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February 24 2007

Television's Brave New World: Better Than Film? Patrick at Blogcritics examines whether TV is better than film, including a section focusing on Joss ("I'd rather see him try to get a pilot on HBO than go forward with Goners") and his actors ("As Buffy, Gellar got to do everything ... in The Grudge, she didn't even have a character").

Great read. I can't disagree with a thing.
Fascinating article. Mr Reddygirl and I were just talking last week about how the quality of movies has slipped. It used to be you could depend on Hollywood alone to produce 8 or 10 movies a year that deserved being nominated for best picture. Maybe they weren't necessarily true classics but they were well-made films with good scripts and great acting.

I would *love* for Joss to have a series on HBO.
I always liked what Joss said, at a Screenwriter Expo panel (I think) - that “TV is feminine. It wants to talk about the problem for seven years. Movies want to get it done and get out.”

However, I don't want to make the Sophie's choice of either Joss-TV or Joss-Flicks - I want both: Goners and the police procedural series he mentioned in his '05 InFocus interview. And whatever else he's got up his Joss-sleeve.

Gods, I would so like to see his next TV project - I am perennially hopeful - take place in a venue without benefit of commercial interruption. Watching his several series on DVD without being interrupted by the plaintive cries of Maybelline et al. has been refreshing and revealing.

Okay, I know Joss has a life, and I want the moon, but this is my fantasy, so I get to write it...
But I don't get HBO... :(

Gotta say, I completely agree with the Firefly/Serenity comments.

Great article, I haven't seen all the shows and movies, but the ones that I have, I agree with the author's opinions.

[ edited by fortunateizzi on 2007-02-24 22:47 ]
Or 'Goners' as a tv series on HBO...
Question for Sopranos watchers out there: does it really do "Everything The Godfather does and better"? Them be some serious allegations.

As far as Firefly/Serenity, agreed, more or less, with the caveat that Serenity does also happen to tell a more forceful and powerful story than individual Firefly eps did; having *one* story, with *one* arc told over two hours does have its advantages. There's an exclamation mark there, as opposed to the ellipses of a television show. It is a shame that the characters in the film weren't as sharply defined, but I don't think it's *quite* as simple as "one trait" (Kaylee's essential sweetness did come through besides just her Simon-love). But I agree that the show was the better way to tell the stories of nine people.

It's essentially novels and novellas. Sometimes, what you need is to tell a story quickly and make your point; sometimes you need to take your time and "talk about it for seven years."

Still, I do think that movies are in a recession and TV shows are in a golden age. I just hope that both media can coexist peacefully.
Ironically, the show Alan Ball is doing for HBO, "True Blood", is about vampires and a blond female protagonist with special powers. The series is based on Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Series books who has claimed to be a MONSTER Buffy fan, pardon the pun.
I'd rather see him try to get a pilot on HBO than go forward with Goners.

I just want Joss to be able to do what he wants to do, and have the support and funding to back it up.

I also have to disagree with what the author says about Serenity. It's not just a "a well told story, but that's all it is", it's a bookend to the series. It heightened the tension and drama and emotion to a level that I had been waiting for Firefly to finally get to. But it's because of Firefly that Serenity is so emotional. If I didn't know the characters so well, I wouldn't be as impressed with the movie.
I, too, agree that FireFly was better than Serenity. Maybe we should do a poll? I'd be interested to know where we stand as a community.

I, too, cringe at Alyson Hanigan's work since Buffy. She's still the same, or better, wonderful actor, but the roles! Was she even in American Pie Part 3? Huh, yeah, supposed to be.

For a couple of years I've gone to screenings of OMWF. I have said to everyone who will listen that it is better than most movies I've seen. Unless it's a Vertigo or a Mulholland Dr. it's better. So you know I totally agree with this statement from the article:
"I'm sure it's a terrible grind doing a series, but creatively, Buffy or Angel make nearly every feature film ever made pale in comparison." Amen, my brother!

I hope that the Bush Admin's interference with TV, through the FCC regulating content, doesn't bring an end to this Golden Age of TV.

