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By Laura Linger

How television has evolved over the past two decades

Television, already an ever-changing medium, has undergone a remarkable number of changes in the past two decades. From differences in overall programming to the way that our television shows are delivered to our screens, it is obvious that the simple days of "the squawk box" with a dial and three networks are over, and high-tech, high-stakes television is here in its place.

First, the type of programming on television has changed. A cursory glance at a typical weeknight television schedule from July 1996 shows primarily comedies and sports programming in the grid. Several dramas, such as "NYPD Blue," "ER" and "The X-Files" dominated the airwaves. Diverse comedies such as "Friends," "Seinfeld," "Coach," "NewsRadio," "Ned and Stacy" and "The Simpsons" were the most popular shows of the day. "America's Funniest Home Videos" was a wildly popular show, showing multiple times each week.

In 2016, the landscape of television programming looks wildly different. The dominance of reality programming, initially the realm of the FOX network but now featured on all networks, takes precedence over traditional comedies and dramas. Some of these reality shows are actually news-entertainment, such as "Dateline NBC" and "48 Hours." In these shows, viewers follow a story, usually about a crime or controversy, from start to finish. The programs are narrated and presented by a television personality from the network. Niche reality shows, featured on such cable networks as E!, MTV, A&E and CMT also enjoy a great deal of popularity, such as "Keeping Up With The Kardashians," "Teen Mom" and "Duck Dynasty." Some of these reality shows incorporate an element of competition or contest, such as "Storage Wars," ‘So You Think You Can Dance" and "Hell's Kitchen." TLC network has made its programming based upon the unusual with a vaguely medical spin, with shows like "My 600-lb Life," "Little People, Big World" and the most recent, "I Am Jazz," a show about a transgender teenager.

American Movie Classics, known for providing classic movie programming, has made a splash in original programming. "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad" and the more recent "Better Call Saul" are all popular, critically acclaimed series that originated at AMC.

Not all shows are the product of traditional networks, or even niche ones: they are created solely for streaming services such as Hulu, Amazon and Netflix. Netflix has shows like "Orange Is The New Black," which is wildly popular with viewers; Hulu has shows like "The Awesomes" and "Battleground" and Amazon has "Man In The High Castle" and "Transparent."

Streaming itself is an innovation of the past 20 years, and services such as Hulu specialize in providing content via the internet from shows both past and present. This would have been unthinkable in 1996, for internet speeds were far too slow to provide any program in any watchable form. However, in 2016, it is hard to imagine a television that is not connected to the internet, and we enjoy whatever shows we want to view, pretty much whenever we choose to view them.

Article sources – 97_United_States_network_television_schedule,review-3260.html

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