The Death of Television

Netflix, the Internet, and Cultural Conversation

Michael Kemp

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Picture this. A family are preparing their dinner. Let’s imagine a nuclear family, with the boy and girl laying the table as the parents take different-sized baking trays out of the oven. The children have now laid out the cutlery and sit with anticipation as their father comes over to spoon vegetables onto their plate. The mother, wearing thick oven gloves, serves a portion of steaming shepherd’s pie to each of her children while inveigling the picky eaters to take more of what they don’t like. When everyone has food, they all finally sit down. If they’re old fashioned, they pray before eating. Either way, as fork and knife begin to scrape food and plate, one of the family turns the television on (if it was not already on). As the evening news comes on, they eat in attentive silence.
           It’s been a terrible year. Their television, tucked away against a back wall but visible to everyone eating, has been transmitting an endless stream of misery: Russia has invaded and besieged an old territory to reconstitute its power; whole families and cities to the East have been carpet-bombed to rubble; covert video shows young black men being attacked by American police for no apparent reason; renowned men who spoke lyrically of unity and hope shocked the world by dying before their time, and to add to it all, the American presidential election has led to a mutiny during the Democratic National Convention and a fear-mongering, truth-bending demagogue being chosen as the Republican nominee. And he has a fair chance of winning. During this momentous upheaval, the television has been a reliable purveyor of information that seems to both stabilise and horror with its daily reportage.
           This scene is not set in the current day, but it could well be. Despite the apparent references to 2016, these are just some of the major events of 1968. Although this type of rhetorical subterfuge is a little hokey, it does show that, despite the advent of the internet and the era of “accelerated time”, the particulars may have changed but the circumstances have not. Subtract Ukraine for Czechoslovakia, Syria for Vietnam, and Donald Trump for Richard Nixon, and a sudden comfort arises in noticing how 2016 may not be as uniquely awful as has been feared. The role of television has also played just as influential a role as it had beforehand, despite the near half-century that has passed since then.
           However, that too is changing. Television, itself, is changing, and the consequences for our culture have not been truly examined. Television may still be seminal concerning current affairs journalism, but it’s main output has defiantly turned towards entertainment. While Adorno, Horkheimer, and David Foster Wallace have dissected the negative aspects of televisual entertainment and its effects on society, watching television for entertainment has persisted and is still the norm. Moving pictures have become a stable of human culture, however over the last decade, the medium of that entertainment has largely shifted from the television to the internet. Yet, against the back wall of a kitchen, or a living room, or even a bedroom, the television set is still in its place, a verifiable presence in the home despite its supposedly fading influence. What will remain of television (and us, as a culture) is something I wish to explore.

The gloomy tone of voice around television seems a little bit overdone. After all, since last year analysts and industry insiders have been availing of the term “Peak TV” to describe the current situation. There are more good scripted shows than ever and it is almost impossible to miss them. Being able to record programmes, catch up on the previous week’s television, or else watch an entire series on a streaming service has meant that forgotten gems can no longer be forgotten in the first place, slow-burning shows can grow their audience while still on the air, and the viewer now has more choice than ever before. Niche television programming may no longer be shunted into the wilderness by nefarious executives and, as Kevin Spacey remarked in his 2013 MacTaggart Lecture, “the audience wants the control”.
           However, the turn of phrase “Peak TV” is not a ringing endorsement. FX president and general manager Jeff Landgraf has used the term to refer to an encroaching apocalypse, last August declaring that the “Peak TV” bubble will have burst by 2019. It should be acknowledged that Landgraf is not an old curmudgeon bitter about the loss of control or else jealous of the success of streaming services. FX has a remarkably positive relationship with Netflix, possibly the most influential and revolutionary of these services, with FX having seen huge boons to their shows Archer, Sons of Anarchy, American Horror Story, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia due to being streamed on that service. Yet in the last year, he has repeatedly backed his prognosis through acknowledging both the economic and cultural phenomena that show symptoms of an oncoming illness among television’s rude health. And it could be fatal.
