Do you remember the “golden age” of television?
It was a concept that arguably started with The Sopranos in 1999 and kicked off with shows like The Wire, Lost, and Deadwood in the mid-2000s. Massive productions that could match Hollywood in terms of budget and of scale.
But that was just the beginning.. Towards the end of the decade it was Breaking Bad and Mad Men, later it was and The Walking Dead. Eventually, the idea that television played second fiddle to the cinematic experience began to erode and crumble.
The golden age of television never really ended. It kept going to the point where the sentence stopped making sense. “Prestige TV,” or whatever you want to call it, was just the new normal: content that pushed the boundaries of what was possible. Fresh ideas, great writing, world-class performances. This quality is the basis now. There are grown adults who have literally no understanding of what it was like to search for remains via shows like Twin Peaks or The X-Files.
2021 has been one of the best for TV that I can remember. Already. yellow jackets,The White Lotus, Succession, Dopesick, Arcane, Midnight Mass. That’s before we even start talking about the superhero shows they keep falling on .
It’s just a year! ONLY ONE YEAR!
Incredibly, 2022 has not given up. What brings us – ultimately — to the show I want to talk about now:.
Severance is a science fiction show about, set in a barely explained universe where a process called “severance” allows employees to split into two separate entities: a self at work, which only exists during office hours, and a self at home, which is completely separate from work. The work ego has no understanding or memory of what happens outside the office, and vice versa.
At its core, Severance is a high-level concept show focused on exploring that original idea — of divided lives and an artificially imposed and physically induced work-life balance. But despite its uniquely elevated concept, Severance also plays to tropes established over the past 20 years of prestige television.
It operates on several levels. Severance is definitely a “mystery box” show, like Lost. There’s a central mystery to solve, and the show feeds the audience information, playing Reddit sleuths who like to figure out twists before they happen.
But Severance subverts that by being so…extremely funny. It never takes itself as seriously as a show like. He never wallows in his own importance. In many ways, Severance draws inspiration (but also parodies) from shows like The Office, which celebrate the day-to-day of office life.
The cast of Adam Scott, who has spent years on office-like Parks and Recreation, plays a crucial role here and helps deepen the disparity. Severance features a clean, minimalist desktop, much like the one you might see on Parks and Recreation, but all is not what it seems.
This is what makes Severance special. It becomes compelling like Lost and funny like The Office. It becomes lyrical about the human condition, but also manages to parody the era of which it is a part. In many ways, Severance is the first post-prestige television classic. He does everything.
Severance isn’t flashy, it doesn’t have to establish its greatness with serious monologues or soaring orchestral soundtracks. It’s a show that gets its cake and eats it. Severance is informed by the classics that came before it, but feels distinct from them. A show that swallows and digests everything we’ve consumed in the past 20 years and spits it out like a fully-formed vomit masterpiece that subverts the kind of television we’ve grown accustomed to over the past two decades.
However, Severance only lasts one season. Promising shows have already collapsed. Even a show as well formed as Severance could collapse under public expectations. They could ruin everything.
But I have great faith in Severance. He has the example of shows like Lost and Westworld to learn from. We know what could be mistaken. If Severance keeps its narrative tight and stays true to what made the show so compelling in the first place, we could witness greatness. If nothing else, Severance is my favorite show of 2022 so far and – for my money – the best show on Apple TV.
Movies coming in 2022 from Marvel, Netflix, DC and more
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