90s Scripted TV Made Streaming Possible
Streaming today wouldn’t exist without the changes in how stories were produced starting in the 1990s. Until then, without including daytime television, shows told stories in an episodic format. Everything resolved within an episode or two. Starting in 1993, these changes debuted with NYPD: Blue and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Disney’s Dinosaurs began experimenting with telling stories outside of the episodic format. Some things could differ from episode to episode.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Star Trek: DS9) debuted in January 1993 and became a shining example of the future of television storytelling, despite strong resistance. Having the characters develop some meta plots while dealing with subplots that resolved in the episode. Like how a book reads.
When NYPD: Blue started up in September of the same year, it kept the police procedural format of cases being solved most of the time episodically. Sometimes cases that had gone unsolved came back to light for various reasons, even as they tried to make sure at least one case an episode was closed. The advance in storytelling came with how they told the stories of the private lives of the cops. Showing them in the light of a human being instead of only as cops.
January 1994 brought a huge wave in how television had changed as Babylon 5 debuted. It first aired like Star Trek: DS9 but grew even more intertwined each season. While there was always a slight resolution in each episode, it was more like a soap opera in space. This might be where the term space opera comes to bear. At least in modern terms.
These events made it easier for streaming to take root and allow other modes of storytelling to become a viable possibility. Books found a wider space in television aside from PBS. Since PBS aired The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis and the series by Brian Jacques Redwall. Aside from that, few books outside of comic books saw television as being made-for-TV movies.
Without these 90s shows, among many using this storytelling style, there would be no Hulu or The Handmaid’s Tale outside of the books by Margaret Atwood. Nor many other hit shows that followed in the new millennium. As well as aid in making a new version of some of the older ones mentioned above possible in different ways.
There are many things to want to forget from the 90s, but these shows and what they helped usher in are not one of them. So far, they have held up to the test of time and, in most cases, continue to grow. In some ways, they were like Harry Potter on television. Even if you didn’t exist until after the 90s, take some time to look at these shows and see how they influenced the current television landscape.