We are in a golden age of television right now. TVEnthusiast will be celebrating this golden age through the holiday season with 10 feature articles, each focusing on 1 year of television in the golden age.
2004: Serialization is the New Black
Serialization took off in 2004, largely due to the debut of ABC’s LOST. The SciFi Network’s Stargate SG1 got a spin-off series, Stargate Atlantis. David E Kelley put out his best series yet with Boston Legal, which revitalized the careers of William Shatner and James Spader. HBO tried their hands at a western with the beloved series Deadwood. Kristen Bell took on the titular role in Veronica Mars, which propelled her current stardom, despite the show’s meager viewership
Science continued to advance in great strides in 2004. Privatized space travel became a real possibility when SpaceShipOne launched from Mojave, California and achieved spaceflight. By being the first privately funded project to achieve the feat. SpaceShipOne was rewarded the $10,000,000 Ansari X Prize from the X-Prize foundation for their ahceivement. SpaceShipOne became the first real step towards commercial space travel. Cloning had already conquered Sheep, Horses, and other complex animals, but in 2004, Scientists in South Korea announced they had successfully cloned 30 human embryos, bringing science fiction 1 step closer to science fact.
2004 also marked the initial release of The John Jay Report into Catholic sex abuse. The report was conducted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a part of City University of New York, and was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Officialy titled The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States, the report found that around 4% of all ordained clergy in the United States had been accused of improper sexual conduct. The Catholic Church sex abuse scandal is often cited as being largely responsible for the recent distrust in organized religion in our current culture.
A massive Tsunami devastated South East Asia in 2004. 230,000 people lost their lives in 14 different countries after the third largest earthquake in recorded history triggered the foul tide. The disaster devastated multiple economies, disrupted shipping, and hurt tourism and filming business interests in the region.
Musicians Dimebag Darrell and Ol’ Dirty Bastard both lost their lives in 2004. Darrell Lance Abbott, also known as Diamond Darrell, and Dimebag Darrell, was shot to death while performing on stage in Columbus Ohio by a deranged fan who blamed the guitarist for the breakup of Pantera, the band that Darrell and his brother Vinnie Paul were best known for. 3 other people were also killed in the attack. The attack changed the nightclub business in America, bringing far broader security actions. Russell Tyrone Jones, also known as Ol’ Dirty Bastard, also passed away in 2004 as a result of a drug overdose. Jones’ recently erratic behavior had been in discussion before his death with concerns of possible mental illness. As with most celebrity drug related deaths, Jones’ passing drew attention to the enabling nature of the entertainment industry.
Veronica Mars – Neo Noir and Snark
Skipped by many as just another teen drama, Veronica Mars struggled in its run before establishing itself as a post mortem cultural milestone. Veronica Mars seemingly borrowed its wit and use of a strong female lead from the Whedon school of showrunning, while calling back to film noir detective stories for the basis of its plot. Shot in and around San Diego, Veronica Mars used the unique setting to its advantage in its story of a town on the edge of class warfare. Veronica Mars suffered as a TV series at the time it originally aired, but the franchise broke records when the series creator turned to Kickstarter to fund a Veronica Mars movie. The Kickstarter campaign raised nearly 6 million dollars, even though its goal was only 2 million, which was raised in under 12 hours.
Deadwood – The Linguistically Victorian Western
Deadwood came to HBO in 2004 from Showrunner David Milch. The series is perhaps best remembered for its use of language, which contrasted elegant and eloquent victorian structure, with some of the most shocking and vile profanity ever heard by human ears. Performances were also an important part of Deadwood, most notably those of Ian McShane as Al Swearengen, and Timothy Olyphant as Seth Bullock. McShane played Swearengen with equal parts gravitas and sleaze, deeply intelligent, and cunningly ruthless. Olyphant played Bullock as an uncompromising force of anger seething just below the skin of a just man. Unfortunately, Deadwood’s Creator/Showrunner wanted to pursue other projects, and so Deadwood came to a rather abrupt end with its second season. The show that Milch left Deadwood for, John from Cincinnati, never gained the traction that Deadwood had, and was cancelled after its first season.
LOST – Cryptic Mystery and Structural Brilliance
LOST burst out of nowhere onto televisions everywhere in 2004. LOST was completely uncompromising in its serialized ambitions, and turned a basic storytelling tool, the flashback, into an art form. If you have been to our site before, you know that we are huge fans of LOST here, we even had an entire week of coverage of the show in celebration of its 10 year anniversary. We are unashamed of our adoration of LOST. In my personal opinion, LOST was the biggest turning point in the current golden age of television. LOST wasn’t the best written show, and it didn’t have the highest production values, nor the best performances, but it did all of those things extremely well, and a few more things as well. The music, for example, was perhaps the best in TV history, every episode was live orchestrated, and the orchestra used pieces of the show’s largest prop, a deconstructed Lockheed 1011 airplane that doubled as a Boeing 777 in the series. Where LOST really excelled though, was in its sheer ambition.
LOST’s arrival changed the way viewers looked at television. Though not sports programming, or any other sort of live appointment TV event, LOST became the talk around the office water cooler everyday after it aired. LOST never insulted its audience, never giving us more than we needed to know what was going on. In essence, LOST destroyed the idea of the idiot box, that TV had to be something to pacify its audiences. Though the ending of the series proved divisive, the impact the series had is unquestionable. LOST changed the way we looked at, and talked about, television.
2004, thanks largely to LOST, was the turning point in which smart serialized television proved itself mainstream and marketable. Stay with us throughout the holidays as we explore more years of our current golden age. Participate in the discussion in our comments, and stay tuned to TVEnthusiast for more coverage of all of your favorite shows.