Is Television the New Cinema ?

Hello ! Apologies for the lack of posting recently. I’ve been in work practically ALL WEEK ! Not to mention that I don’t really like posting something new unless it’s well written and worth reading 🙂 Ideally, I wanted the other set of Vintage Disney Princess drawings to be up and ready by now, but I’ve had absolutely no time to even get started on them, so, alas, you must wait another week or so for those beauties !

My lack of drawing can also be traced back to another source: my addiction to television. Yes, I admit it; I am ridiculously, unashamedly, and irrefutably obsessed with watching television. Everyone assumes that as an English Literature student I must spend most of my days with my nose in-between the pages of a 1000+ page book. Not an entirely inaccurate assumption mind you – my love of reading will never die ! But, unless you only watch The Jeremy Kyle Show, or don’t even own a television set (the latter is preferable when faced with the first prospect), there is no denying the recent surge in remarkably good, in some cases even extraordinary, television (Ahem, True Detective). It’s time to forget what you think is cinema’s dominance over the small screen.

Not too long ago, movies were the BIG thing, they were IT. If ever there was a great novel, play, or comic book out there, you could be rest assured that somebody, a producer or director or what not, would get their hands on it, acquire the rights, and, not long after, the written word would be slapped across the big screen, encapsulated in a two-hour+ epic propelled forward by a large Hollywood ensemble. I remember that only a few years back, every time I went to the cinema there would always be an onslaught of must-see-trailers before the actual film itself started, followed by the tagline ‘SUMMER OF CINEMA 2007’ or ‘SUMMER OF CINEMA 2008’ etc etc, you get the idea. And they weren’t kidding. Not that I’m saying cinema is suddenly bad now – there are still plenty of adaptions to the big screen that capture my attention and get my adrenaline pumping. Films such as The Hunger Games and The Hobbit are all 2-3 hour interpretations of incredible books and, in my opinion, do them wonderful justice. There is also something magical about going to the cinema that beats sitting on your sofa in front of a tiny screen by comparison. However, what I am saying is that the sudden rise in brilliant television is perhaps the way forward in terms of adaptations.

Just look at HBO’s Game of Thrones – could anyone really imagine George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire now being translated into a series of movies similar to the Harry Potter format ? The same goes for Robert Kirkman’s comic book series The Walking Dead – maybe once upon a time I could have seen this being adapted for the cinema in the same way that the Batman series was represented by Christopher Nolan’s impressive Dark Knight trilogy. But, now I could not envision any movie, no matter who it was directed by or who it starred, being able to compete with the way in which AMC’s The Walking Dead has brought the comic books to life with such vivid detail and clarity. Even past adaptions such as The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, whilst they remain incredible in themselves, I feel fall short in comparison to television’s recent interpretation of Thomas Harris’ novels: NBC’s Hannibal.

TV

The fact is that these television series, some of which have up to 22 episodes per season, provide us with much more detail and insight into these different worlds and characters than a movie ever could. Take the character Hannibal Lecter, the infamous serial-killing cannibal/brilliant psychiatrist from Harris’ suspense novels – whilst no one can doubt Anthony Hopkins’ incredible performance as Dr. Lecter in both The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, it is hard to envision any 2-hour movie being able to fully reconcile us to such a brilliantly complex character. Prequels and sequels have attempted to help us better understand Hannibal Lecter – Hannibal Rising (2007) revealed to us the origins of Dr. Lecter and the driving force behind his actions – but the lack of coherence across the series (i.e. same director, same shooting style, same actors), doesn’t quite do the character justice. The same applies to Game of Thrones‘ Tyrion Lannister, for how could we possibly begin to understand or appreciate this one-of-a-kind character, whose dry wit, sardonic bitterness, and intellectual prowess stems from his life-long torment for being a dwarf, if he were merely a figure in some blockbuster-movie where his screen time probably totalled at 30 minutes ?

With television growing and growing in popularity, the lines between TV and Cinema are becoming increasingly blurred. I mean, there used to be a distinction between those actors who starred in movies and those who starred in television, but I think we are beginning to see a substantial crossover as a number of Hollywood actors, many of whom started out in television, begin to return to the small screen. Martin Freeman is a prime example of such overlap – star of Ricky Gervais’ The Office, Freeman shot to international fame as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, but has since made a return to television with his continuing involvement in BBC’s Sherlock, and his recent portrayal as Lester Nygaard in FX’s Fargo. Yet, what has truly rendered the start of a new era in television is the participation of The Hunger Games’ Woody Harrelson and Oscar-winning Matthew McConaughey in HBO’s True Detective (a show which is possibly one of the best things to ever be aired on television). Many might disagree with me, but I seriously doubt that such massive Hollywood stars would have lent their names to a television production back in, say, 2009 even.

