It feels like there are as many people on the Internet sharing their opinions about pop culture as there are stars in the sky. But to the best of my knowledge, there’s only one guy whose email newsletter is read by an astounding cross-section of the music, media and technology industry.
Subscribing to the Lefsetz Letter means getting semi-weekly updates from industry analyst Bob Lefsetz on whatever might be currently on his mind. The quasi-stream-of-consciousness missives include everything from what bands deserve the Rhino Records treatment to the VMAs to Donald Trump to Lefsetz’s difficulties setting up an HD viewing experience. It’s the sort of thing your cool dad might recommend you follow (true story), and more often than not there are interesting nuggets that come out of each update. Especially when other industry folk get involved.
“And if you watch ‘Narcos,’ you’ll suddenly become aware of the possibilities. Of not only career and wealth, but life. We’re so inured to the way it is, our creature comforts, our safety, that we’re rarely alive. See the images from the streets of Colombia in ‘Narcos’ and your heart will start to beat, you’ll see that everything is up for grabs, and the truth is the sands are constantly shifting, you feel safe, but you’re not.”
But he also held it up as yet another example of the Netflix model that’s led to a number of iconic series in the last couple of years:
“And the reason ‘House of Cards’ was so good was because of Kevin Spacey and Beau Willimon and Netflix’s refusal to meddle. It’s as if Mo Ostin was cloned to run TV, knowing that art is best when you let the creatives run free. You see artists want to pierce the sky and leave their mark, and once unrestrained they’ll surprise you.
Oh, they’ll fail too.
But when they succeed you can only marvel.
Can you say ‘Sopranos’?
That’s where it all began. When suddenly HBO was not only better than network, but better than movies. Anybody with a brain now wanted to stay home as opposed to go out.”
Nothing too controversial, necessarily, but it still inspired “House of Cards” creator Beau Willimon to write in, in an email that Lefsetz then sent out to the list at large:
“Loved how you traced back the last 30 years of TV to where this current era began. And you’re right – ‘Sopranos’ was a game-changer. But to give credit where credit is due, Tom Fontana’s ‘Oz’ really got the ball rolling. It was the first one-hour drama that HBO ever produced.”
And then Willimon identifies Fontana as not just a mentor to himself, but to “The Wire” creator David Simon. “The Wire,” in Willimon’s words, being “arguably the best television show in the last half century.”
“‘The Wire’ may not have had the viewership of ‘The Sopranos’ when it first aired, but its reputation and impact continues to grow. It’s sort of like the Velvet Underground of 21st Century TV – only a few thousand people saw it when it first aired, but they all started TV shows,” Willimon writes.
Analyzing the cross-pollination that occurred in television during the late 1990s isn’t everyone’s favorite hobby. But if you do consider it a fascinating past time, both Lefsetz’s original post and Willimon’s response are worth reading in full, and you can subscribe to the Lefsetz Letter here. Consider me your cool dad, in this respect.