How Guts, Guile, and Greed Upended TV
Bestselling author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and Down and Dirty Pictures, cultural critic Peter Biskind turns his eye toward the new golden age of television, sparked by the fall of play-it-safe network TV and the rise of boundary-busting cable, followed by streaming, which overturned both—based on exclusive, candid, and colorful interviews with executives, writers, showrunners, directors, and actors We are now lucky enough to be living through the era of so-called Peak TV, in which television, in its various guises and formats, has seized the entertainment mantle from movies and dominates our leisure time. How and why this happened is the subject of this book. Instead of focusing on one service, like HBO, Pandora’s Box asks, “What did HBO do, besides give us The Sopranos?” The answer: It gave us a revolution. Biskind bites off a big chunk of entertainment history, following HBO from its birth into maturity, moving on to the basic cablers like FX and AMC, and ending up with the streamers and their wars, pitting Netflix against Amazon Prime Video, Max, and the killer pluses—Disney, Apple TV, and Paramount. Since the creative and business sides of TV are thoroughly entwined, Biskind examines both, and the interplay between them. Through frank and shockingly intimate interviews with creators and executives, Pandora’s Box investigates the dynamic interplay of commerce and art through the lens the game-changing shows they aired—not only old warhorses like The Sopranos, but recent shows like The White Lotus, Succession, and Yellow- (both -stone and -jackets)—as windows into the byzantine practices of the players as they use money and guile to destroy their competitors. In the end, this book crystal-balls the future in light of the success and failures of the streamers that, after apparently clearing the board, now face life-threatening problems, some self-created, some not. With its long view and short takes—riveting snapshots of behind-the-scenes mischief—Pandora’s Box is the only book you’ll need to read to understand what’s on your small screen and how it got there.