True Detective

And it is not hard to see why such actors are choosing to spread their talent across a multi-episode television series – where once television’s lower budget led to depictions of day-to-day reality rather than the fantastical escapism encountered in film, television is beginning to acquaint itself with massive special effects, making some episodes seem like they were intended for the big screen. The two which spring to my mind immediately is The Battle of Blackwater Bay depicted in Season 2, Episode 9 of Game of Thrones, and the incredible police-chase sequence at the end of Season1, Episode 4 of True Detective:

As you can now probably see, if you couldn’t before, I just love television. And I don’t mean any old television programme, although I am guilty of continuously watching The Only Way is Essex and Celebrity Big Brother (reality television is often the best form of escapism !). But, yeah, I can often think of nothing better than getting lost in a brilliant television show in the same way that I lose myself in the books that some are based on. I love having something to look forward to every week, something that I can research and read up on, characters that have back stories which can occupy me for hours and hours, and story-lines which engage me for weeks, possibly months on end rather than just that two hour trip to the cinema. I can only imagine how incredibly wonderful both Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings would have been if they had been 10 episode epics unfurled over 5 or more seasons. I mean, there’s still time to do that ! Just imagine an HBO rendering of The Lord of the Rings, where Middle-earth comes to life on the same scale as Westeros ! (Although The Lord of the Rings movies will always hold a special place in my heart) Or how amazing would it be to hear the words ‘Next week, on FX’s Harry Potter….’ Getting excited just thinking about it ! Personally I really think a television adaptation about James Potter and Sirius Black’s time at Hogwarts NEEDS to be made ! I already have the perfect cast list in mind….

Anyway, to conclude my weird-obsession with television, I’ve made a list of what I believe are some of the best television series out there, many of which are adaptations of books and the like. As I said earlier, I truly believe that television has the potential to accurately bring to life the written word more than any big budget, blockbuster movie ever will. In fact, it is not so much that television is now becoming indistinguishable from film, but, rather, is beginning to surpass it.

Game of Thrones
The Walking Dead
Hannibal
Fargo
True Detective
Sherlock
Dracula
Sleepy Hollow
Downton Abbey
Sex and the City
Doctor Who
American Horror Story
Lost

Now don’t shoot me just because something like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, or Dexter isn’t up there, as I’m not an infinite pool of knowledge when it comes to every television show, and I’ve still yet to see the odd few ! But those are my favourites 🙂

Also, one more thing, and this is simply a personal reason for my obsession with recent television, but I am LOVING all the British actors being featured across many of these shows ! Sorry to all my American readers (if any), but as a proud Briton/Welshman/Englishman (Welshwoman, Englishwoman ?!), it is great to know that the world can now see the amount of talent we actually have on our tiny island. I mean, there is at least ONE Briton featured in almost all of the television shows I’ve named, most of which are American-produced. Let’s name a few…..well, for starters, almost the entire cast of Game of Thrones are British ! But we also have Martin Freeman in Fargo, Tom Mison in Sleepy Hollow, Andrew Lincoln and David Morrissey in The Walking Dead, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in Dracula, Hugh Dancy in Hannibal and Dominic Monaghan and Naveen Andrews in Lost. Yes, most of the time they are playing Americans (how GOOD is Freeman’s Midwestern accent in Fargo ?!), but it’s still inspiring to see them being cast in such big productions ! AH I LOVE IT ! Okay, so I just remembered that Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is actually Irish and not British, but hey, my surname is Irish so it still makes me proud !!

Anyway, hope you enjoyed reading ! Oh yeah, and watch True Detective. It’s amazing. I still can’t get over how ingenious it was – ‘You’re in Carcosa now.’ Just brilliant. Even if you just watch it for the opening sequence, that’s justifiable:

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Is Television the New Cinema ?

  1. Great post. There is such good television out these days and a lot of that is coming from Britain. As a Brit this is really good to see. Something I’ve started watching is House of Cards which was adapted from a British miniseries. I recommend.

    • Thank you ! I know, I’m so happy to see British actors being used in so many good things….another one is Hugh Laurie in ‘House’ ! Haven’t seen House of Cards, but I keep hearing good things so I may give it a try 🙂

      • That accent is one of the best things about the show ! Sunday’s episode was brilliant, I’m surprised at how good Billy Bob Thornton is in it ! Television is just so great at the moment.

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