How Women Are Changing TV

After the finale of 30 Rock (sob), Emily Nussbaum contemplates Girls:

[T]he most significant thing about “Girls” may be that it’s not a book, a play, a song, or a poem. And not a movie, either; since women rarely control production, there are few movies of this type, and even fewer that have mass impact. “Girls” is television. It’s in the tradition of sitcoms in which comics play humbled versions of themselves: Lucy, Roseanne, Raymond, Seinfeld. But it’s also TV in a more modern mode: spiky, raw, and auteurist. During the past fifteen years, the medium has been transformed by bad boys like Walter White and sad sacks like Louis C.K.

“Girls” is the crest of a second, female-centered wave of change, on both cable and network, of shows that are not for everyone, that make viewers uncomfortable. It helps that the show’s creator has her own roguish, troublemaking quality, a Molly Brown air that lets Dunham wade into controversy without drowning.

In that sense, I think, as Dunham herself explained, that the new wave of television is related to the impact of the web. We’re slowly breaking up the blockbusters for mass audiences (although there will always remain a place for them) and actually providing more options for more audience segments with more varied and specific and niche interests and experiences.

As long as we can find a way to finance these projects, we are slowly turning TV into more of a web experience, with options to watch a huge amount at once in your own time – binge-viewing – or track your favorite shows by DVR to watch when you see fit – and on and on. TV will always have live events to make it unique – the Super Bowl, the Grammies, Campaign debates, game-show finales – but it’s merging with web culture before our eyes. And not just in form but in content.