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Network television’s bland decline offset by vibrant streaming offerings

Television’s traditional terrestrial networks have offered a lot less “must-see TV” these days, at least from the confines of my home.

Apart from the immediacy that ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC provide with their coverage of breaking news and wall-to-wall sports, the drama and comedic storylines they pitch to the American viewing public are mostly banal and well-tread. PBS’s slate of dramas and documentaries is the exception among the nets; shows such as the expertly crafted “Frontline” and “Nova” series continue to shine with well-considered and provocative efforts that the commercial Big Four rarely match.

Broadcast networks are steadily becoming an electronic afterthought due to the hordes of quality programming now offered by paid streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. As demonstrated over the past decade by the overlords of traditional network television, the practice of appealing to the broadest possible audience with lame, bland and inoffensive programming no longer cuts it. Instead, television viewers today are provided a cornucopia of literally thousands of quality choices that invariably have fragmented audience share and, as a result, have upended network television’s economic apple cart.

Streaming services offer a televised menu that, for viewers, is much like that passed out by a busy Chinese restaurant: selections almost too numerous to consider and too few hours in which to digest them. Do you want a rom-com show with a touch of scandal? It’s there in a dozen different scenarios. Enjoy outlandish absurdity for your comedy? It’s there among the thousands of programs for the choosing.

For me, though, I find myself consumed more evenings than I’d like to admit by the television bibliography that is YouTube. It’s a repository of unfiltered television content on just about every subject under the sun. If you’re itching for a look back at how the television news networks covered JFK’s assassination nearly 60 years ago, you’ll easily find Walter Cronkite’s frantic bulletin (more vaguely referred to these days as a “special report”) interrupting “As The World Turns” on CBS television stations nationwide repeating wire copy reports by UPI and the Associated Press from Dallas.

There’s also a plethora of music videos, organic vlogs by average folks, and content producers who have created travelogs pieced together from their world travels. And there’s the weird content that draws viewing audiences by the hundreds of thousands: tours of abandoned theme parks, reconstructed plotlines by serial killers, and thrill-seekers who have documented their latest adventures in dangling from the top of tall buildings and construction cranes. All are capable of providing you a dose of chills and thrills. Kitsap Daily News

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