Here's to SMG, JM, AH and all the others getting quality roles again. On TV. And Joss, my man, you are my hero. It's not a matter of a small screen anymore. TV screens are getting bigger. I know, I've been to Best Buy lately. Do the HBO thing please. I'll get HBO.

As for Alan Ball, I love vampire stories. I wish I was doing True Blood.
We don't get HBO.

But if a Joss series were to run on it, we most assuredly would.

Agree, ElectricSpaceGirl, about Serenity. Was just talking with my wife about it this it telescoped an incredible amount of tension, exposition, humor, terror, and humanity in such a short time. And, tell an astounding story, that answered a few seemingly unanswerable questions from the 13 episodes...and re-tell one of the great fables--man playing God--in a bizarrely brilliant new way.
Re True Blood, that's quite interesting, Charmuse. So now there may be two vampire series on television; one on Network TV (vampire detective) and one on HBO.

I'd love to see Joss come back to television and HBO would certainly be a venue where he could have more creative freedom and less censorship; however, it's Joss' call as to when he'll feel ready after being stabbed as deeply in the creative and business sense as he has been.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2007-02-25 00:09 ]
Wow. I *completely* agree with this guy! I've been feeling this way for a while now, and even more after I discovered the Whedonverse. Great link! :D

-Edited to add that the moment a Joss show was announced on HBO I'd call up and order the channel immediately. As Joss goes, so goes my nation.

[ edited by mikejer on 2007-02-25 00:13 ]
WilliamTheB, I love your exclamation point/ellipses metaphor. I think it's extremely apt.

And I also think that the writer shortchanges Serenity (it made me cry, and I hadn't seen Firefly yet), but overall, he does have a point. The novel-like depth I want from a story is easier to build into a tv series than a movie. (Which is part of the reason Harry Potter as a tv series or miniseries would have been more fulfilling than the movies have been so far -- and will no doubt continue to be, given the length of the books.)

[ edited by In the Latin on 2007-02-25 00:44 ]
Yeah, it's a well-written article but I absolutely disagree about the Firefly/Serenity comparison. It is true though, like ElectricSpaceGirl said, that for those of us who knew the characters intimately, it gave the film a resounding emotional core that strangers to the series would not have.

I vehemently disagree with this:

But if Buffy were a movie, even one true to Joss' vision, Xander and Willow would have been little more than one-note comic relief, and Buffy herself would never have the depth that she did on the series.

That would never happen in a film Joss made about the Buffyverse, and frankly I find it insulting. How could that ever happen? He loves the characters too much to give them short shrift.
Trends aren't laws. TV may be telling better stories than cinema these days, but TV is not a better or worse storytelling medium than cinema. I think the example the writer chose, comparing The Godfather to The Sopranos, illustrates this. The experience of watching Michael Corleone go through a few major character changes in two relatively compact narratives is nothing like watching Tony Soprano go through a lot of smaller changes in a much longer serial narrative. Some of the fun of The Sopranos is watching Tony deal with everyday challenges; some of the power of The Godfather is watching Michael deal with the very largest issues. I've only watched three seaons of The Sopranos, but I seem to recall that one of Tony's frustrations is that his life is not epic, not heroic, not grandly tragic -- in short, not like The Godfather.

Since Goners was conceived as a movie, I'm sure it's a story best told in about two hours on a big screen in the dark. Maybe half a dozen times.
I, too, cringe at Alyson Hanigan's work since Buffy

How many of us here are doing what we really want to do? My job? I get a regular income and I'm kinda happy. But at the end of the day, my perfect job aint going come along. Same for Joss, Aly, Sarah, David, James etc. They gotta make a living somehow.
I'm sure it's a terrible grind doing a series, but creatively, Buffy or Angel make nearly every feature film ever made pale in comparison.

