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Lessons I've Learned From T.V.: Don't date yourself

Staff Writer

Published: Sunday, February 23, 2014

Updated: Sunday, February 23, 2014 21:02

Technology and times are changing faster than ever before. While you can pretty much watch any movie or show from 1981 or 1988 and see only slight differences in the times between the two, the rate at which things are changing nowadays is so fast that even something from 2008 seems relatively ancient. For example, I recently watched “The Departed” with my friends. I saw the film back when it came out in 2006, and — at the time — it was an incredibly modern movie. The characters all used their cool new flip phones and texted with the numeral keypads. At the time, it obviously didn’t bother me. The film was — and remains — one of my all-time favorite movies. My friends had never seen the film before. I realized how dated it was when they began to comment and ridicule the use of old flip phones and old fashioned texting.

It’s impossible to take these things into account when making a movie or show at the time, but does this hurt the overall quality? While some may disagree, I don’t think it does. “The Wire” is hands down one of the greatest television serial dramas of all time. The show ran from 2002 to 2008, and — as I’m sure many of you remember — this was a very drastic time for technological advances. While “The Departed” still works overall in modern times, “The Wire” feels more like a period piece. At the time, it showed the struggle of law enforcement agents to deal with the introduction of cell phones, pay as you go phones and texting in the world of drug dealing and organized crime. A lot of equipment they used for surveillance and case work was state-of-the-art and brand new at the time, as the characters note, but are now relics.

While it feels incredibly less than ten years after its finale, does this hurt the overall show? I would argue it doesn’t. The show does somewhat feel like a portrait of its time, but it also works on another level with enough substance and thematic material that is applicable today. While it certainly feels older than it is, the show continues to be discussed by critics and audiences as one of the greatest shows of all time. Just this past year it seemed it did hold against the test of time with many debating whether “Breaking Bad” had taken the title.

I’ve found with “The Wire” and “The Departed” that if the show or film is really that good, audiences will overlook the dating. However, will the next generation that was not around for flip phones be able to watch a show like “The Wire” or a movie like “The Departed” and take it seriously? We can certainly watch “The Godfather” or “Scarface” for its time and appreciate it, but can the same be said of something so recent yet so far away? “The Wire” is certainly set in its time, but “The Departed” is supposed to depict a modern time.

I would argue that a show has a better chance of fighting this kind of aging if multiple seasons allow for the show to progress. A good example is “Dexter.” The show began with flip phones and old computers, but — as the seasons progressed and sponsors changed — we began to see apple products, iPhones and newer cars to keep up with the times. I suppose there is no clear answer to whether or not aging hurts the quality of recent film and television in our fast advancing world. However, it seems clear that, at least for now, with some vague memories of the past, we can overlook such things when the show is really good.

 

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