           He states in particular that “there are more shows being made that can be sustained economically” and that “it’s harder to launch shows, and I think it’s harder for consumers to see good shows.” Last August, he suggested that not only the economic but the cultural element of television has become muddled, stating that “we’ve lost much of the thread of collective conversation of which shows are good, which shows are great”. Whatever about Landgraf’s possible bias, his pronouncements have echoed the feelings and suspicions that I’ve had about television for a long time. Maybe it’s time to take a step back and actually look at television culture for what it is. Now, I am not someone who watches monstrous amounts of television a day, but I watch enough of both Netflix and traditional television channels to know the culture and how it features in everyday life. The ambition here is to approach television culture through a ground level experience but with a close eye on the broader systemic movements that fundamentally shape the television programmes that we watch and talk about. This isn’t just to see if Landgraf’s points equate with the experience of a consumer, or more simply just a person in the world, but try to entangle the current state of television culture as it has been stretched, changed, and accelerated by the internet. Hopefully, this article will be able to actually observe the thing we’ve been watching.

It’s vital to talk about Netflix. It’s the exemplar for streaming services and its successes and flaws. Not only that, but its model and the economics behind have completely changed the landscape of how television is consumed, and thus the culture surrounding it. Founded in 1997 in California, the company was initially a DVD rent-by-mail business where orders were taken on their website. It was only in 1999 that the subscription model was introduced, allowing unlimited rentals for a flat monthly fee. This business model has undoubtedly been the driving force behind its success: in 2002, the New York Times reported the company was posting 190,000 discs per day across the United States. In 2010, possibly to handle the huge amount of growth and demand for media, it set up a streaming service that saw them paying 200 million dollars to major film studios for the rights to their output. Only a year later, the streaming service became so popular that Netflix reported a turnover of 1.5 billion dollars in its third quarter. The company also announced the first of its “Netflix Originals”, in-house developed programmes that would exclusively air on the service, launching House of Cards before year’s end. Just this year, Forbes valued the company to be worth over $40 billion. For perspective, that’s more than double the value of Deutsche Bank.
           Netflix’s popularity seems based on a preternatural ability to predict certain trends. It’s initial rental business jumped on the demand for online shopping, while subscription service answered the urges for entertainment on-demand but also value for money. Even the streaming service was introduced at the right time, when internet stability would be able to stream long videos without much visual degradation. However, the area where it has had its greatest impact has been the television series. It is hard to tell whether television series were popular rentals on the original rental service, but streaming was able to capitalise on the trend of “boxsetting” (i.e. watching an entire DVD boxset of a television show in long sessions) but with greater ease as there was no longer a need to change the DVDs every few episodes or pay the extortionate cost of the typical boxset. Most single seasons of a show still cost around €20 to €30, while all series of a show can set you back upwards of €80 to €100-plus. Netflix’s flat rate of €10 appears like an oasis in comparison. Thus, with the huge amount of series affordably available and more accessible than ever, the golden age of television consuming began. Quality dramas such as The Sopranos or Breaking Bad had whole series made available and able to watch at any time, meaning more people were able to watch a show than ever. Also, with the rise of social media, the new devotees of television were more able to write and publicise what they were watching online. It would appear that everyone’s a winner: the makers of the programmes have grown their potential audience by a huge amount, the consumer has more available to them than ever, and Netflix is able to profit from the service.
           However, there are some big losers in this scenario: the television networks and studios. While it is very easy to sneer at television executives as suits who know nothing about creativity, as a profession, they are incredibly sensitive and responsive to criticism. Ultimately, they are not as bold with large amounts of money as film studios, often developing programmes within a rigorous structure and with ideas of how to grow and develop the shows that they launch.
           Under the American model of television production (which, with the exception of the soon-disappearing methods of the BBC, is the standard across the world), a fledgling television series first has to have its initial episode script read by several executives and had notes taken in response. Then, a “pilot” episode is made and aired. Depending on further feedback from executives or various creatives who are involved with a network, a five episode run will be made where, after their airing date, further feedback – such as critical reaction or viewing figures – will be factored in and the style and direction of the show is shaped accordingly. Although this may sound like an incredibly stifling process, when it works, it really works. A contemporary example would be Marvel’s Agents of Shield, whose initial five-episode run was panned for its “adventure of the week” plot structure and goofy tone, that with its sixth episode a series-long arc was established and the show struck a more consistent tone. It is now rated as “93% Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes.
