TV In the Summer of 2023 Feels Very Familiar

By Ed Martin Report Archives
Cover image for  article: TV In the Summer of 2023 Feels Very Familiar

I'm currently bingeing a series you are likely not familiar with … a Spanish-language drama on Netflix titled Perfil Falso (pictured at top) -- which translates to Fake Profile. It's a great summer watch … surprising, sexy and relatively easy to follow. In many ways it takes me back to those lightweight beach reads of summers past … and, more recently, to the escapist fare I embraced on Netflix during the fateful COVID-19 summers of 2020 and 2021.

I'm not talking about that domestic sensation Tiger King. (We can all be excused for that collective lapse of judgement, given what we were going through at the time.) Rather, the first two years of the pandemic, when television was everybody's best friend, was the time when I discovered such international treats as Élite, Who Killed Sara?, Merli, La Casa de Las Flores, Curon, Money Heist and The Mess You Leave Behind, among many others. These were shows I might never have made time for had U.S. television production not screeched to a halt as COVID-19 spread around the world.

And now, here we are again. Sort of. The situation is dramatically different, but the impact feels familiar. Even as the world was continuing to return to some sense of post-pandemic normalcy, and the television industry finally seemed to be back in near-top form, twin strikes by the WGA and SAG-AFTRA have sent the business reeling and threaten to indefinitely compromise the entertainment opportunities for all of us all over again.

Other than the absence of late-night talk shows, TV doesn't feel too different -- yet. After all, if it's summer, and that means it's time for endless reruns of scripted shows on the broadcast networks -- with a few primetime game shows and a healthy percentage of unscripted content in the mix. (As always, thank goodness for NBC's continued wisdom in leaving America's Got Talent on its summer schedule.)

Basic cable has always shone during the summer months, though in the new world order much of that content is also available on various streamers. Speaking of which, they're doing just fine (except for the whole thing about how they are losing a ton of money), with plenty of interesting content right now including The Bear on Hulu, And Just Like That on Max, I'm a Virgo on Amazon, Only Murders in the Building (which is about to begin its third season) on Hulu, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which is having a great second season on Paramount+ and the limited series Justified: City Primeval. (Yes, the latter is an FX show first, but I'm watching on Hulu. It's a habit, I guess.)

A note on this: Critics and entertainment journalists are quick to cite these shows and many others when declaring that there is still plenty to watch. But I don't know very many people (any, actually) who are uniformly jazzed about the same group of shows as I am. People like what they like. Just because there are a lot of high-profile options out there doesn't mean that everyone will watch all of them.

Putting aside the considerable success of sports programming (which just might save the medium), come fall the broadcast networks will face yet another fresh hell. Cable will continue to hurt, too … not because of the strikes (given the wealth of reality programming on basic cable) but, rather, the rising popularity of the streamers.

This brings me back to Fake Profile ... and other hot international series just like it. As long as Netflix keeps serving up a substantial and substantially diverse selection of shows from other lands, I don't think I'll ever run out of "new" stuff to watch. And as long as Hulu keeps the full run of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show I'll be good, as I could watch those two gems time and again for the rest of my life.

Indeed, there is so much enticing vintage television fare on Hulu, Peacock, Tubi, Pluto and others that I feel as though I'll be fine no matter the outcome of the twin strikes.

But that's not what it's all about, is it? Remember … in most cases "vintage" equals "broadcast past." Scripted television needs to continue feeding itself … on broadcast, cable, streaming and whatever comes next. There's nothing wrong with news and unscripted fare, but the medium needs more. It's nice to have options … especially of the international variety. Given the money that certain conglomerates charge us for the opportunity to watch their content, however, those options better remain damn good.

Now if they would just figure out how to share some of their wealth with the writers and actors who keep us all happy, maybe by mid-2024 television will finally begin to resemble what it was way back in the good old days of 2019.

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