Q. You wrote about “Scott & Bailey,” the British crime show that ran from 2011 to 2016. A little late, don’t you think?
A. Nowhere is it written that I can or should only write about current or recent series. Yes, I generally focus more on the new stuff, to stay up to date with thematic developments and to keep readers apprised of what’s fresh — especially these days, when there is so very much out there. But I also enjoy discovering older series. And readers do, too, judging from what I hear from them. I mean, some of the most watched shows these days, such as “The Office,” are old, making the viewing public, as you might put it, “a little late.” Aside from Apple TV+, one very important selling point for the bulk of streaming services, beyond their original series, is the scope of their libraries. There’s a reason that HBO Max paid $450 million for the rights to stream “Friends” for five years.
Television has improved a lot during the past two decades, adding up to a packed archive of shows well worth catching up on. Why not watch “The Sopranos,” if you haven’t, or “Breaking Bad,” both modern classics? It’s never a bad time to see “Six Feet Under,” or even “The Twilight Zone.” In the old days, shows evaporated after they aired once or twice; you missed something, and that was that. Now technology saves them for us, to suit our schedules. They’re just waiting for us, like a book, to find time for them. And I don’t know anyone, including other TV critics, who is so consistently up to date with the better shows that they have nothing old on their “still to watch” list. Most of the “Wire” fanatics out there came to the series well after its low-rated HBO run.
So I occasionally recommend a TV show from the past (I’m still telling people to read Anthony Trollope, too). Sometimes it’s a show like “Scott & Bailey” that I’ve just discovered, because I enjoyed one of the leads in something else, or because readers have steered me toward it (as was the case with “Shtisel”). Other times, it’s a show that I’m revisiting, such as “Seinfeld” — and truly, readers always respond when I write about “Seinfeld.” Now that the lockdown has driven even TV skeptics deep into the coffers of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and the rest, readers seem to appreciate every single recommended title that comes their way, old or new. Television is no longer the home of vanishing entertainment that will die out with a generation; there’s an Internet for that.