           This model, while flawed (the Nielsen ratings, the most prominent statisticians of television viewing, seem to represent an older, white conservative sensibility; executive meddling at the pilot stage can often lead to original content being homogenised; judging a show over five episodes would negate the possibility of a "building stage" for a plot-orientated programs, to list a few) but it strives to work in data, in certainty, with a constant consideration for revenue at its heart. Essentially, television's process is about progress – the ability to guarantee its ability to keep on moving. Most of the entertainment industry relies on “loss-leaders”, a big summer blockbuster or else a best-selling album that will make enough money to cover the smaller, widespread losses of a given year. In contract, television has always kept a robust, considered attitude. In a way, the amount of attention paid to the various types of feedback, this ages-old, ultra-self-conscious method of programme development was perfect for the Age of Information and social media.
           However, to a great degree of irony, Netflix, the quintessential broadcaster of the information age, chooses not to share any of the data that networks would rely on. There is simply no way to tell whether a show is popular on the platform bar the “Trending on Netflix” tab of its website or else the volume of its mentions on social media. This intransigence is not due to any moral notion, but to strengthen Netflix’s bargaining position with major networks. When the streaming aspect of Netflix was originally launched, video-streaming online was severely underestimated due to the ubiquity of televisions in homes but also the shoddy picture quality. The company was able to secure licenses at an incredibly reasonable price as the perception remained that it was a minority who would want to watch muddy video on a laptop screen. Soon after, the further advancement of the internet and the eventual deployment of fibre-powered broadband had initiated an entertainment revolution. I remember hearing that, due to the amount of licences Netflix had secured in America, Satellite television packages were being cancelled across the country as the service simply had everything bar live programmes. The old television set was being connected to a laptop or else replaced by a compact projector.
           This made the television studios quite annoyed. While viewing figures had been declining across the board due to the popularity of a nebulously entertaining internet, they now had a company they could claim responsible for their decline that they could also hurt. Not only had Netflix ripped them off while effectively killing the golden goose that had been DVD sales, but the falling rate of satellite television subscriptions would damage advertising sales, the industry’s lifeblood, and the networks were not even able to find out which of their shows were even popular. If ratings had originally been low for a show while it was on the air, DVD sales could have revealed it to have been more popular than the Nielsen ratings had suggested, as was the case with Family Guy. Given the information-orientated process of the networks, as well as recognising the blossoming of a phenomenon, they have sought to regain their foothold. While some have simply tried to wager for a better deal, other networks have established their own rival services to exclusively stream their programs. The most prominent in the United States might be HBO NOW, but in the UK & Irish territories, Channel 4 and BBC programming has been taken off of Netflix to benefit 4OD & iPlayer respectively, while SkyTV has signed an exclusive deal with HBO and so The Wire, The Sopranos,and Game of Thrones have also been removed from the service. There have also been well-funded challengers to Netflix who threaten to usurp its unique selling point. Amazon Prime and Yahoo Screen, both the products of internet oligarchs, had the financial might to challenge the original through offering a similar, subscription-based service that features critically-acclaimed original programming. With such a variety of opposition, Netflix has had to reconsider how it can continue its much in-demand service. It appears to have decided not to.
           In recent press releases, the company has begun to explain how it hopes to prioritise its own original programming over any other network’s. The popularity of the shows House of Cards and Orange is the New Black has made it seem like a sensible strategy that would avoid paying large amounts to the networks for licenses. However, it also defeats Netflix’s main appeal: it had everything to such an extent that, as long as you didn’t care for live sport or televised news, it was a genuine alternative to watching TV. This new, original-content orientation sounds like an only-online version of HBO, the subscription-driven television channel that has become the byword for quality television drama. Yet Netflix has far more competition or financial pressure than HBO ever did when it started in 1972. Going further, this strategy appears full of holes the more it is examined. While Netflix is proudly investing more money into its original programming, the television shows and films it will lose will turn off current subscribers who came for these “third party” programs. There’s also the question of whether this method will grow the number of Netflix subscribers: while the first season of House of Cards saw an increase of three million new subscribers, its second season inspired less than half that. And growing the subscriber base is vital to the company obtaining some balance to the company’s finances.
           Surprisingly for so ubiquitous a company, Netflix is saddled with a debt estimated to be around one billion dollars. Landgraf has already voiced concern over how the company “doesn’t make any significant amount of profit” and warned that “something has got to give”, yet it is tempting to draw similarities between Netflix and the music-streaming site Spotify. Although both of these services are incredibly popular, there seems to be basic faults within their business models that are forgiven either due to their innovation or popularity. Netflix, however, with its initial re-invention of television watching and capitulation to being its own online network, along with its precarious finances, may leave the industry in a precarious position.
