I remember the moment I realised TV had changed forever. It was when I saw this:
Toadie in a wheelchair. TOADIE IN A WHEELCHAIR.
In fact, Toadie had been in a wheelchair for about a season-and-a-half. (He’d also had his drink spiked, left his bride at the altar, been hit by a car, and had a tragic accident on a bouncy castle). And I hadn’t even noticed. Because I just hadn’t really payed any attention to normal network TV all year.
Because in 2015, the way we watched TV changed forever.
No time to read? Listen to this bonus episode of Mamamia Out Loud here and let us tell you why it was the year of TV:
The catalyst was the launch of many shiny new streaming services. Netflix burst on the scene, alongside Stan, Presto, FoxtelGO, FetchTV and even Quickflix. Alongside iview, and then our free-to-air network’s own streaming services, (TenPlay, Plus7, 9JumpIn, SBSOnDemand), 2015 became the year we threw the TV guide into the yellow bin.
On demand. Any time. Ad-free. Across multiple devices. No need to have to illegally download shows or spend big dollars on DVD box sets. And the best part?
All these new streaming services means the competition for your eyeballs was fierce.
Whereas previously network TV was dominated by a few gatekeepers; white, middle aged men who cast shows designed for mass appeal (and cast women according to their last fuckable day), streaming services entering the TV market opened up the floodgates for diversity in programming.
The quality and diversity of shows in 2015 was unprecedented. And isn’t it ironic that it’s not reality TV that has finally begun to social realities of modern life, it’s the produced, scripted and acted TV shows.
2015 was the year that TV shows finally started spreading their wings beyond thin, white characters in situational drama or comedy. Shows canvassed topics once considered taboo: mental illness, racism, homophobia, gender inequality. Shows like Scandal, Jane the Virgin, Please Like Me, Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, Call Me Cait, all hinged around ethnic/gay/trans/actors or people as the main players, as opposed to relegating them to annoying colleagues, token best friends, taxi drivers, or bit-players.
Orange Is The New Black was one of the biggest shows of the year and its cast – butch lesbians, rotten-toothed Christians and hispanic women – was as brilliant as it was diverse. Dressed in dull beige prison duds, it was a hit show about women that don’t easily slip into the hetero normative Hollywood stereotype.
Likewise, Scandal, Nashville, Jessica Jones, proved that shows centered around female protagonists can be nuanced and deep, and observe women as not just sex objects but empowered, intelligent and strong.
Behold. The romance of Nashville:
The other big shift in the year was the awards season. The Golden Globes and the Emmy nominations were dominated by shows from streaming services. The break out hit show of the year, Transparent, centres on a family whose father (Jeffrey Tambour) is transitioning to female. It won five Emmys and two Golden Globes. It was a show developed for a US streaming service.
Critical to that was the globalisation effect that streaming has had on production. Whereas previously with network television, shows might target a certain demographic. Within that localised market, there might only be a few million people you can reach. With streaming servies, suddenly a show that might only have an audience of a few million might find an worldwide audience in the tens of millions.
That means more money for producing shows, higher production values, because audiences are suddenly worldwide.
Locally, the effect was that arguably, Australian reality TV stars have lost some of their lustre. Whereas the first seasons of Australian Idol, Big Brother and Masterchef propelled names like Guy Sebastian, Julie Goodwin and Chrissie Swan into the national spotlight, now dozens of reality ‘stars’ can go on and off air in a blink.
Of course, alongside the shift in what we watched was how we watched it. While previously it was a family affair to watch the Disney movie at 6:30pm on a Sunday night, now your viewing time can be spent sitting right next your family on the couch, with everyone watching different things. One on the TV, one on the phone, one on the tablet. The bedroom TV, likewise, looks to become a relic of the past (alongside the VCR), as we watch from our laptops/phone/tablets in bed, instead.
Another major difference this year, was that the social aspect around TV watching is changing. Along with it, the great television watercooler moments are also disappearing. Now, with our viewing fragmented across shows, across series, with everyone at different stages, the social aspect of discussing shows is fraught with difficulty. It’s a unique type of pleasure/pain of knowing that someone is in love with the same show as you but is in a different place. You literally cannot speak to them. The fact we can no longer experience television together is leading to a rise in TV watching parties, and TV clubs.
Consuming media on demand extends into our ears, too. Spotify and the explosion of podcasts means for those times you can’t be in front of a screen, you can be listening to podcasts. Choose your own playlists, or find a podcast that will make you laugh/learn/or just lift your heartrate higher, and suddenly you don’t have to sit through 18 ads, or songs you don’t like in a breakfast radio show anymore.
The rise of on demand content, niche content, content that speaks to us at a time that we want to listen has been the real game-changer of 2015.
What TV show did you become truly obsessed with in 2015?