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Is the Golden Age of TV over? It is according to Sopranos creator David Chase, and here's why

Audiences are too distracted and networks too risk-averse, says the showrunner

Screenshot from The Sopranos
Image credit: HBO

For about the last 25 years, TV has supplanted films as the go-to place for great entertainment. Called the "Golden Era of TV" by many critics, this period spawned shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Wire, with many ascribing its origins to the premiere of The Sopranos on HBO in 1999. Now, the man behind The Sopranos says that the golden age is dead and gone.

David Chase laments the passing of the era he helped usher in, saying that the iconic drama about a New Jersey mafia boss wouldn’t be commissioned today due to risk-averse network executives. He told The Times that a project he is currently shopping to networks about a high-end sex worker who enters witness protection has been called too complex for television.

“We’re going back to where I was,” he explained, referring to the climate of television in the mid-90s. “They’re going to have commercials… and I’ve already been told to dumb it down.” He added that he felt the corporate arm of entertainment was once again the priority, making commissioning executives wary of taking on challenging properties. “Who is this all really for? I guess the stockholders.”

Chase doesn’t give viewers a pass, either. “As the human race goes on, we are more into multitasking. Your phone is just one symptom, but who can really focus? Your mother could be dying and you are by her hospital bed taking calls.”

The issue of risk-averse executives could contribute to shows like Our Flag Means Death meeting an early end, but we would argue that shows like Yellowstone and True Detective are evidence that there is still an audience for complicated, deep dramas on TV. It feels like a case that there are fewer of these shows being commissioned, causing networks to assume there isn’t an appetite for them, which means fewer of them get made in an ongoing cycle, which has brought the Golden Era of TV to a slow and unfortunate end.

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