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Opinion : Suffocating Film and TV one formula at a time

3 min read


There’s a deep problem in how we consider our mediums of creative expression. Films, games, comics – all seem to be confined by the actual methods of production of their initial stages. We’ve looked at games and comics – and now it’s time to look at Film and TV.

Yet again: consider that films are confined to their time slots because of the methods of production (we can’t fit all of it on a tape, DVD, etc.). Thanks to Blu-Rays this is changing. However, people still consider that awful puking gallery, called a movie theatre, the place to experience films. It would be difficult to get an audience focused on the amount of content a Blu-Ray can hold, while they are in the confines of the movie theatre.

Blu-Rays are used at home for a reason. Furthermore, sitting with irritable humans for more than two minutes is torture enough; doing so for more than two hours, well, it’s a great wonder there aren’t more murders onboard train-rides or international flights.

With Blu-Rays people can arrange the evening/day as they see fit, even focusing on who they want to spend it with. This means making that 100 hour long Lord of the Rings marathon enticing because you can experience it with those who also loved the films or would love it and you actually find pleasant.

But still. The idea that you have an allotted time of about two hours to tell a story is largely misconstrued. This is not to say you cannot, only that you need not. For example, consider the excellent television series The Wire: there, this unfolding Russian novel of a visual narrative was allowed time to develop over five seasons; it flourished and revealed many layers of complexity. It is an incredibly rewarding experience for the audience.

Indeed, unlike other series, there is no push for you to continue watching at the end of an episode: there’s mostly no cliffhangers, no “Who Shot JR?” moments. It’s a story that is adult enough to not treat you as a constantly distracted child; one that portrays a real world that isn’t solved neatly in 45 minutes, ending with with sunglasses flying off as a snappy/bad one-liner emerges, while a random man screams in the background.

If the story is good enough, why should it be a film? There will be massive financial incentives, no doubt: There’s usually less danger of cast members, say, dying while filming a movie rather than an ongoing TV-series, better advertisement, distribution and so on. But again: this is only because we’ve come to expect it from films and not TV series.

Like comics though, what matters is the story. If it works within two hours, fantastic. But, there are other options: a series, a mini-series and so on. There’s nothing unprofessional or degrading about mini-series or TV. We are so used to saying someone is “just” a TV actor that we assume bad things about him. But watch almost any actor or actress’ performance from The Wire compared to, say, Avatar and realise that automatic assumption is wrong.

The medium again is confined because of its production and its starting to show. How many more kidnapped woman, pissed off Vietnam vets, buddy-cops, vampire homoeroticism, reformed soldier identifying and defending natives, must we endure before we say No. How long must that idiot next to you keep grazing on his popcorn like a lobotomised bovine before we take our visual entertainment home, to indulge at a pace and with people we appreciate? The way we experience films mostly and, especially, in cinemas should die and die horribly.

And while we’re on this topic, I think next time I’m going to teach the gaming industry and Hollywood what the point of a gritty reboot is.

This is not it.

Last Updated: September 8, 2011

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