We are in a golden age of television right now. TVEnthusiast will be celebrating this golden age through the holiday season with 10 feature articles, each focusing on 1 year of television in the golden age.
2003: Genre TV Takes Center Stage.
The third year we are focusing on in our 10 day coverage of our current golden age of television. Careers kicked off in 2003, with Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies) running Dead Like Me, Ron D. Moore (Caprica, Outlander) running both Carnivàle and Battlestar Galactica, and Josh Schwartz (Chuck) running The O.C.. Star Wars came to the small screen with the animated Clone Wars series. In comedy, Arrested Development launched to instant cult status, and Dave Chappelle became the biggest name in comedy with the debut of his sketch comedy series Chappelle’s Show.
2003, like 2002 was largely rooted in the after effects of September 11th, 2001. The United States of America established the Department of Homeland Security, in order to deal with terrorist threats, and then, against major protesting, President George W. Bush began the Iraq war. Threats of radical islamic terrorism affected Russia as well with a steep rise in Chechen terrorism. Terrorism was on the minds of everyone around the world, and fear of this violence would later affect television and film.
Science made strides as Italian scientists successfully cloned the first horse. Prometea, a Haflinger foal, was the seventh animal species to be successfully cloned. Prometea was born on May 28th, 2003, to much less fear and apprehension than the announcement of Dolly in 1997. Ironically, Dolly passed away, at the the age of 6, early in 2003. Also in 2003, the Human Genome Project was completed after 13 years, with 99% of human genes sequenced with 99.99% accuracy.
Other events of 2003 included a major victory for gay rights in America, when the Supreme Court of the United States declared Sodomy laws unconstitutional. Also, 80’s rock band Great White were part of a tragedy, when their pyrotechnics display caused a tragic fire at a nightclub performance which resulted in the deaths of 100 people.
In movies, 3 iconic Christmas films were released in 2003. Elf, starring Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel, and with an appearance by Peter Dinklage, slowly built itself into a part of the Christmas tradition of many families. Love Actually pulled together an impressive cast that raised it to the status of being the go to Christmas romantic comedy. Likewise, Bad Santa became the go to raunchy Christmas movie. A strong Christmas presence can be seen as a response to the world wide terrorism fueled fear that was brought on with the World Trade Centre bombing in 2001. Also, The Lord of the Rings trilogy came to an end with the release of Return of the King. The Lord of the Rings trilogy can be seen as an influential stepping stone to HBO’s eventual production of Game of Thrones, since The Lord of the Rings proved that fantasy could be taken seriously.
Arrested Development – Driving Careers and Pushing the Sitcom
Arrested Development burst onto TV in 2003 and became an instant cult classic. The series from Mitch Hurwitz launched the careers of Michael Cera, Portia de Rossi, Tony Hale, and Will Arnett, while revitalizing the careers of Jason Bateman, Jessica Walter, and Jeffrey Tambor. Though perhaps not as influential on the sitcom as BBC’s The Office, Arrested Development helped further push the genre away from its typical trappings, and towards single camera productions.
Carnivàle – HBO Tries Their Hand at Magic
8 years before Game of Thrones, HBO dipped their toes into a high concept story about magic and destiny. Carnivàle came from Daniel Knauf, who went on to write for Supernatural, Spartacus, and The Blacklist. The series was produced by Ron D. Moore who co-created the remake of Battlestar Galactica in the same year. Carnivàle was ahead of its time for its serious portrayal of magic and mysticism. Set during the Dust Bowl in the 1930s and 40s, Carnivàle presented its magic with deep mythology, strong consequences, and a serious story of good vs evil.
Battlestar Galactica – Science Fiction Gets Serious
Battlestar Galactica was launched as a miniseries in 2003 before becoming a full series in 2004. Based on the 1978 Star Wars cash in series of the same name from Glen A. Larson, the Battlestar Galactica remake came to us from Ron D. Moore and David Eick. Moore and Eick preserved and strengthened the Greek mythology references of the original while stirring theological debate with different religions in the shows universe, and exploring the existentialism of artificial intelligence. The 2003 remake of Battlestar Galactica was a more serious version of the story. As the show developed it stood next to 2004’s LOST as a cryptic mystery with a true ensemble cast. Though its early seasons and the miniseries focused more on the direct conflict of ideologies between the monotheistic cylons, and polytheistic human who created them.
Battlestar Galactica was influential in both storytelling and production. Firefly creator Joss Whedon credits the series for Firefly’s visual portrayal of space, which uses loose camera work and focus shifts to give a deeper grounding to the science fiction trappings. Moore and Eick limited series composer Bear McCreary in order to avoid similarities to Star Trek, and other more slick science fiction space series. The musical score ended up drawing inspirations from ethnic instruments and percussion in order to avoid an orchestra sound. Similar effort was made in the art department to make Galactica look old and worn, lived in, and practical. Much of the aesthetic of the series can be directly attributed to Moore wanting to distance himself from his past work on Trek. In doing so he helped create a new and more serious aesthetic for science fiction, which had more in common with Das Boot than Star Trek.
2003 was the beginning of an influx of genre television content. Stay with us throughout the holidays as we explore more years of our current golden age. Participate in the discussion in our comments, and stay tuned to TVEnthusiast for more coverage of all of your favorite shows.