           If this is truly “Peak TV”, let’s consider how one is actually able to watch all of this ground-breaking and excellent television: fundamentally, a Sky+ TV package would be the best option to watch television shows live or record them, but is also necessary to stream HBO programs; then, the subscription to Netflix to see all 167 new films and shows the service is planning to launch in 2016 alone; then there is the subscription with Amazon Prime to watch the ground-breaking Transparent as well as promising new shows I Love Dick and the Top Gear­ reincarnation that is The Grand Tour; then, there may be more niche programming, such as Community on the somewhat defunct Yahoo Screen, or even the innovative new comedy programs appearing on Seeso; then, if you have already factored in and are now paying the different monthly subscriptions with a particular “third party” program in mind, it may well disappear into the ether as license agreements are re-negotiated (as has happened with The Wire on Sky TV earlier this year), so maybe keep some money available so that buying the DVD boxset of a particular series is still an option. Now, who can really pay for all that TV in good conscience? Who is actually willing to watch that much critically-acclaimed and popular television?
           In essence, television has become a diffracted landscape of myriad shows that is more exclusionary and expensive than ever before. While in this current moment, where tech monopolies have become far too prevalent, a single source for streaming would be welcome. One place for all programming for an affordable price. That can no longer be the case, and the initial issues surrounding the enjoyment of television as culture will most likely be exacerbated but also combined with the consequences of more recent developments.
           Simply put: what are the cultural costs to television with this glut of programming being produced? And, furthermore, is watching television even worth it?

Probably the biggest change to television culture in the last few years has been how its watched. I am not simply referring to whether on a television or laptop screen, nor even the boxset mentality of binge marathons, but how it has become an isolated activity. Everyone now watches their own shows in their own time, disconnected from a broader cultural nexus, or even conversation. While the medium may have been a unifier for most of its lifespan (there are many examples of a programme becoming a communal observation, from the final episode of Friends to the live footage of September 11th), to follow a show in modern times is necessarily a solitary pursuit as there is simply so much television available to watch, the only restrictions lying in what services you have subscribed to. When television was based around a few major television channels that were available to all, its cultural cache was incredibly high because, even if the programmes themselves may not have been of the highest quality, the shows that were popular defiantly could be seen to be referring to the culture at large. It is hard to speak of culture in Reagan’s America without making reference to Dallas, or maybe the 1990’s without referring to Seinfeld. This may sound glib and cliché, but these shows truly had more purchase in the real world than The Big Bang Theory (the most watched non-sports programme in 2015) will ever do simply due to market share. On an episode of the podcast Harmontown, the comedian Jeff Davis lamented how television shows simply don’t contribute to the zeitgeist like they used to. He used an example stating how, if you didn’t like a particular co-worker, you could always ask if they watched the episode of Cheers or Seinfeld from the night before and talk about what happened. Nowadays, such a conversation wouldn’t be possible due to the huge array of choice available. The fabled “water cooler moment” is on its deathbed. Television may have been a social lubricant but it’s gone dry.
           In my own experience, it’s best to simply avoid discussing television at parties or social gatherings. It’s a pointless pursuit. Not only is it an issue whether people have the same subscriptions, but even if we watch the same shows, we may be in completely different stages of a series. There is such a fear of “spoilers” that simply talking about the developments of a show are negated in case a later revelation is ruined. Often the joys of the water cooler moment had come from discussing what will occur, as opposed to what has occurred. One of the most notorious of these was Dallas’s “Who Shot JR?”, and you can imagine that the conversation was fuelled by speculation and hypothesising over the shooter than what had happened to JR. In the new solitary enjoyment of television, the most likely chance of being able to talk with someone about a favourite programme will be when both have finished the show in its entirety or its most recent season. In this scenario, there is very little chance to speculate what will happen next, as the main, compelling drive of the series has been resolved (unless it ends on a cliffhanger, although such an approach usually inspires anger or fatigue, as has been the case with BBC’s Sherlock). All issues have been put to bed and the conversation mainly consists of talking about the show in a vague, generalised manner, the conversation becoming an ad hoc review of the programme – “I found the arc about so-and-so extremely compelling”; “I was on the edge of my seat until I found out what happened”; etc. 
