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maryann johanson | watching movies at home

question of the day: What’s the first quintessentially 21st-century TV show?

Mad Men Jon Hamm

Today’s question comes from reader Patrick, who writes:

As we are approaching the 13th year of the 21st century, what could be considered the first quintessential 21st century TV series? What TV series is truly distinguished itself from 20th century fare?

If I were to pick, I’d say “Firefly”. Both because of the diversity of characters from so many disparate walks of life pulling together for common goals; but also in the real world: a tv series brought back to life through social media and digital home video.

Patrick’s choice of Firefly is pretty brilliant. But I think I might go with Mad Men. Yes, it looks back at the past, but without any sheen of nostalgia — except, perhaps, in an aesthetic sense — and I think it may be the first show to do that. Other television shows that have been set in a prior era to their production have always been near fantasies, glossing over the realities of those eras to engage in pure yearning for a “simpler” past. Shows such as The Waltons or Happy Days may have been entertaining, but they did not represent a reexamination of the past in the way that Mad Men does. Even its aesthetic nostalgia has a sting to it: it says, “You think this looks elegant? Here’s how inelegant it really was.”

Your turn:

What’s the first quintessentially 21st-century TV show?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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