I love this line.
I haven't seen Date Movie or American Pie, but I think Aly is adorable and hilarious in How I Met Your Mother. Sure, it's not the depth of playing Willow, but as a way to make a living, I would imagine that it ain't too bad. :)
Well, I'm doing what I want to do! Perhaps I'm just lucky.
I agree with the author that the other characters are given short shrift in Serenity. I dragged one person to Serenity who enjoyed it a lot, cried at the right times but her only comment about Kaylee was "She's not too bright, is she? and watching it again, I could see where she got that. Kaylee kept saying "I don't understand" and yes, her one goal was to get Simon. We know that many people watched Serenity and couldn't figure out the dynamics between the characters. One person I knew, didn't realize Wash and Zoe were married. (Despite Zoe stating so every other line in the first 10 minutes or so!) It is difficult, even with Joss's talent to develop characters as deeply in a movie as on TV.
And, I guess I prefer the questioning of a TV show to the big answers of a movie.

[ edited by Lioness on 2007-02-25 00:44 ]
Question for Sopranos watchers out there: does it really do "Everything The Godfather does and better"? Them be some serious allegations.

I believe it does. It may even have done it by the second season. If you haven't watched the first season of Sopranos yet, go rent it now! If you like it, you can keep watching and if you don't... at least you'll have an idea what fans of the show are going on about.
Question for Sopranos watchers out there: does it really do "Everything The Godfather does and better"? Them be some serious allegations.

I know! I'm going to out myself as a total cinema nut here by saying: NO FRICKEN WAY. I like The Sopranos -- especially the first season, with the resonance of the mother-son relationship between Tony and his crazy mom -- but it's gone gently downhill since then, and I would not consider it even one of the greatest shows on TV ever, much less better than Coppola's masterpiece. I've seen the entire run of the show at least once, and every time I catch it on re-run, I'll stop and half-watch, but it never compels me -- it never makes me see things all anew, or feel something different. Great art does that for me: I've seen BtVS episodes again and again and every time, I see something, or feel something, anew.

I've seen the first 2 Godfather movies at least four times each. Every time I'm entranced and emotionally caught up in the sweep. The movies are so intense, so perfectly constructed and so.. so felt. I think The Godfather is one of the greatest pieces of American art ever; I think The Sopranos is a great mob genre piece. The late, great Pauline Kael, in an interview years ago, was asked to compare:

It stacked up well against GoodFellas, which I thought was pretty weak. But The Godfather—that’s like comparing each new movie to Eisenstein. The first two Godfathers are perhaps the best movies ever made in this country. It’s unfair to ask a TV series to live up to that. But “The Sopranos” had a quality of its own.

Other than that, though, I agree with the guy. TV is trumping movies right now, even though I love movies and have seen a couple of brilliant ones this year (Children of Men, Pan's Labyrinth, Borat), the truth becomes clear: TV is creatively blooming right now, while movies are... not stagnating, but less interesting than not. And that's a shame because there are quite a few directors I love (Stephen Frears, David O. Russell, Zhang Yimou, Wong Kar Wai, del Toro -- definitely -- Peter Jackson, Neil Jordan, Steven Spielberg) and yet, movies are less exciting than TV.

-- also, the guy totally left out The Simpsons, the first 6 seasons of which were the funniest comedy in the last thirty years in America. I think cinematic dramas are doing badly against TV, but cinematic comedies are *atrocious* in comparison to their TV-counterparts.
No Goners?? :O NOOOOO!!!!!

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of the way -- please, not HBO. Sure, there's the commercial-free-ness, but there's also the lack of HBO in my house and I'm already not signing up for Showtime for Dexter. It's not that I hate HBO or Showtime, it's that I absolutely despise Comcrap and refuse to give them any more money than I absolutely have to.

Plus college students are a large part of the Whedonverse's fan base and not a whole lot of them have HBO. So pleeeeeeeeease, dear Mr. Whedon, come back to TV. But make it SciFi. or FX. :D Oh, and not the CW cuz that channel doesn't even come in on my Comcrap. X(
I'm enjoying 24 on tv then most films out this year and last year.

Last series I enjoyed as much as 24 was Angel.
Patrick makes some bold statements, yet I agree with him on almost everything. The pieces on Babylon 5 on his blog also are a really good read and Buffy is brought up a lot and in interesting ways.

And I also second the praise for Simpsons 1-6 or atleast 2-4+6, brilliant comedy.

Thanks for this great link onetrueb!x !

[ edited by the Groosalugg on 2007-02-25 01:35 ]
Re: the work thing - I haven't always done the ideal work - ill-paying-but-beloved work in a bookstore springs to mind or (honest-to-gods) repainting all of the white roses red on a theatre set - but I have been doing the work I love for causes I support and/or with people I care about for most of my adult life... no matter how much I may bitch on any given day. In my earlier work-years, there's no denying that I ate a lot of pasta and and squeezed the rent out painfully at times, but it was worth it to learn the trade I wanted to learn...

I suppose that luck and perhaps privilege may have had something to do with it, but not to get all new age-y on your asses, I adhere to Joseph Campbell's "follow your bliss" - you usually have the most success and put your best focused energy into doing that which excites you most. You get better at it because you are driven to.

I guess I think people need to believe in and aim towards the work they love - maybe not "perfection," which is a delusion and a snare, but damn close to it - otherwise we just settle into a kind of unsatisfied habitude. This goes for the quality and nature of the work we do, as well as the sort of work it is.

Off-topic, but whatthehell - we went there, too. Or did we?
I dont know, there are times when really great movies, movies that move you can create characters and plots that matter. In television, its much easier to tell a story because of the length of the medium, but Ive always been of the opinion that if you can make me care about a character and love their story in 2 hours, then that is a much greater accomplishment than anything TV can produce. For instance, one of my favorite movies is V for Vendetta, and though it revolved around a character that I had never heard of (I didnt know it was a graphic novel) before, after about a half hour, I cared for V and Evie. By the time that Valerie read the letter, I cared so much about V that at the end, it was even more emotional than anything I saw on Buffy, even The Gift (and I consider the last 5 minutes of The Gift to be the best 5 minutes in TV...ever). It was powerful, it was two hours, and better at making me care about characters than anything else.

What the real problem, I think, is that actors who were once in television dont get the roles they deserve because of the stigma of what they did before. Will Smith seems to be one of the few exceptions because there are few who remember The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air now, but for the most part TV actors dont seem to get the roles that they deserve. So in SMG's case, her roles in The Grudge and The Return, for instance, seem to be more a product of making money than anything else. It wont be until SMG finally picks a good movie (The Air I Breathe looks promising) that she may get to where Will Smith is in terms of success in movies. Same goes for AH and DB of course, but in that sense, movies are sometimes bad and rarely beautiful because movies only have 2 hours to do what TV does in 22. I dont think TV is more artistic, I think TV just gives the creator a greater opportunity than any movie does, and thus, I think movies are more artistic if they can be done right.

Think of it this way, if you are given only limited materials and create something beautiful from just that, then I think that is better than having many more materials and time at your disposal to create something good.

ETA: Oh and something else I disagree with: on Star Wars, Han Solo was more interesting than Luke, but on House, House is the most interesting character. On some shows, the lead is overshadowed by the role players, but Buffy and House are rare exceptions IMO. I think House and Buffy were two leads who were more fascinating and better acted than the role players on the show, but of course, there are others that go the exact opposite way. For instance, NCIS is a show about Gibbs and his team of agents, but its routine that either Ziva or Tony or Mcghee or Abby are more interesting than Gibbs (of course, I love them all, but thats not the point). I have no doubt that there are leads that are overshadowed, but I think House and Buffy are two rare exceptions.

ETA2: Oh and my favorite character on Buffy was Xander, and in a lot of ways, I wish he was right that Xander trumped Buffy. But that clearly never happened, neither with Xander or Willow...

[ edited by jerryst3161 on 2007-02-25 02:00 ]
"I guess I think people need to believe in and aim towards the work they love - maybe not "perfection," which is a delusion and a snare, but damn close to it - otherwise we just settle into a kind of unsatisfied habitude. This goes for the quality and nature of the work we do, as well as the sort of work it is."

And sometimes we have to make painful and difficult choices when what we have aimed for does not work out. I don't think that is the case for any of the people of the Whedonverse. They all seem to be doing well still working at what they love. Others are not always so lucky.
As far as films vs. television, it occurred to me that of the films I've seen and loved this year, "Borat" was essentially an extension of a TV show character--well done, but I'm not positive it's *better* than "Da Ali G Show," which I also love dearly. "Little Miss Sunshine" was a lot of fun, but in some respects it's somewhat of an extended, really good sitcom episode rather than something that only film could accomplish, and so its being up for Best Picture is a bit of a stretch. Similar for "The Departed"; lots of shows have similar ploys and counterploys. The best films that I've seen this year are ones that tell a story of a very short period in time, like "A Prairie Home Companion" and "United 93", which is something that television *episodes* can do but that a television show overall? Not quite as much.

And when I think of my favourite movies, I just can't imagine them existing as TV shows, just like most of my favourite TV shows just don't seem right as a movie. I'd say that Buffy/Angel/Firefly, the Golden Age of The Simpsons, the British Office, the first season (maybe two) of Veronica Mars, The Prisoner, and other shows are as good as some of the best films ever made, but in ways that simply couldn't be accomplished as well in a film setting.
What the real problem, I think, is that actors who were once in television dont get the roles they deserve because of the stigma of what they did before.

There's no question that a lot of casting decisions get done based on what actors were known for. However I think that's as true of actors who are in films as those who are in television. Your example of Will Smith is particularly interesting because Will was originally a rapper who learned everything about acting from being in television. We actually have quite a few major actors today who were originally TV stars and who eventually were lucky enough to have successful roles in successful films. Johnny Depp, Bruce Willis and George Clooney all come to mind. Acting skill is rarely more important than being in the right project at the right time.

As for the discussion of the Godfather, one thing I haven't seen mentioned yet is that this film was originally a book. I suspect that may have a bit to do with the way the story is developed. It might just as well have been a miniseries. The commitment of money is the main difference between the mediums.
Actually, yourlibrarian, an astonishing variety of movies begin as books. Or plays. Or newspaper articles. The movies *love* to rip off different media.

The thing is, The Godfather novel is a potboiler. I've read that Mario Puzo essentially sat down to write a money-making novel, after his literary endeavors brought him zero cash. Paramount bought the book, forced Coppola to make the movie, and after quite a lot of friction and artistic chaos, a terrible novel was turned into a great, epic American movie. And one of the wonderful things about the The Godfather movies is how even though they're sprawling, they are also marvelously compact storytelling. Every little moment in those movies matter -- there's no slackness in the pacing, in the emotional fabric, no false moment.

I love TV, and one of the things that characterizes the medium is that you can have filler moments. Because essentially, you have to cut for commercials, and since you have 22 episode -- or thirteen, or 10 hours -- to tell a story, there are charming diversions, or filler moments. You can leave things in because your television audience at home is OK with distractions and slack moments: you can go to the bathroom, or pause the DVD to get a snack, or chat through a commercial break. It has a tempo, like any novel, and it can't all be *intensity* all the way through.

But movies are meant to be shown in a movie theater, with a captive audience, so you have to compel their attention for every second. A critic I like (Anthony Lane) once wrote that the best movies are poems. They should be intense and lyrical and wholly themselves. Which is why The Godfather parts one and two are so majestic an achievement. If you watch those movies carefully and a few times, you realize that every single part, emotion, moment knits perfectly together. I can't say the same of any TV show -- or episode. I literally can't think of one moment in those movies that felt false, or unnecessary, or flat, or doesn't contribute to the greater picture.

I'm in my 20s, but lucky enough to have seen The Godfather in a theater, at a tiny rep house. I remember walking out of the darkened theater feeling dazed, into the afternoon sunshine, and blinking because my head was still so firmly in the movie that I had almost forgotten that there could be such things as bright afternoon sunlight.
I'm going to agree with In the Latin about Alyson in How I Met Your Mother. :) It's great seeing her on TV again, and I really enjoy HIMYM.
To be honest I don't agree with any of the arguments in this article.
WilliamTheB - my own opinion about your Godfather/Sopranos question, is to agree with the blogger - "The Sopranos" trumps "The Godfather." They're very different, of course, despite both dealing with the same subject matter - I do think that "The Sopranos" is probably more akin to "Goodfellas" in terms of story-telling.
...I'm anxiously awaiting season 6! :)
ETA: I guess that's "season 6, part 2," actually.

