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January 11 2006

Anything film can do, TV can do better. Joss Whedon and others chip in with their thoughts on whether tv is better than film.

Interesting, and I do like TV, but the article handily neglects to mention that TV doesn't like taking many risks either (at least network TV), and few quality shows last even a season anymore. Which is really bugging me. I'm sick of falling in love with amazing creative shows only to have them pulled out from under me. (Firefly, Wonderfalls, etc)
It is true that so many really interesting and innovative TV shows get canceled, but at least for their short time on the air we have something surprising. The first time I saw 'Veronica Mars' pilot episode I sat up, my mouth fell open in shock, and I couldn't believe anything this funny/snarky and bitterly dark could get made. I can't remember the last time I was surprised by anything in a movie theater (okay, I was surprised by a lot of stuff in 'Serenity', but you know what I mean). It seems to me like most movies are made by committee, and if anything unusual is in it, that will be removed after the first 'screenings'.
Interesting article, that. While I agree that tv gives you more of a chance to do interesting character work and a more diverse scala of subjects, I don't think that is necessarily 'better' than movies. It's just different.

I'd say I love both media about equally and even though there has been more than enough exciting tv of late, it is true that innovative tv can't survive on the major networks just like major studios don't produce many exciting or surprising movies (of course, there are always exceptions).

But apart from that, television and movies are just different. A movie is more a broad sketch and is - at its core - a way to spend a single evening. Television requires a longtime investment in something but also offers great opportunities and sometimes greater rewards in some areas. At the very least you're bound to get more attatched to characters you see every week as opossed to characters you see only once for a couple of hours.

On the other hand, there's still no beating the movie-going experience with respect to immersion into the material. There's just something 'magical' about seeing something on the big screen for the first time, although I feel that that view might slowly be dying out.

I also think film is more accepted as an artform. A good movie carries more weight than a good tv show, it's taken seriously much more. And that is something that'll hopefully change in the future.

ETA: fixed annoying typo

[ edited by GVH on 2006-01-11 14:39 ]
Anotherfireflyfan: I agree that often the US networks don't give programs a chance to find their feet but I also have to agree with embers that TV can really surprise you and take risks, it's just that if the network doesn't see ratings early on they're not going to support the show (mainly due to the cost per episode - i'd hazard that you could make a 'season' of most BBC programmes (admittedly only about 6 episodes) for the cost of one ep. of e.g. 'Lost').

I think TV still struggles to provide the spectacle of a movie (this is again partly a money thing and partly a scale issue i.e. TVs are smaller than cinema screens, or mine is anyway ;) tho' shows like 'Lost' have comparable visuals to movies.
The fact of the matter is that HDTVs will officially replace the cinema pretty soon. The bigger and louder our TVs get, the less reason we have to visit expensive, sticky, chatty theatres.
Exactly the reasons I've been watching tv more and more intensely for the last 2-3 years.

Nothing will keep me from the theaters, however. I love the moviegoing experience too much to quit going. This might very well be because I currently can't afford an awesome widescreen tv.
I think you have to be careful with this. It is true that right now, there is probably more quality work going on in TV. But as to which medium is better (and let's face it, they are pretty much the same one really - as opposed to books and film, for example) I don't think you can say, they both have their advantages and disadvantages. As I think even Joss mentioned once, in film you simply have more time to create the perfect frame. In TV it's more like get the shot now, we need to get the next one!

I think you have to think about what each can provide. As far as character arcs/ongoing plots/novels on film, then TV is the place. But as far as mise en scene, most technical aspects and the opporutunity to present a conscise story, then movies are the way to go.

Embers, yes, films can be made by a committee, but only in so far as film/tv is a collaborative medium. In general, TV is the one made by a committee, with a bunch of writers in a room banging out the plot points. Big Hollywood productions usually have a number of screenwriters, many of whom might be uncredited, and, sure, maybe even the director might be interfered with by the studio cronies, but when you've got an auter (argue over how much emphasis should be put on this vs. the collaborative aspect as you will) then a film often has the stamp of that particular director/writer. It's as close to authorship in movies as you can get, certainly way more so than tv.

