Entertainment Industry

“TV Is Better Than Movies” and Other Big, Fat Lies

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 HangoverPlus 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.

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3 thoughts on ““TV Is Better Than Movies” and Other Big, Fat Lies

  1. I love TV and movies, but I prefer TV. I would say that TV is currently running through a purple patch (since the late 90’s) where the quality has increased drastically (most likely due to improved cable programming). You always had blockbuster movies and now isn’t any different, the major difference is that now you are getting blockbuster TV dramas that can compete alongside the movies, with the only difference being that movies last around 3 hours and TV seasons last around 10-13 hours. One thing TV cannot replace is that special feeling that you get from going to the cinema and watching a great movie.

  2. Álvaro Hernández Blanco says:

    Good article! Although I do not think TV is undeniably better than films, as many people proclaim these days, I do think this comparison between the two is relevant and has to be made; just yesterday, I heard “Shall we go to the movies? Nah, let’s stay in and watch a TV show”. Not that this is new, as TV has been competing with film since it was born six decades ago… However, now more than ever, the stories on TV have a cinematic quality and depth that are, in my eyes, the true novelty that has revived this debate. But it doesn’t take much to see that the true prestige, the ultimate glamor, the highest peak, is film. Think of some of TV’s most talented individuals in the past years (comedic actors like Steve Carrel, Seth McFarlane, Ricky Gervais). They have jumped from the small screen to the big one as soon as they got half a chance. And on the other hand, the true puppet-masters of storytelling, brilliant minds like Scorsese, Darabont, and Lynch, and the younger bunch you have mentioned in your article, seem to understand the validity of both formats. It comes down to what suits your story best.

  3. pcastrillo says:

    I agree with both of you guys, and I enjoy both TV and film immensely. It’s just that for some people there seems to be an obsessive need for badmouthing that thing called Hollywood, despite it being the main creative force in the world…

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