Television has changed significantly since the 90s. Some of the ways are obvious, (i.e., greater access to channels and the significant growth of cable television series). Today, one could argue that cable series are better all around than network series. Here are eight ways TV shows have changed since the 90s.
1. From 90s Gloss to Today's Grittiness
Television in the 90s was airbrushed. From the gorgeous 28-year-old high school students in Beverly Hills 90210 to the forlorn teenagers trying to survive their own angst in Dawson's Creek, the settings were picturesque and breathtaking. In Party of Five, the world's hottest sibling orphans fought to make it alone. Today, we like our TV edgy and rough. It's less Sex and the City and more Girls.
2. The Rise of Cable Scripted Series
Today, cable owns television originality. Because of HBO, Showtime, FX, and AMC, to name a few, cable scripted series having given network shows a run for their money. Cable shows have the ability to incorporate more edge and brutality. Hence the rise of shows like Homeland, Justified, Boardwalk Empire, and Mad Men, to name a few.
3. Cop Shows Have a Bite
Law and Order and NYPD Blue were the mainstays of 90s cop shows. All hell broke loose with the debut of FX's The Shield. The rules were broken, cases were not solved in an hour, and the heroes were antiheroes at the same time. The Wire revolutionized the cop drama, and no one has been able to catch up since.
4. Outlaws Are the New Heroes
The 90s gave us Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life. Today we have Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead, shows where those living on the fringes of society are the main focus. Biker gangs, meth dealers, and zombie killers prove no outlaw is too far out of bounds.
5. Reality Insanity
The 90s gave us The Real World. But somewhere along the way, someone decided that everything was fair game on TV. From the Bachelor to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, we've crossed a line from fake "reality" to freak show loving voyeurism.
6. Goodbye Sitcom Laugh Tracks
Sitcoms have gotten a makeover. On Friends, Seinfeld, and Frasier, the laugh track was a staple. Today, New Girl, Happy Endings, Modern Family, and a host of others are single camera documentary style shows.
7. From Ally McBeal to Patty Hewes
The female lawyer has evolved since the 90s. Ally McBeal was about a quirky single lawyer, who went into law without having an interest in it. Damages brought us Patty Hewes, a ruthless legal mind with blood all over her hands. Duplicity is the name of the game today.
8. Ryan Murphy
Ryan Murphy deserves his own category. From Popular, to Nip/Tuck, and American Horror Story, he has single-handedly changed how we view television. He brings everything from gruesome to Glee and throws it all out on the table. Love him or hate him, he's the new American television puppet master.