Err, so anyway. They're both good. I think film wins out in the end, but there are stories you can't tell on tv and some you can't tell in movies. That determines which is the most appropriate. As to the status of movies right now, yep, there's a lot of crap, a lot of rehash and not very much interesting material around right at the moment. 2005 was a pretty dismal year for movies overall.
Interesting article. As some posters have said, it's a huge generalization, but it makes some fair points. And I say that as a confirmed movie-lover; TV will never have the place in my heart that movies do.
I think the bigger point is that most of what is getting made in both TV and movies today is safe, mediocre schlock. There are so many bad movies, that it's not hard to find the best TV shows and say they're better. But I also think both media have their strengths. TV shows are better at long-term character development and stories that can be told incrementally, at small subtle points and scenes that you rarely have time for in a 2-hour movie, and, for the most part, at taking risks. When movies have so many millions invested in them, it's harder for them to take the big storytelling and thematic risks that could derail the whole film's profit, whereas one episode in a TV show is just 1 hour out of 22.

But, I still think there's nothing like a really well-done movie, in terms of beautiful and unusual cinematography and really wrapping you in 100% to the story that's being told. Telling something in 2 hours is a different way to tell it, and I think the tight editing often benefits the storytelling. There's not much wasted time or scenes - and there are no TV shows you can say that about.

Ultimately, I love the best that movies have to offer and I love the best that TV shows have to offer. I'll keep seeing both, and try my best to ignore the mediocre or downright bad shows that's the majority of what both media produce.

ETA: WannaBlessedBe, excellent points. Your post came out while I was writing mine - sorry for all the repetition! And I completely agree about the authorship issue. It's something that TV, by nature, will never really have, and some of the great film auteurs, while rare, rose to the status of true artists.

[ edited by acp on 2006-01-11 16:44 ]
Interesting article. It does paint a rather ideal picture of the television experience though. I would imagine it's not nearly as easy as they make it out to be. The benefit of tv though like Doug Linman in the article said is that it is quicker. You need an episode every week, which means you need to keep churning them out. The studio has a much shorter time to interfere with it because they need something to air by a specific date. With a movie if things aren't going as the suits had planned it's much easier to say "Ok we're going to delay the movie 6 more months, re-shoot this scene, and re-cut the whole movie with a more blah blah slant."

You can't do that with a tv show. It takes two weeks to shoot a show, a couple more to edit it and depending on the schedule it airs anywhere from a month to six months later. With a movie from begining to end can take years which is a whole lot of time for a lot of grubby mits to get involved where they don't belong. (And these are just gross generalizations to make a point, so don't get all uppity on me if I'm not entirely correct... ie wrong.)
I used to love movies & never watch any TV shows. Now it's kinda the opposite. I don't watch most shows as they air but I buy a lot of seasons. Serenity was the first movie I bought since...oh, I think Spiderman 2 but my seasons include Gilmore Girls, House, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Everwood, The Office, Veronica Mars, Dead Like Me, Profit, Wonderfalls, Miracles, Joan of Arcadia, etc. The majority were cancelled.

I've been noticing a lot of articles about the popularity of TV on DVD & I can't help but wonder if this has something to do with the struggling box office. In my case, it does. After watching a few episodes of a show, you can usually tell if the whole series will be something you like and you are (again, usually, re:Smallville) guaranteed a level of quality. When you walk into a theater, 19/20 it's going to be crap.
I have to chime in here with my agreement, particularly about the better characters angle. In a movie, where is there time for those quiet moments? The scene where Buffy and Joyce sit together on the couch and watch an old movie? Most of the time, that sort of thing gets cut for the angst and the action. Characters don't seem to have the chances to relax or to be silly.

I used to be a big Next Generation fan, but found all the films save First Contact to be disappointing. I used to wish that Deep Space Nine (which I thought was a better series) would get a movie, but in retrospect, I'm awfully glad it didn't. It surely wouldn't have had the same feel as the series, and would, as Joss put it, have been merely a "ride".

