All this would be nothing but thrilling—the tale of a decade when TV grew a spine and a brain—if it weren’t for the possibility that it could come to an end. The network model has crumbled in ways presaged a decade ago, then intensified by the bad economy. Product integration infests even the best series. But it might be a mistake to get too apocalyptic: This decade began, after all, with critics warning that reality shows would destroy TV altogether (rather than, say, revive the art of ballroom dancing). And who knows what the future will bring? During the 2008 writers’ strike, Whedon produced the online exclusive Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog on a shoestring budget. The mini-musical was a charmer, but it was also a stab at a vanguard TV economics, in which creators might sell directly to fans, enabling indie TV to bloom on the Internet.
Will that shift online spur something new and exciting? In the aftermath of this breakthrough decade, that’s what I hope for. Call me naïve, but that’s what I glimpse when I look to the horizon: the next new wave.