Thursday, January 19, 2012

TV is the New Movies

Maybe it’s the lack of theater etiquette, or the rising cost of movie tickets, or the proliferation of widescreen HDTVs, or the addition of commercials before each film, or the aging of the Baby Boomers, or the huge lists of on-demand viewing options, or just the hassles related to going out. For whatever reasons, TV has become the medium of choice for most viewers and much of the Hollywood elite.

When I was younger, a top-notch movie director would never consider working in television. That is no longer the case, as well-known filmmakers have ventured into television production; they include J.J. Abrams (“Fringe,” “Lost,” “Person of Interest,” “Alcatraz”), Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights,” “Prime Suspect”), Jonathan Demme (“A Gifted Man”), Todd Haynes (“Mildred Pierce”), Martin Scorsese (“Boardwalk Empire”), Steven Spielberg (a number of shows including “Band of Brothers,” “Falling Skies,” and the upcoming “Smash”), Gus Van Sant (“Boss”), and the Scott brothers—Ridley and Tony (“Numb3rs,” “The Good Wife”).

In addition, it used to be that movie stars only made TV shows when their careers were fading, but look at the list of movie stars who are currently (or about to be) in TV shows. It includes (alphabetically): Kathy Bates, Bonnie Bedelia, Maria Bello, Steve Buscemi, Jim Cavieziel, Glenn Close, Joan Cusack, Claire Danes, Laura Dern, Laurence Fishburne, Dustin Hoffman, Angelica Huston, Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Lange, Laura Linney, William H. Macy, Dylan McDermott, Sam Neil, Craig T. Nelson, Anna Paquin, Oliver Platt, and Gary Sinise. That list is growing daily.

The truth is that there are more really good, scripted (as opposed to reality) TV shows nowadays than there are really good movies. The shows I record and try to watch include (alphabetically): “A Gifted Man,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Bored to Death,” “Boss,” “Californication,” “Covert Affairs,” “Episodes,” “Falling Skies,” “Game of Thrones,” “Harry’s Law,” “Homeland,” “House,” “In Plain Sight,” “Law & Order SVU,” “Leverage,” “Mad Men,” “Men of a Certain Age,” “Modern Family,” “Necessary Roughness,” “Pan Am,” “Parenthood,” “Person of Interest,” “Prime Suspect,” “Rizzoli & Isles,” “Royal Pains,” “Shameless,” “Supernatural,” “Terra Nova,” “The Good Wife,” “The Mentalist,” “True Blood,” and “Unforgettable.” I have little doubt that I will soon add “Smash” (the pilot is available on iTunes for free) and “Luck.” I realize that sounds like a lot, but these days, each season only lasts 10-12 shows, so there is limited overlap, and if I record them, I can zip past the commercials.

I’m sure you have favorites that are not on this list, but the fact that there could be so many TV shows worth watching is more evidence of my point. If you add in the ability to watch, on demand, any shows or series you may have missed, then it becomes increasingly obvious that TV is the new movies.

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