That's why Serenity was so amazing. It was a film from a TV series that didn't fall into that cliche area. It took our beloved characters and did things with them that we didn't expect. Really made us worry about them in a way that safe establishment films could never do.
WannaBlessedBe wrote:

I think you have to be careful with this. It is true that right now, there is probably more quality work going on in TV. But as to which medium is better (and let's face it, they are pretty much the same one really - as opposed to books and film, for example) I don't think you can say, they both have their advantages and disadvantages.


Can't agree more. This is like comparing comic books and opera. Yes, they both have their merits and their flaws, but they're really not comparable mediums.
In a movie, where is there time for those quiet moments?

Let's not be too hasty with the generalizations. For the most part, I agree, and TV certainly has a LOT more time to play with, and can easily have those quiet scenes. But many movies (I'm not really thinking big blockbusters here) recognize their value and make time for them too. I think of movies like In the Bedroom, Brokeback Mountain, The Sweet Hereafter, You Can Count on Me, Picnic at Hanging Rock... - just to name a few off the top of my head.
On the plus side for movies, when they do include those moments, they're usually highly thought out and really contribute a lot - even just through their silence - to the mood and characters and forward momentum of the story. Whereas in TV they're occasionally (though certainly not that scene with Buffy and Joyce) just filling time.

Just playing devil's advocate for a minute there. I think we can be too quick to assume all movies are of the $100 million blockbuster variety.
Excellent article and very interesting thoughts in the room. In this case, I must say television is the most meaningful device in relaying stories, at least in Joss' way. I made no secret that I found 'Serenity' a little disappointing in that there was no depth to the characters that I fell in love with in 'Firefly'. And yes, still digging bits of fruits and various meats out of my monitor for that statement. No problem. The point is, as movies are swell and everything, I want a story. I want a character arc that I can really think on. The characters of Buffy and Willow stretched out for nearly seven years and I couldn't get enough. Each little flaw and tick raised another facade to the characters and I found it was an amazing ride. And, it's the best one suited for Joss because this is the type of story telling he excels in. You just can't relay that kinda' story in a two hour movie. Looking forward to the day when Joss returns to serial shows.
I kind of love this article. Just because I think it's about time that TV started being respected as an art form. Too many people in this society just cast TV down as lower than, when really some sectors are creating better art than the movie sectors these days. People in TV have to churn this out at a maddening pace, and so for those that do it while maintaining such quality? They deserve the praise. Actors, writers, producors, directors alike. It's about time TV get it's props.

That's not to say that TV's all great. I still think there is a great deal of crap out there, way too much for my taste. But if you take a look at out much it's improved over the last ten years? (Thanks in LARGE part to Joss) It's time for people to stop turning their noses at the TV medium. So we can slowly erase all the crap from our beloved box. ;)

I myself will probably always love TV more, simply because of what it can do with it's long arcing storylines. Character development and the like. Almost every film I've ever seen ends to short for me. I come out of the movie theater thinking, 'That's it?' There's a reason why most people after watching a movie, don't even remember the characters names. You have a conversation with someone about a movie they've just seen, it's always about the actor. I really don't think movies let you get so emotionally effected like TV does. TV done right, that is.

Film has this notion that it must be big, smashing, and bombastic. But in the end, I've always loved the little moments more. TV has the time to let you see the little moments. Movies? Not so much.

As far as how TV is shot, yes, most shows do not take the time for shots like movies do, but both Firefly and Veronica Mars have showed us that it can be done. Television CAN be beautifully shot, as long as people take the time for it. As long as the people making it really do CARE.

So anything film can do, TV can do better? I'm not too sure about that statement completely. But I do believe that TV can do more, and because of that, have the potential to be way more complex than any two hour movie.

