In response to this NY Post piece by Emily Nussbuam, Robert Moore makes a persuasive case that Buffy the Vampire Slayer made TV art:
This was the decade in which television became art. So argues Emily Nussbuam in a recent New York Magazine essay, “When TV Became Art”. She certainly makes a strong case that 2000-2009 was a pivotal age for TV and I strongly recommend her essay to anyone interested in the development of television over the past decade. I agree that this was, all in all, the finest decade for great television. Others have argued that TV had arisen as an art form in earlier decades, some (though in dwindling numbers) arguing for the fifties, based on the series that presented staged plays for a television audience, including such original masterpieces as “Twelve Angry Men”, written by Reginald Rose for Studio One, and “Requiem for a Heavyweight”, written by Rod Serling for Playhouse 90. Later, Robert J. Thompson, in his widely cited Television’s Second Golden Age: From Hill Street Blues to ER, argued for the eighties as the crucial period. But Nussbaum has numbers on her side; it is difficult to argue against the sheer quantity of very fine shows that emerged in the past ten years. The number of truly great series from the past ten years is so substantial that it might surpass the number of great shows from all previous decades combined.
Nonetheless, I want to take issue with Nussbaum. I think that chopping the overall picture up into decade-sized blocks obscures the reality. I believe that one can point at a precise point where TV became art, and that point was the debut of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. […]
I understand Nussbaum’s desire to fit the birth of TV as art into a decade framework, but the truth is that art, like life, is messier than that. TV had become art before 2000 and it was largely thanks to Buffy.
I love the The Wire but it certainly wasn’t the most ground breaking series on television (remember, both The Sopranos and Six Feet Under preceded it). I haven’t watched Buffy, but Moore makes a strong case. Either way, the 00s certainly marked a turning point in the history of television. It was, perhaps, the decade in which television eclipsed film.