The Revolution Was Televised (And Recapped)

In The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever, longtime critic and blogger Alan Sepinwall deftly tells the stories of twelve shows—from Oz to The Wire, Friday Night Lights to Mad Men—that helped transform television from cultural also-ran to the dominant medium of the first decade of the 21st century (give or take a few years). But the book is also, in its way, the story of another, complementary upheaval: the revolution in how television is covered.

So, it’s no surprise that The Revolution Was Televised has made media news of its own, rising out of the ranks of self-published books to receive a New York Times review and a spot on Michiko Kakutani’s Top Ten Books of 2012. (It was recently picked up by the Touchstone imprint of Simon and Schuster.) Here he talked to GQ about revolutions within revolutions:

GQ: Why do you think the networks have done such a better job staying innovative and sophisticated with comedies, as opposed to drama?

Alan Sepinwall: I don’t want to say that comedy is easier, because it’s not; you know the old saying, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” But at the same time, if something is funny it can more easily reach more people than something dramatic. You know, The Office was a really big hit for a while. Regardless of what it was saying about society and the media and all that, it was just Steve Carell being really, really funny.

GQ: Of the shows you left out, which have had the most vocal lobbies?

Alan Sepinwall: I’ve heard a lot about The West Wing. I have nothing against The West Wing, it was a great show. But it represented the past, as far as I was concerned: one of the last of the traditionally structured prestige network dramas. I’m asked a lot about Six Feet Under, too, and certainly there were persuasive arguments to be made for including it. I just didn’t want to do every single HBO show from that period and I just preferred the other four—Oz, The Sopranos, The Wire and Deadwood.

GQ: So where do you see the next frontier?

Alan Sepinwall: I’m interested in seeing what Netflix is going to do. I want to see if House of Cards is good, if Arrested Development is as good as it used to be. I also want to see how people react, because it’s going to change the nature of viewing things. And the nature of reviewing them, as well, because they’re putting all the episodes up at once. I’m not going to be able to review thirteen episodes of House of Cards before the first episode airs. It’s just not logistically feasible.