[ edited by zimshan on 2006-01-11 18:11 ]
Usually since films have less screen time then any character interaction is there to push the plot forward but quite often shots, which use comparitively little screen time will be there just because they're beautiful (even in mainstream 'popcorn' movies e.g. anyone who's seen the 'Superman Returns' teaser may have noticed a nice silhouette shot of him against the sun surrounded by clouds reflecting the light which is very pretty and probably won't service the plot except in general terms). For the budget and time constraints already mentioned by a few people, TV tends to be the other way around. Meticulously photographed and lit shots tend to be fairly few and far between but little character asides are plentiful. That's just one of the reasons we need them both.

swanjun: I was also a Next Generation fan tho' for me one of it's big weaknesses was precisely that it ignored the possibilities TV offers regarding character development since the characters stayed more or less the same (apart from cosmetic changes) for 7 years. Deep Space 9 was slightly better in this regard but obviously it came along post Babylon 5 when pretty much everyone was shoe-horning arcs into their plots whether they were warranted or not. I think this is a danger of 'franchise' television where once a formula is found to work, suits are too scared to change anything and presumably the writers go along for their own reasons (*cough* paycheck *cough* ;).

ETA: oops, no such word as nainstream (yet, muhahhah). Corrected.

[ edited by Saje on 2006-01-11 18:20 ]
I love both and find merit in both, as I suspect all of us do. However, I have two small points. (1)I find much of TV not worth watching, though I also find that every noew and again a program nearly compels me to watch- Buffy, Veronica Mars, CSI, Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me, Surface, X-Files. However, there are few and far between, but what is similar in all is that they each have compelling long-term arcs, so that I become invested in the characters, whether it is Willow, Sarah Sidle, Scully, or George. (2) I almost never see the kind of transcendence on TV that they very best films offer- For example, I consider The Body the single finest hour of television ever broadcast; it reduces me to tears each time I see it. And it pales, simply pales, next to the power of a movie like Au Hasard Balthazar, which is utterly devastating in its final moments. Or of Tokyo Story or of Ponette, etc. When a director takes advantage of the medium, as Joss did for TV and Bresson did for film, moments of great beauty result. But film has always moved me more than TV, even the greatest of TV- and remember, I love, just love, Buffy, and think it is the best TV show in history.
At this point in time I would argue that the best American television is frequently reaching a higher standard than even the best of American films. Obviously that's horribly subjective and would require a huge amount of selective amnesia in order to try to truly justify but I'd stand by it. However when taking world cinema into account, film probably does have the edge over tv. In America - and to an extent in the UK - many of the greatest talents in "the industry" are working in tv, whereas in the vast majority of countries the most talented writers and directors are all working in film.
I've always been more of a television kinda guy. It's rare that i go see a movie at the cinema and almost as rare that i make the effort to watch one on television unless i'm at a loose end and want something to kill an hour or two.

There are exceptions of course. I will go to the cinema to see a movie based on a property i already enjoy. Movies like X-Men, Lord of the Rings, Serenity, etc. However i think the last movie i went to see that wasn't an adaption of a story from another media was Back to the Future 2, which should tell you all you need to know.

I much prefer television series. I like to spend time getting to know the characters, situations and mythology of a series, something not possible in the average movie. Whether that be Buffy and the history of the slayer, Daniel Jackson and the galactic wide influence of the Ancients or John Locke and what is going on on that damn island! A movie, no matter how good, just does not allow you the time to get that involved in what is going on, at least not in my experience anyway.

Nope, television series over movies for me, every time.

Except Die Hard, of course! :)
but obviously it came along post Babylon 5


DS9 was 1993-1999, B5 was was 1994-1998.
Well said, Dana5140. I agree wholeheartedly.
At least I never have to worry about a movie getting cancelled prematurely (except, maybe, Good Omens. Sniff.).
Mort - I feel your pain.
zeitgeist: Clearly by 'post' I meant 'not-post'. Jeez, must I spell everything out ? ;)

Thanks for the correction (tho' I do seem to remember DS9 getting much more arcy in the later seasons, with the Dominion War etc., after B5 had shown how it's done and similarly with X-Files there seemed to be more emphasis on arc eps. later).
At least I never have to worry about a movie getting cancelled prematurely


