We’ve been hearing about this for years now. TV overtook movies as the place of creativity, and business, and quality content and whatnot. But guess what: it’s not true.
Sure, we shouldn’t mix oranges with apples. But really, are TV and film different media, at all? Airwaves are not celluloid, and the living room is not a theater, granted. But ultimately, both TV and movies are drama, storytelling. Even the premieres of big shows take place in theaters these days. And many movies we watch at home, “on TV,” precisely. Screens are interchangeable, and so is content. And since the arrival of Netflix with its own original content, there’s no distinguishing TV from other forms of diffusion. If I watch Star Trek on my tablet, is that “the movies”? (Don’t answer — I haven’t specified whether the TV shows or the features. Got you.) And let’s not forget: those “Hollywood people” — yeah, the ones anchored in the past, lacking in fresh ideas, and always looking for the money — those guys are the same ones who make the best TV shows.
You may not believe me, but let’s see. Imagine Entertainment (Ron Howard & Brian Grazer) was responsible for amazing shows like 24, Arrested Development, and Friday Night Lights. And they made fantastic films such as Intolerable Cruelty, Cinderella Man, Inside Man, and Frost/Nixon. Look at Bad Robot (J.J. Abrams): they made movies like Mission:Impossible III, Star Trek (I & II), or Super 8. And shows like Alias, Lost, Person Of Interest, or Revolution. How about K/O Paper Products (Alex Kurtzman & Bob Orci.) They had their breakthrough with The Mask Of Zorro and now they’re putting out Now You See Me, and later this year, Ender’s Game. Well, they’re co-creators (with the ubiquitous J.J.) of Fringe, re-made Hawaii Five-O, and they’re coming up with Sleepy Hollow for Fox in the fall.
The thing is, there’s a lot of TV. Many will argue that the number of “good shows” over the total number of shows is what sets the difference, especially when compared to the ratio of “good movies” over the total number of movies. You know what I say to that? — Bullshit. That argument only takes into account the prime time for fiction shows. But TV has a lot more than that, and it’s mostly crap. Look at it this way. If 300 movies are released every year, at an average of 2 hours per movie, that’s 600 hours of original content. Now, you wanna do the math and come up with how many hours of original content are there in 365 days of programming among, say, the 10 main TV networks? No? Doesn’t surprise me.
“Hollywood’s run out of new ideas.” Really? First off, as I said, Hollywood is making those TV shows you like so much. But then, let’s look at the data. Take the year 2009. We had a fantastic run on TV with Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Lost, Fringe, Friday Night Lights, etc. Comedies like Community, 30 Rock, or Parks & Rec. (Well, and then there’s Glee.) That same year we got, on the big screen, the following titles: The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Bastards, Up In The Air, Moon, A Serious Man, District 9, Zombieland, Precious, An Education, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and The Frog, and Up! Heck, we even had Avatar and The Hangover. Plus some stunning documentaries like The Cove and Earth. And here’s the kick: of the roughly 15 films I just mentioned, only three or four are direct adaptations.
“But TV has been more original — at least, there have been less adaptations.” Really? After the Wesley Snipes 1998 hit Blade, a TV show appeared called Blade: The Series. After Toy Story, there was a thing called Buzz Lightyear Of Star Command. Even the wonderful, Alicia Silverstone’s Clueless was attempted as a series. Same goes for Conan, the Crow, the dolphin Flipper, Ferris Bueller, the Highlander guy, Nikita, Ariel (the half-fish lady of Litte Mermaid, yes), and a very, very long list of others. Next fall, we’ll have the aforementioned Sleepy Hollow plus the much-awaited Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Honestly, I don’t care about this discussion because I truly believe is utterly irrelevant. But I also felt it almost as a duty to try and bring down some myths that self-proclaimed critics (as well as interested parties) are trying to promote. You may like TV over movies or vice versa, and that’s just fine. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll be content with good stories; inspiring fiction; thrilling entertainment — and well, okay, maybe a job also.