Since the late 1990s, it’s now a cliche to point out that television is more groundbreaking and artistically challenging than motion pictures. Yes, we do get the occasional artistically challenging film (“Black Swan”), but the most artistically challenging subject matter is now on networks such as HBO, AMC, Showtime, etc. Hollywood is more interested in churning out superhero sequels and conservative rom-coms than lead characters who are flawed.
“The Revolution Must Be Televised” by Alan Sepinwall is the first book to analyze these groundbreaking television shows and their impact on culture. Sepinwall starts with the HBO show “Oz” and then devotes extensive analysis to shows like “The Sopranos,” “The Shield,” “The Wire,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Mad Men,” and “Breaking Bad” … among other shows. If you’re a fan of any of these shows, this book is a feast of behind-the-scenes details and cultural analyses. The fact that it’s taken this long to see a book that chronicles and celebrates the late 1990s – new Milenium of artistically audacious series TV is proof enough that the medium is still not taken as seriously as film, which has become way more conservative than anyone could have ever imagined.
One criticism I have of Sepinwall’s book is the lack of focus on comedy. With “Sex and the City,” “Arrested Development,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “Louis” in the bloodstream, you wonder why he didn’t give a token shout-out to these revolutionary shows. But what’s there in this book is very, very good. And if you’re a fan of any of these shows … or just a fan of quality drama … this book is a must.