Wednesdays without Will: The TV Trumps the Cinema

Sunday night: television’s primetime. Notice how having “your shows” is no longer exclusive to lame couples and stay-at-home moms. Breaking Bad and  Dexter both conclude their series this month and have sent social media and blogs everywhere buzzing with their twists, turns and predictions. From  Mad Men and  Homeland to  Glee and  Pretty Little Liars, modern television provides endless talking points to viewers and their friends, family, co-workers and even complete strangers. Movies, however, do not.

Blame part of it on Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy that forever changed viewer expectations of the super hero genre. Intricate story structures, character and plot development and great acting replaced the campy hero film with the over-the-top CGI and forced comedy. Aside from  The Avengers and  X-Man, Hollywood is unfortunately reverting to the old, over-hyped, under-delivered super hero movie. Movies don’t offer anything exciting anymore, especially not the remakes, reboots and sequels (like 2008’s  Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). Recent resurrections aren’t even ten-years-old (Spiderman and  Texas Chainsaw Massacre). While movies still make money, they aren’t discussed and praised as much as television. Has the movie industry really hit a creative wall or have studios just become lazy and money hungry?

Even notable film actors (including Liev Schreiber, Jon Voight, Kerry Washington, Zooey Deschanel, Alec Baldwin and Ashton Kutcher) are moving to television, as decent movie roles are rare. The switch reverses the traditional process. Originally, TV was where actors got their starts, not where they willingly ended.

Oscar season–with a Daniel Day-Lewis or Martin Scorsese release–brings out a few worthwhile hits a year. However, TV constantly airs great new shows. When one ends, another begins. Mad Men recently finished season six and  Dexter concluded its eighth and final season last weekend, while  Boardwalk Empire,  Sons of Anarchy and  The Walking Dead embarked on their fourth or fifth seasons. Viewer attention spans may be shorter than a fly’s eye lash, but shows have managed to capture and hold audiences’ gazes by diving in to interesting characters and flushing out every story angle–gaining loyal fans and giving shows advantages over movies. Recently, enthralled fans have even helped back movies based on their favorite shows through crowdfunding sites (Veronica Mars and  Entourage). People will actually look forward to those movies.

Hollywood should learn from basic advertising, “cater to the fanatics.” Selection and green light committees and complicated approval processes have movie studios investing millions into projects that are desperate attempts to please the masses. However, they end up destroying any chance of pleasing anyone. People already have interests. Hollywood needs to focus on an audience and not worry about pleasing everyone. After all, no one can sell Hamburger Helper to vegans. Studios should revert to their old business practices and make interesting, thought provoking films, because the “no risk” mentality ruling today’s studios frequently leads to lame, boring movies.

Conversely, TV networks don’t have the millions of dollars to risk. With competitive networks, channels must make stand-out shows. TV networks haven’t remade  Bewitched or  Dukes of Hazards because audiences don’t want to watch mediocre shows that were already done decades ago. They want to see shows about serial killers or middle-aged women cheating on their husbands. The only chance  Gilligan’s Island has at reincarnation is if some movie studio selection committee green lights it because they couldn’t find a writer with an original idea. Aside from the 2 a.m. TV-Land re-runs, those shows are gone forever.

Was it Netflix that brought TV to the forefront? Maybe, but maybe it was TiVo and DVRs or the fact that television producers seem to care more, therefore the viewers care more. Either way, when I get home, I’m excited to see the season finale of  True Blood before I throw on  Captain America so I can fall asleep.

Cover Photo Source: Chris via Flickr

Colin is a junior executive at SJG. He earned a BS is Public Relations from Southern Illinois University in 2010 and completed the art direction program at Chicago Portfolio School in 2013. Besides advertising, his interests and hobbies include crossing over high school kids at the gym, Photoshopping his friends in embarrassing pictures and writing comedy.