A reader named Jason writes:
I, myself, have used the "Golden Age" description for modern TV. Why? In part because the TV landscape is one of plenty for fans. MST-3K is back. Twin Peaks is back. The X-Files is back. Star Trek is returning. Lost in Space is also returning.
Basically, the fact that we have moved into a fractured TV landscape, with niche programming, means that networks (or streaming sites like Netflix) don't need huge audiences to justify reviving a show, or keeping one on the air. This approach has lead to the creation of remarkably ambitious and unusual programs, such as The O.A., Black Mirror, The Handmaid's Tale, and Stranger Things.
Those are all positives for modern TV. Similarly, modern series such as Fear the Walking Dead survive on lower ratings, in this new era, than those achieved by hits (like The X-Files) in previous generations. That is also a positive. We have fewer genre shows canceled for low ratings.
On the other hand, would we want beloved series to return, if we didn't have a previous golden age? An age that gave us Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, and so on? Those series have become the bedrock foundation of genre programming.
Perhaps, we have had two or three Golden Ages at this point. And we musn't forget that nostalgia plays a role in this perception, too.
Remember when there were still three episodes of Star Trek you had never seen, and you scoured the listing in your paper or in TV Guide to look for them?
In hopes that they would, you would have either had to stay up till 3:00 am to watch, in some cases, or set your VCR.
If you choose not to, a world of TV programs will be unavailable to you, that you never see. Since Millennium isn't up on Netflix or Amazon Prime, do curious viewers seek it out?
These students have never seen a Hitchcock film. They never saw The Matrix, or Fight Club. They haven't seen Alien, even, or the original Planet of the Apes. If it's not right in front of them, at the right time, they aren't going to see it.
So we might be in a golden age of programs, but we are not in a golden age of viewers. It may not be about the programs at all, but about how are culture is choosing these programs.
Regarding your final question -- serial vs. standalone storytelling -- my preferred mix is the one exemplified by The X-Files. I appreciate a level of serialized continuity, but too much is exhausting.
Sometimes, I just want to be "one and done," for example (as in the case of The Twilight Zone, or Space:1999.) I like arcs, but arcs that go on too long, or travel to improbable places (like the voluntary sacrifice of indoor plumbing, by a technological society on the new Battlestar Galactica) largely make me regret the journey, the time invested.
Don't forget to ask me your questions at Muirbusiness@yahoo.com