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Airing in Plain Sight

Forget about Peak TV. Welcome to our package celebrating anti-prestige, anti–water cooler, anti-content.

Ringer illustration
Ringer illustration

There’s so much TV. Peak TV. Mad TV. All the TV. Network, premium, basic cable, streaming. Some 1,400 shows aired during prime time last year — scripted and unscripted, original content and preexisting I.P., expanded universes and boutiquey, cult-of-personality vanity projects. So how come, if we are gathered at this all-you-can-watch television buffet, it feels like everyone is hovering around the croutons, chatting about Stranger Things?

As our options grow, our conversations shrink; because of that, we see the TV monoculture get a little less monolithic. This makes sense if you think about it. The only thing worse than listening to someone tell you about a show you haven’t watched is hearing them describe their dreams. Series evangelism is becoming more and more difficult because possible converts — your friends, neighbors, coworkers, people in group text and email threads — are dealing with their own already-crippling TV-watching habit with its own curated, personalized, multi-device delivery schedule. Is Sunday night still the heavyweight main event of the TV week? Or is it whenever you fire up Netflix, Amazon, Apple TV, or log into a network-specific on-demand service? Or maybe it’s when you finally make your way through your DVR?

A few times a year a show will come along — Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, The Night Of, Stranger Things, Atlanta — and it will feel like everyone is watching at the same time and talking about the same thing for a few weeks or months. Maybe the show has an element of mystery that captivates us, activating our inner sleuth or turning us into Targaryen paternity experts. Or perhaps, as in the case of Stranger Things, the show spawns a cultural sensation — be it the music, the fashion, or the offscreen personas of the performers — and we get swept up in it. A Barb will rise; we will blog.

All the content and conversation centers on these select shows (even if the ratings don’t always reflect the interest). Then that moment goes away and we all scatter to our little corners, our recaps, our cloistered sub-Reddits littered with theories and spoilers, free to talk and think about our shows in a weird kind of public privacy.

Well, not this week. This week, The Ringer is celebrating the shows we don’t talk about enough, the ones airing in plain sight. These are shows enjoyed by many people but not talked about (at least around here) quite enough. We’re looking at the actors, writers, showrunners, and personalities who make the reality shows, doctor shows, DC Universe shows, baking shows, morning shows, game shows, home improvement shows, sitcoms, procedurals, action-packed thrill rides, and late-night joke and gabfests that exist just outside of the critical discourse. We talk about TV all the time, but we hardly talk about all the TV. This week, we’re going to at least try to talk about more of it than usual. Fall back, Barb. You’re not the only show in town.