           Arguably, speculation is one of the biggest drives of modern conversation and culture. If one is not talking about a television series, then maybe normal people among friends or pundits on television or in print will speculate about sports (“Will Mourinho be sacked?”, “Can Chelsea win the league?”) or politics (“Does Trump have what it takes to be President?”, “What does Brexit ‘mean’?”). Meanwhile, diehard fans seem driven to shares ideas of what could happen within a show, hence the rising popularity of fanfiction online. The drive for speculation is so great, that one can see how it affects the conversation around two of the biggest dramas of the year – Game of Thrones and Stranger Things.
           Game of Thrones, despite its boxset popularity, is a show that benefits from the usual format of being aired on television at a set time. Fans rush to watch the show when it first comes out, international audiences even illegally downloading the show so that they can keep up with the plot twists and character assassinations that drive the show’s “anything goes” approach to story. The urge to see the show at the same time as everyone else is driven by the opportunity to be a part of the wider speculation/conversation of the show, and to avoid being left out of the watercooler moment the next day. The conversation is also wide and diverse, with many essays and opinion pieces in major media outlets being sparked by the show’s plotlines and themes. The show has become so prevalent that certain episodes such as the “Red Wedding” are known to non-viewers of the show and have become an idiom within the zeitgeist.
           With Stranger Things, a Netflix Original Series, most of the conversation (apart from the banal praise of the show as a mixture of Steven Spielberg and Stephen King) has centred around the loose ends of the show. With the finale’s muted cliffhanger hinting towards a second series, the conversation around the show has revolved around whether a second series is even needed since closure had been provided in practically every storyline. The other point of interest has been certain holes in the show’s narrative, particularly the fate of the character Barb who simply disappeared from the season’s focus. This is more of a discussion of the deficiencies of the show – its few occasions of not-great writing – yet is spoken of by genuine fans. In a way, talking about the deficiencies is the only way to approach the show, as you have to rate and marvel at how it was all wrapped up. The ad hoc review becomes the main way to casually talk about a show.
           This stilted conversation around one’s own shows can lead to antipathy towards more popular shows. While a show like Game of Thrones may be incredibly popular, being left out of its fandom is frustrating for the more-than-casual television viewer. While television has become a solitary pursuit, the innately human desire for community still burns strong, yet the scorning of this desire is more widespread than ever. To give a recent example, a friend asked if I had seen certain plot development in the most recent season of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black. Even though the particular issues being explored were of great interest to me, I said no. I didn’t like the first few episodes when it had first been released and now there were already four seasons to catch up on. Perhaps in the past, I could have just watched the programme when it was on and just hoped to figure out the plot as it went along, maybe asked said-friend to fill me in so I could keep up as the show aired. That isn’t as viable an option when all those past seasons are readily available online. What happens when I do watch all those previous seasons and come to what is topical now? How will things have moved on, and what will be considered the “new” thing that you just have to watch? The internet and social media has created a wonderful environment for discussing television, from Twitter, to dedicated blogs, to the AV Club’s episode-by-episode reviews, but it’s fundamentally fickle in focus and liable to all the faults of online conversation. Television watching has become akin to stock-trading, as choosing a show that may gain cultural relevance is more important than watching a show you actually like from the beginning.
           In the scenario where you do wish to join the fellowship of a major show, it can be incredibly arduous. When one looks at Breaking Bad, its much hyped finale was preceded by a half season break that encouraged many initiates to catch up. Yet, did it not feel like an arduous task to watch the combined 38 hours of television just to keep up with the zeitgeist? Or else The Wire, a show still spoken of as the greatest program of this century. To watch all of its five series would take a total of 60 hours. With very little ability to share experiences of the show and speculate on what will occur with other viewers, the entertainment becomes a chore, the priority being to watch the next episode instead of actually pondering the show at any real length. Is rampant consumption truly the way to engage with culture?