Watchmen. Grrrrr.
Simon: Watchmen may not be totally dead. The producers have taken it to Warner Bros. tho' Paul Greengrass is no longer onboard and David Hayter's script has been scrapped. Personally, I think if it does die it may be a blessing in disguise (i'm waiting to see how big a mess 'V for Vendetta' turns out - tho' the trailer leaves me with some hope - and 'Watchmen' is more complex still).
You're right about the characterization on TNG, Saje. I didn't mean to suggest it was awesome, but at least the series was better than the movies. :) I hated how characters seemed to forget the exotic alien they'd just snogged the moment the Enterprise flew off. That's what made DS9 so much better; actions had repercussions! People, like, remembered stuff! Maybe this was only due to the fact that they physically couldn't escape it, but at least it helped the show. Future ST incarnations seemed to return to their old ways.

[ edited by swanjun on 2006-01-11 21:05 ]
DS9 started feeling more arc-y to me with S2 starting up, which put it at the same time as the first year of B5. You are not wrong that they did it more and more as time went on, but so did B5 :) Please pardon if I sound defensive, just a little wary re: comparing the two (both of which I watched), as I've heard so so many cries of 'x stole this from y' when the teams on both sides have said 'no, they didn't take that from us'. Plus, I'm bitter about JMS' Spider-man retconning ;) KIDDING!
Hrm. I read/skimmed through most of the comments in this thread, so hopefully I'm not repeating anything, but... I think the best comparison is the short story versus the novel. Each written form has stories that are best suited to that form - some stories would only work as a novel ("The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" or "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell", to give two extreme examples), and some stories are better suited to the short form (Philip K. Dick was a master of the mindf--- told in a quick one-two punch.)

Accordingly, to say that TV is better than film is much like saying novels are better than short stories. You might have a personal preference for one or the other, or you might have recently noticed a lot of good work in one particular form, but to say that one is overall better than the other is kind of absurd. The same follows if you try to say that short stories are less worthy than novels or tv is a lower form when compared to film.
Agreed swanjun, DS9's characters had a real sense of history and change (I particularly enjoyed the way Bashir and O'Brian's relationship went from perplexed annoyance to a genuine and warm friendship), as you say actions had repercussions and sometimes the good guys wore decidedly grey hats (you just couldn't have had Section 31 in TNG, much as I enjoyed it). Which is not to say TNG was simplistic rubbish, sometimes it addressed very complex, relevant issues (e.g. 'The High Ground' an ep. about terrorism was banned by the BBC because of its IRA paralells) just that character wise it was pretty static.

zeitgeist: yeah, watched a few of those 'discussions' from afar, full of sound and fury, signifying bugger all ;). I also watched and enjoyed them both tho' I must confess to losing interest in B5 after the shadow war ended. Don't read Amazing (well apart from No. 36 which struck me as a bit flat but I guess it wasn't really about entertainment in fairness) but I hope JMS finally gave him the dayglo orange outfit and prehensile ears we've all been hoping for. Or is that just me ?
unsquare, that's a nice comparison, but it does not take into account the episodic nature of television, which happens to be its strong point.
Apart from the episodic nature I think unsquare has something (maybe a series of novels or one novel of clearly segmented parts would be closer to TV).

Short stories, like films, tend to be slightly more concerned with technique and careful language (i.e. more technical shots, visual effects) and perhaps tend to have more experimentation since the reader doesn't have to invest as much time in a dud (you might still miss it when it's gone tho', watched 'Stealth', never getting those two hours back). The more emphasis on arc the more novel like TV is. E.g. season 1 of 'Alias' with its strong arc and frequent cliff-hanger 'chapter' endings could be a novel about a woman trying to extricate herself from an evil organisation (albeit with very uneven pacing and questionable structure).

