True Detective, Marvel, Fargo: Anthology TV is the new black

True Detective / HBO

WASHINGTON, March 14, 2014 —  A week after HBO’s True Detective came to its first season conclusion, and ended the story of Rust Cohle and Marty Hart, fans are already starting to wonder what the second season will bring. The series’ creator, Nic Pizzolatto, is already intimating that the show’s second season will continue its well established first season themes by investigating “the secret occult history of the U.S. transportation system.” And while fans would likely welcome a second season that built on the wildly popular first season characters, the complete departure to a new story in season two signals a larger trend in entertainment today: the return of the anthology series.

There are certain classic series that cannot be ignored when discussing the genre of the anthology series: The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Tales from the Darkside. There are other possible contenders, series that flirted with the genre without committing: Fantasy Island is one that comes to mind immediately. But the possible renaissance of the anthology series, which we seem to be poised on the cusp of, presents a new exciting take on the classic “one-and-done” format.

FX’s wildly successful American Horror Story has defined the genre the most clearly. Instead of a new plot line every episode, the show changes season by season, remedying the classic dilemma of an anthology series populated by characters we don’t care about by giving us 13 episodes to love, hate, or fear the characters that inhabit their story. And this solution has given the show a cult following that has easily made it one of the most well-known shows on television.

American Horror Story is not alone in its experimentation in genre-bending. As mentioned earlier, HBO’s True Detective has anthological intentions. Coupling that shows immense first season popularity with the success that has stemmed from American Horror Story, and you can bet we’ll be seeing more anthology series in the future. In fact, I guarantee it.

FX’s Fargo, coming to televisions in April and based on the 1996 film by the Coen brothers, will be in an anthology format and has a potential to be hugely popular with audiences. Inside No. 9 is a brand new series on the BBC Two in the UK which relies on a one-and-done each episode format. With the growing popularity of both anthology TV and British Culture in The States these days, you can be we’ll be seeing that show over here in one format or another fairly soon.

Then, there’s the Marvel thing. Marvel has announced that starting in 2015 it will be bringing four season of television to Netflix, each staring a different super hero. The first season will be Daredevil. The others will include slightly less well known characters (Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist) and the four seasons will culminated in The Defenders, a mini-series on Netflix slated for 2019.

We can talk ourselves in circles all day about Marvel being a comic book company, and not being the norm in entertainment, but anybody who knows how decisions get made in Hollywood will tell you, as goes the $1 Billion movie, so goes the neighborhood. If the people who made The Avengers say we’re doing anthology series now, we’re doing anthology series now.

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. They are controlling the transmission. For the next few years, sit quietly and they will control what you see and hear. There is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from classic format to the modern style.

Anthology TV is about to be back, and it’s going to be big.

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