It’s been a bittersweet experience watching the last seven episodes of Pen15 (available on Sky Comedy and Now in the UK and Hulu in the US), the embarrassing high school comedy that watches thirty-something comics. Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle play 13-year-old versions of themselves (amid a cast of real teens). The show is as bright and invigorating as ever, filled with teenage angst, wacky humor, and the occasional moment of devastating drama. But until these episodes came, there was no indication that they would be the last of the show.
When that news broke, the assumption was that Pen15, a little-seen but critically beloved comedy, had been canceled, but that it was not the case: Erskine and Konkle have just had children and have many other engagements (Erskine is in the next Obi-Wan Kenobi series; Konkle is writing a memoir), so they were aware that they were burning and what’s more importantly, they felt they had been told. the history of its characters. Still, it’s hard not to feel like Pen15 is gone too soon.
This is a fairly common feeling these days. The promise of the streaming revolution was that you would get more of what you wanted, when you wanted it, and the expectation was that that would extend to shows that could tell their stories in as many series as needed. After all, one of Netflix’s first moves was to revive the beloved and prematurely canceled show Arrested Development (a move that didn’t turn out so well). However, in reality, the length of a series in the streaming age tends to be quite short. We really should have seen it coming: Streaming platforms, with their algorithmic models based on figuring out who is watching your content, where, when, and why, are always likely to make ruthless decisions about when to cut a show. In fact, Netflix has been particularly brutal in this regard (Glow, we hardly knew you).
But Pen15 illustrates another reason shows don’t stick around long: talent. Creating television, particularly in an age when quite a few shows resemble blockbuster movies in scope and budget, is an intense and painstaking experience, which is why the old model of series slowly moving toward its sixth, seventh or Eighth year hardly feels fit for purpose (At this point it’s hard to imagine a show like Succession, so operationally packed each week, being able to sustain that intensity for another five or six years). And, of course, these days television has become a desirable place for Hollywood celebrities, whose schedules, not to mention salaries, do not fit in very well with the epics of various series.
That is why, in the last half decade, we have witnessed the rise of the limited series or miniseries: self-contained stories that are told in 10 episodes or less. A superstar like Kate Winslet may take on Mare of Easttown knowing she won’t give up her life to a multi-series show. And that’s also why there has been an increase in anthology shows like American Crime Story or Black Mirror, with a different cast in every series or even episode.
Brevity also has its benefits: attracting a higher caliber talent (e.g. Barry Jenkins directing all 10 episodes of The Underground Railroad) and allowing its creators to tell ambitious, well-constructed stories, without any of the wheel turns or cliffhangers. forced that might need a longer and baggy show. These programs do not exceed their reception. Surprisingly, of the top three shows on The Guardian’s list of Best TV Shows in 2021, two were limited series (Mare of Easttown, It’s a Sin) and one was an anthology series (The White Lotus, whose second season will have a different setting and cast). , including, in an exciting way, Michael Imperioli of the Sopranos).
Still, it’s hard not to feel a twinge of regret over the television we’ve missed: Those vast “novelistic” series like The Sopranos and The Wire aren’t necessarily gone, but they’re certainly harder to make. (Although it should be noted that on the American television “network,” the never-ending spectacle is still the model, in the form of procedural like CSI or sitcoms like The Simpsons). And it’s hard not to feel sad also about shows that disappeared just as they seemed to be moving forward. I personally could have seen … oh, 15 other Pen15 series.
CLOCK On the subject of shows ending too early, Toast of London fell into that group when it apparently ended in 2017. But now Beeb and Netflix revived Matt Berry’s parody theater actor for Toast of Tinseltown, following Steven’s hesitation. Toast while trying to break Hollywood. You can see the whole series. in iPlayer.
LISTEN Anyone who has caught last year’s replacement for Glasto at Live from Worthy Farm will already be familiar with Smile, Radiohead is investigating Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood’s new side project with Tom Skinner (from the fantastic jazz futurists Sons of Kemet). Now they’ve released their first single You Will Never Work in Television Again, and it’s a blast: a surprisingly fuzzy slice of garage rock. The band is also playing some live broadcasts at the end of the month. Tickets here.
ADVANCE TO Wondery’s new documentary podcast Operator has a vibrant theme: the phone sex boom of the 1990s. Following the rise and fall of the largest 1-900 company in the US, it tells the forgotten stories of women who warmed callers with just their voices.
You guide her
Last week I shared my most anticipated culture by 2022 and asked you to do the same. Here are some of its highlights:
I’m ridiculously excited for the Shonda Rhimes series. Inventing Anna on Netflix. The case of Anna Delvey, the fake heiress who scammed a high-flying group in New York, has been a bit culturally important, but I found the Anna X with Emma Corrin play, which was presented in London last July, a bit. arty and abstract for my liking. Hope Shonda can make it a little more soapy, and maybe just as much fun as Bridgerton. Amber Richardson
The gallows postBenjamin Myers’ brutal tale of an 18th century minting gang in Yorkshire always seemed like it was made for a television adaptation. It’s even more exciting because Shane Meadows is adapting, using a large cast of unknowns. Harry Phillips
How can you ignore Dr dreWhat’s the next album on the show? If Kendrick will release an album, Dr Dre certainly will, with the Super Bowl slot already confirmed. It will be a great year for hip-hop. Paul Carter
This week I want to hear from you in shows that ended too soon. What excellent but short-lived series do you miss the most? Let me know by emailing me here or replying to this email.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism