Sunday, February 18, 2007

TV VERSUS THE MOVIES

Found an interesting Newsweek article, claiming that TV is better than ever and has the crud at the movie theaters all beat. I notice quite a debate over at Hollywood Elsewhere about it, in the "Comments".

The jist of the article is this: (1) there's more originality in TV. David Gordon writes that "while the major film studios have responded by taking shelter beneath big-tent franchises, the TV industry has gone the opposite route, welcoming anyone with an original idea." He cites shows like Sarah Silverman Presents, Dexter, and The Office, and of course mentions The Wire. All the usual suspects. Also, he mentions the popularity of DVDs which allow you to watch entire seasons of 24 in one shot.

You know, we keep seeing these articles popping up all the time, claiming that TV is better. Even during the Seinfeld/Frasier/ER era they were claiming that, claiming these blockbusters and other movies were unoriginal and uninspired compared to the great stuff on our TV sets. There's nothing new about this. I will say though, it's hard to argue against what this guy says about what we are seeing from TV. Certainly there are a lot of great shows on the air where people are knocking themselves out, trying to do great work-- whether it's The Sopranos or Lost or whatever.

Meanwhile you see a movie like Norbit at the theaters and you automatically think all Hollywood movies are junk. Gordon is saying the main Hollywood studios are mailing it in with formulaic movies aimed at 12-year-olds, citing this year's upcoming blockbuster efforts: "'Spider-Man 3.' 'Shrek 3.' The third 'Pirates of the Caribbean.' The fourth 'Die Hard.' The fifth 'Harry Potter.'" So it's easy to think that The Sopranos, 24, and these other shows have this stuff all beat.

"TV IS IN A NEW GOLDEN AGE": MY FOOT

Okay, so that is the argument: this is the new Golden Age of Television and television is way better than the movies, so we should all stay home!

Explain this, then: why is there so much junk on TV if it's supposed to be so freaking good? Maybe I'm just cynical after watching yet another bad night of boring reality TV, but it's a legitimate question.

This week, for example, we are in for American Idol on three nights in a row and you can't convince me that the movies are worse than that piece of junk! In fact, Gordon torches his own argument by praising the phenomenon that is American Idol! That show has become a parody of itself. The judges have gotten too carried away and the songs are boring, and the wrong losers lose and the wrong winners win!

It's shows like that one that have ushered in all these amateur-hour talent hours with the jerk judges on TV-- these dancing and skating shows, especially. We have shows littered with Simon Cowell-wannabes (ie. Chef Gordon Ramsey) on basically every channel. Not exactly original programming ideas here. In fact, NBC is now claiming they want to get away from attempting serious dramas and comedies at the 8PM hour. They're no longer going to knock themselves out doing quality stuff, and say they will mail it in with reality shows and game shows like Deal or No Deal. That isn't an improvement, folks. In fact, irony of ironies, the latest so-called original idea coming from Mark Burnett is a reality show about making motion pictures. He's teamed up with Steven Spielberg to come up with a show where they try and find the next great director. Personally, though, these aspiring directors ought to just go and try and make their movie instead of wasting time appearing on yet another reality show, trying to get validation from the American public.

Gordon talks about how original these TV shows are. What planet is this guy on? You look at the new shows that have come out this year on network TV and they haven't been all that great. Lots of people like Ugly Betty, and Friday Night Lights is pretty good. But Friday Night Lights isn't an original idea-- they based that show on the book and the movie! That NBC effort Studio 60 is based on Saturday Night Live and is the stalest show Aaron Sorkin has ever done; it is getting ripped by a lot of people. Shark just looks like another lawyer show to me, and lots of these dramas and comedies tanked so badly that they were cancelled! Networks like FOX have taken a bath with all the shows that have been cancelled this season-- they basically junked their whole lineup! And the state of the situation comedy on TV is nothing short of abominable. Basically it's Monday night on CBS and that's it!!

Weekend TV has turned into a bad joke. Saturday night has turned into a big "repeat night" for every one of these networks--- and let's not even talk about all the infomercials that are on. If I see Kevin Trudeau on TV one more time I will need a headache pill.

Gordon also mentioned how good these "niche" channels are and how they breed original programming all the time. But these home-and-garden-channels and learning channels and music channels--- let's face it, they program a lot of junk, too. An awful lot of junk. Just look at the stuff shown on E! for example, or all the poker shown on TV. And while some of these cable channels have been doing terrific award-worthy stuff, others have totally gone down the tubes. Have you seen A&E? Now, that's a really good example of a channel in deep decline. They were good during the Biography/Law & Order days, and even before that. I used to love that channel! Now they have done a big revamp to try and appeal to younger viewers, and they are throwing on there every reality show imaginable. I hate it! That channel is just unwatchable, and it's sad because it used to be a great channel with these documentaries and dramas and the like.

Some golden age this is folks! What weed is this writer at Newsweek smoking?! If TV really is better than movies, then going to the movies has got to be a completely miserable experience for most people.

I don't buy this argument that TV is better than movies. I do think TV is a lot better than it used to be and that there are a lot of good shows getting made, but it's not as if the medium is miles ahead, or even ahead at all. For every step forward TV makes, they take big steps back with all these idiotic reality show non-efforts, most of which are unoriginal ripoffs. That's all I am saying.

I will agree, though, that the main Hollywood studios have done a really poor job putting out original movies lately. I'm as sick and tired of these sequels and retreads as anyone. Having said that, these independents are doing a great job with movies like The Queen, or Little Miss Sunshine or these other flicks. The international market is putting out a lot of quality stuff, too. There's a lot of quality moviemaking going on in the world. But people ignore this and only focus on the big-ticket movies with the big names, thinking this is the entire industry. It's unfair to say TV is way ahead of the movies if you only look at the main Hollywood studios and ignore the rest of what is going on out there.

But still, you cannot escape the reality that the big Hollywood studios have been mailing it in as of late. You see it with the Oscars these days- they are getting killed. Frankly the question these studio executives ought to ask themselves is "why are we letting these independents steal our thunder all the time?" I'm convinced the big studios are just banking on the "franchises" because they want to make quick bucks. That's all they care about, so they go with the superheroes and the sequels all the time. As a result, these major studio efforts make the stuff on TV look good in comparison, and make the whole motion picture industry look worse than it is. It's not!!

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