The Golden Age of Television

by Michael Potemra


It’s right now, according to Rob Long in Chapter 5 of this Uncommon Knowledge discussion with Harry Shearer and Peter Robinson. I am delighted to hear Rob say it; let me explain why. First, conservative culture criticism has a negative bias, one that puts me in mind of the words of an old and beautiful hymn:

Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;

Change and decay in all around I see. . . .

And nothing as good as it used to be, as the revised concluding line. This negative bias is not always unreasonable, as there is plenty of decline to go around, in culture as in economics. But when the bias becomes ingrained as a reflex, it prevents recognition of greatness, and becomes seriously untrue to reality. Rob Long’s pushback is quite cheering in this regard. Second, I feel a certain level of personal vindication on this issue, because I made the same point right here on the Corner three years ago — with this important difference, that back then I was making a purely impressionistic judgment based on a mere handful of TV shows I liked, while Rob Long, in stark contrast, is someone who actually knows what he’s talking about. As Thanksgiving recedes, let’s continue to be grateful for America’s cultural gifts. It’s as much fun for the peevish critic to write the words “vast wasteland” now as it must half been half a century ago (and I’m pretty sure I myself have done so at some point); but it’s far from the whole (or most important) truth, and we should be glad of that.

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