[ edited by obsessed on 2007-02-25 21:19 ]
Fascinating article, but I can't agree with the "either or" thing. There are great films & great TV shows, both a tiny percentage of the total output, which is mostly crap. They are indeed different formats but I enjoy both. Loved The Godfather, love The Sopranos, they are simply two different animals.
I disagree most with the Bloggers comments on Firefly and Serenity. I believe that Joss's fanbase was indeed large enough to support Firefly on it's own, the problem was the lack of commitment, promotion & follow through on the part of the network, to put it politely.
I also strongly disagree that Serenity suffered in comparison, I think it's the most underrated SciFi film in the history of the genera. In a perfect world, it would have made a gazilliuon bucks & given Joss the clout to do absolutely anything he wants in any medium, forever. As sad as the loss of Firefly was, I believe that the series was a perfect set up for the film. As much as I love Joss the storyteller, I love Joss the director just as much. And Serenity gave him a huge canvas for his gorgeous visuals, for which I can only be grateful.
And a series on HBO? That would be a dream come true. Lots of creative freedom, practically no censorship & most of all, no commercials. How many writers/producers/directors have a fanbase so loyal that some have already stated "I don't get HBO, but if Joss had a series, I would"? HBO, are you listening?
That's a well written article but IMO it's not making particularly Earth shattering points. TV shows get longer to develop characters so the best of them have deeper characterisation. Films get longer to set up shots so the best of them have much better cinematography. Because TV characters have more depth the best actors produce incredibly subtle, emotive performances playing them (and yep, I am looking at you Hugh Laurie ;). Because films are shorter the best film actors produce tours de force, powerful, intense and yet still sometimes subtle performances.

Not really revelatory, surely ?

Something i'd agree was true until recently though was that films had more chances to shock and surprise us than TV (because a TV show will be back next week it used to be there were certain things you could rely on, certain characters that wouldn't die, certain events that wouldn't happen etc.). In the last few years largely because of the huge (ridiculously so IMO) amounts of money spent on movies, they're taking fewer and fewer risks on any level (casting, writing, directing etc.) and so we're getting a lot less novelty. Films are often compared to rollercoasters and these days I think that's pretty apt because with most rollercoasters, you can see every twist and turn before you get on.

And it's surely true that because of its serial nature there're some types of story you need TV for (considering only films and TV that is - obviously novels or comics are better suited still to certain stories). Take 'Dexter', it's a show about a sympathetic serial killer. Now, in a film you just wouldn't have the time to show enough of Dexter himself to make him convincingly sympathetic, it needs 10 hours to do that (and more, roll on season 2 ;). But it's also true that because it isn't serial in nature, a film can show much bigger individual events than any TV episode ever could. 'Serenity' shows the essential dismantling of a solar system wide authoritarian regime. Can we really see that happening in two hours of 'Firefly' (unless they were the last two hours) ? Even Joss had to keep some status in his quo.

(and i'd also say it's true that actors/writers/directors are less snobby about TV, see it less as the poor cousin and more as a viable alternative medium)

All in all, pretty happy I can watch both (and read books and comics etc.) because every medium has its strengths and its weaknesses.
Willowy, they're singing our song.

I've been sending smoke signals for months over this possible turn in events. The stories from Joss are pretty indepth and require an era or two to spin up to speed. Think Willow.

Here's the thing, the 'BtVS' as we loved, is toast. Gone, kaput, see you later, Charlie. So, we better get used to new ideas and, may I hazard a thought, stories?