           It is this particular habit that seems to have heightened the earlier critiques of television as being an infantilising and even unhealthy activity. Due to the setup of how one watches a show, despite Kevin Spacey’s declaration that viewers “want the control”, binging actually cultivates a remarkably passive attitude as one episode automatically segues into another. Emily Nussbaum, the Pulitzer-winning TV critic at The New Yorker, has noted how certain shows have mastered “exploiting the Netflix viewer’s bad habit of hitting “Next Episode” no matter what”. Other unhealthy attitudes are not simply of the mind but bodily. Last year, the Apple CEO Tim Cook declared sitting to be “the new cancer”. While his remarks are inaccurate (surely he meant “smoking”?), the actual physical “exertion” of staying stationary for so long on one’s own isn’t the best for physical or mental health. To give a helpful comparison, reading is similarly sedentary yet active – one has to literally move their eyeballs across a page and process the meaning of the words. If one zones out for a stage, it is easy to re-read a few paragraphs. You dictate the pace. Television is different. As a medium, it is a relentless stream for the ears and eyes, often dazzling with imagery, soundtrack, and dialogue. It’s a lot to be bombarded with, and the viewer has to follow the dictated pacing. It can be rewound if something is missed, but that would just add another few minutes to those 60 odd hours of The Wire. While films are extremely similar in medium, their typically two-hour run time is small and manageable compared to a typical weekend-long Netflix binge. 
           I think that eventually that marathon-television viewing may be recognised as a symptom of depression. With its ability to isolate, as well as the lack of movement bar excursions to the bathroom or kitchen, it’s a very socially acceptable way to numb one’s self from the world. In a way, David Foster Wallace seemed to examine this link in his novel Infinite Jest. Published in 1996 (a year before Netflix was founded), the book is a thorough examination of depression and addiction, yet television appears as an integral link between these two. Despite the various terrorists, sociopaths, and substance abuse that features in the plot, it is a particular piece of filmed entertainment that is the most feared and destructive ill to the book’s dystopian society. There is even a Netflix-like mail-order video and streaming service that appears in every single home, and every major character’s relation to television is thoroughly examined in association to their internal woes throughout the novel. The book is scarily prescient in numerous ways, but it is the imagining of how entertainment can further isolate that may be noted further as the current landscape holds. 

To put this lengthy examination to bed, I think that, following on from Landgraf’s concerns, the “golden age of television” will come to be viewed more as the last days of Rome than anything else. It will not by defined by awe-inspiring innovation, a new dawn of socially-conscious drama, or the democratisation of a mass-communication tool so long in the control of the few. It will be recognised as a massive glut, an excess of a product that destroyed its previous cultural cache and place in people’s lives yet was perceived as not only a dizzying success but a sustainable one. The simple fact that, despite the huge amounts of television being produced, scripted television’s stock has been inflated and its producers are starting to question its stability and whether it’s able to actually make back an investment. With a divided audience and a stifled conversation, television culture will be nullified and its place in the pop cultural canon will slip. Already, on television itself, networks have shown a greater interest in cheaper-to-make reality television shows (such as The Great British Bake Off), but more importantly, programs that happen and have to be consumed live. News and sports have become the lynchpin of television, and thus the new entertainment.
           Seemingly, live events demand the speculation that drives communal conversation. It is also a fine attractor of advertising space, and certain “bubbles” have already appeared. The domestic rights for the current season of the Premier League (that’s the football league based in England) were sold for over 5 billion pounds. The international rights were sold for another billion. The money paid for football is likely to increase next year unless the fact that providers such as Sky and BT will have to raise their subscription prices will turn away viewers. Meanwhile, news broadcasts have become consistently linked to entertainment, with particular attention being paid to disaster, shocking footage, or else the lurid reporting of politics. This isn’t accidental. Concerning the rise of Donald Trump, American news networks have consistently had their journalistic integrity questioned for their obsessive coverage of the candidate, with uncomfortable conflicts of interest arising. Perhaps most blatantly, the President of CBS Leslie Moonves has described Trump’s profane, gasconade path to office thusly: “It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS”.
           If the uncertainty surrounding scripted television persists, television networks may continue to act in such bad faith and exacerbate these issues, deliberately dramatizing live events to gain the easy money that comes with advertising. Eventually, television could fully dedicate itself to this new type of entertainment and quality, scripted programming could become a niche, underfunded concern. With the increasing costs, the repugnant coverage, and the unstimulating programming, viewers may just switch off the set and move on. Picture that. 

Michael Kemp is a recent graduate of Trinity College Dublin. They have had essays, fiction, and  poetry published in different student publications, and were until recently the editor of Icarus Magazine. They are currently based in Dublin and write under different names. Tweets @kempmich