grass is really greener. That place is called ABC Family. The official network of teens behaving badly provides the perfect kind of soapy, summery shows to watch while you wait for Leslie Knope to return to television. Pretty Little Liars continues its reign as ABC Family’s flagship show. There’s also The Fosters, a new show about the Foster family, who are a foster family – ABC Family is clever like that. These shows have gay characters, they talk about contraception and undocumented immigrants and they remain damn entertaining. They’re fun to watch and when it’s 100 degrees outside, what else can you ask for?
Our Summer Without Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart has become as steady a late night fixture as David Letterman. But this summer, he left us to go film a movie. And in his place, we had John Oliver. Oliver proved himself to be a worthy temporary host, going especially hard on Anthony Weiner, who usually gets a pass from Stewart thanks to their friendship. The show’s been on hiatus for the past two weeks, but when it returns tomorrow, Stewart will be back in the anchor’s chair.
TV on Twitter
People have been tweeting about their favorite television shows for years, but this summer the Twitter chatter was louder than a Real Housewives vacation. Peggy wore a little black dress on Mad Men and everyone went crazy. Alexander Skarsgard showed off his Swedish Fish on True Blood and everyone erupted into 140-character outbursts. Don’t even get me started on the whole Red Wedding Game of Thrones madness. This summer, if you weren’t tweeting about television, were you really watching television at all?
It’s Hard to Say Goodbye
This summer brought us the final seasons of both Breaking Bad and Dexter. Granted, Dexter has lost some of its steam in recent years, but there is a certain sadness to it ending. Tony Soprano may be the original TV anti-hero, but both Walter White and Dexter Morgan are enduring members of the league of bad men we like to watch do bad things.
Movie Stars on TV
Okay, so it was HBO. And, yes, it was initially intended to be released as a feature film. But Matt Damon, Michael Douglas and Steven Soderbergh made a Liberace TV movie! After being deemed “too gay” by major studios, HBO picked up Behind the Candelabra. The movie was excellent and picked up 15 Emmy nominations. But it also served as a reminder that the major studios aren’t as progressive as they claim to be and that television continues to be the medium willing to push the boundaries and to tell different and exciting stories.
Under the Influence of Under the Dome
Summer 2013 will always be remembered as the summer we got trapped Under the Dome. The CBS miniseries sort of snuck up on us and became a big hit. So big, in fact, that CBS decided to renew it for a second season. The show is based on a Steven King novel and marks his first on-screen adaptation success in a few years. Without any big stars, or really very much promotion at all, Under the Dome caught on and sparked a million memes.