question of the day: What does it mean for TV that its pioneers are now mostly gone?

The Andy Griffth Show

The Los Angeles Times noted the passing of Andy Griffth with an interesting look at how television’s pioneers are fading into history:

With Andy Griffith’s passing, America loses one of its last living links to the early days of television.

“This is a big one,” pop culture expert Robert J. Thompson said. “Andy Griffith was just one person. But he’s symbolic of that era. With his death, the early days of television have receded into history and the stuff of museums, and directors’ commentary on DVD.”

To be sure, there are a few icons left who can speak about the start of traditional commercial network programming back in 1948, such as Dick Van Dyke and Sid Caesar.

“But that generation has pretty much disappeared now,” said Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “If you want to learn about that time, you just can’t call people up who were involved with it anymore.”

What does it mean for TV that its pioneers are now mostly gone?

For comparison’s sake, perhaps we could look to film. Did it change dramatically once its pioneers had died and their experiences were no longer accessible to us? Suddenly in the 1960s, films started to look “modern” to our eyes, with the use of color stock, influence from European cinema and the counterculture. Were any of those influences made possible because of the lessened influence of the old guard? If so, might we see TV suddenly transform into something that the future will see as newly “modern”? Or is there some other impact of the loss of TV pioneers… or no impact at all?

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