Hence, new pilots. Which leads us to the topic of this dicussion. What's the problem? I would love to see Joss tac a story on the HBO network. And I'm sure many of us would cheer at the results. In truth, no network has really giving Joss a moment to express his thoughts. In this day and age, I think HBO is the one that may allow this. Again, just thinking out loud.

Simon, I adore my job and I still often think what lead me here. Like you, I teach. In my case, 18-to-22 year old. And I do it because I love it. Teaching a young brain is what gives me steps in the morning. "But, why is it..." You can guess the rest.

Take care everyone!
Great article. I agree with it totally. I think the problem for writers and directors and even the actors that are in them, is that they seem to have so little control over the finished product. Movies cost a lot of money to make and the studios are so parnoid about covering their costs that they interfere, reduce movies to a bland product that will offend noone and certainly not rock anyone's world and therefore they are losing the punters (movie goers).

Tim Minear commented on this very thing - something to the affect that he gets to oversee every aspect of his TV shows and has more hours of quality produced footage than he would have had working in film.
I have to disagree that The Godfather is a bad book. The flashback sequence to the Don's first kill in particular is outstanding. Darkly Dreaming Dexter, on the other hand, I read after watching the first season of Dexter. After the first two chapters I was thinking I'd read a lot of fanfic that was better written, and by the end I decided it was the second time in my life I found a movie or TV show better than the book it was based on. (Don't get me started on how much the movie V for Vendetta sucks compared to the comic!)
Apples vs. Oranges in an all out battle royale to the death? Seems sort of futile.

I could pick apart this article plenty, but I'll resist, and just point out that Alyson Hannigan is appearing weekly in a popular television show. She's hardly the best example of a Buffyverse actress who has gone on to less successful film roles.
They are, Maddy!

Ever since I discovered what a true artist could do with HBO (yes, I'm talking about the flabbergastingly amazing Deadwood again), I've been stumping for Joss to hook up with them. I'm pissed at them now because of Deadwood's premature ejection, and I canceled my subscription. Still, I would most definitely re-up if Joss came on board.

And The Sopranos doesn't even come near The Godfather, imo.
Every time I see folks grumble about not having HBO or Showtime (I don't either), or saying they refuse to get them for whatever reason, I wanna remind them that there're these things called DVDs. Every premium cable drama or comedy eventually finds its way to DVD, if not fairly quickly and before the next season of each series (heck, Showtime's Brotherhood Season 1 came out the week after its season finale).

You don't need to see the series as it airs. You can buy or rent it when the DVDs arrive. Yes, I know that when it comes to popular shows (24 or any other heavily media-covered series), it's hard to avoid spoilers, but it can be done if you're determined to not get spoiled. Just skip the Entertainment section of the newspaper, don't read Entertainment Weekly, and don't listen to radio DJs too much in the morning when they're likely to discuss the previous night's shows (I learned all these lessons the hard way. I peeked at 24 articles in the paper last year and got spoiled for Season 5 a little, but it was excellent regardless).

Re: Alan Ball's new series
Despite loving nearly the entirety of Buffy and enjoying shows, movies, books, comics, and video games in the past that either feature or are entirely focused on this subject matter, I hate vampires. Really hate 'em. Even more sick of 'em recently. But there's no way I'm passing up a show from the guy who gave us Six Feet Under. It'll be hard to go in with fair expectations, Ball's got a hell of a follow-up job.
I doubt anyone will ever read this, but hey I've had 'flu and I'm behind on my whedonesque-ing!

On the whole I prefer getting to know characters over a long period of time on a television show (or its DVD), than in a short space of time at the cinema. Does that make TV better than film? For me, yes, but I do see the 'but they're not trying to do the same thing so how can you compare?' argument, too.

As for Joss returning to TV, of course I'd love that! But I'm guessing that film script-writing and comic-writing are easier to fit around family life than 16hour days on a TV set. Likewise, Alyson Hannigan has often said in interviews that she enjoys HIMYM not least because now she has time to go to the dentist. Imagine not having time to go to the dentist! Sometimes practicalities and individual happiness win out over art, whatever we as fans might want to see. (Not that I think Lily's such a bad role!)

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