Or is that a bit reachy ?
Interesting discussion, one I've argued ... err discussed heatdly with friends lately. They are avid moviegoers whereas I am lucky to watch 1 movie a year. Pretty much in every medium I've noticed I prefer the serialized style. Long arcing TV, long running series of books (Forgotten Realms, MTG, Wheel of Time, etc). Even in movies the movies that I look at as my "classics" are the ones that had sequels upon sequels. The horror movies from the 80s where you'd have half a dozen or more sequels are my favorite. I guess looking back because you get more of that serialized feeling.

The thing I'm left wondering, though, is if it's really the serialized style that I prefer or if it's the type of story told. When dealing with TV, or a series of books, you typically have one or two "epic" story arcs. With film, at least film of the last 10-15 years every movie has to be this blockbuster epic film. The problem with that, though, is the characters need to be nearly entirely unrelatable to to be able to fit into the confines of the epic story being told. I guess the big difference here is character driven stories versus situation stories.

It's a bit of an oddity to me that being the scifi/fantasy fan that I am, I prefer the non-epic television show type story lines over epic movies when fantasy, in particular, is known for being the home to epic story telling.

And thus brings an end to another sleep deprivation induced post of drivel...

[ edited by GaveUp on 2006-01-11 23:45 ]
I actually think comic books are closer to tv shows than anything. Both are visual mediums, and both are released on regular basis, some are seralized, some self contained stories with the same characters and most comics continue on with no planned end in sight, instead going until they are canceled or the creative team decides to call it quits. Though it's not the same as a season, most comic books also have story arcs that stretch over 6 issues and contain one discrete story. Both also make use of the mini series and the occasional cross over.

Hell one of the writer for Lost is writing a a marvel comic book "Ultimate Hulk vs Wolverinre" and he said he looks at his 6 issue mini series as one episode of television where each issues ends with a cliffhanger that he compares to the hook just before the commercial break. (Though a month is one hell of a commercial break.)

[ edited by war_machine on 2006-01-11 23:52 ]
With film, at least film of the last 10-15 years every movie has to be this blockbuster epic film.

By far the majority of films I've seen in the past 10-15 years, and certainly the majority of films I loved, would definitely not fall into the category of blockbuster epic. Yes, the majority of headlines and hype go to the LoTR, King Kong, Spiderman, X-Men, etc, type movies (And some of those I love as well), but if you seek them out, smaller, subtler, and - to my mind - more emotionally powerful films abound. Especially if you're willing to read subtitles. I agree with Dana5140 - when well done, really excellent filmmaking still moves me to a degree that no single TV episode - even the best of Buffy, sacrilege though that may be - has ever done. I think it's probably a combination of the director having far more control and authorship (I'm talking about films made with a single vision, not made-by-committeee blockbusters) and the necessity to really pare down the footage to those essential moments that wrap you up in the drama and emotions of a few characters. Plus, of course, the visual aspect, which is a whole other layer of storytelling in movies that is hard to equal in TV.
But taken as a whole, there are a few TV shows (like Buffy, Angel, the Wire, Deadwood, West Wing) that also really managed to invest me in their characters and worlds to an enormous extent. Because they're so long-running, I feel like I know the characters to a much greater extent than I ever do with films. And while the individual episodes might not pack as powerful an emotional punch as those really well-crafted movies, those shows do create whole worlds that I can live and move in and care deeply about. Buffy was the first TV show I ever felt that way about, and it still holds the No. 1 spot in my heart. Since then, I've realized there are many great TV shows out there, and I frequently defend televisions to my friends who assume it's all drivel. But that doesn't make me love or appreciate quality filmmaking any less.
acp: The point I was making with that statement was at the big name, predominately american films. I completely agree that there are smaller films, indie films, and foreign films that don't follow that style. The reason for ignoring that section is because when the topic of TV vs Film comes up it's almost always about these two categories. Another thing is that at least for me, these types of movies have less and less impact because I don't want to take the time out to wade through the tons of junk films, both bigname and not, that are out there to find the gems. With TV, that's not the case, even though a lot of the time the time commitment to watch a pilot versus a movie is the same. That is one thing I can not for the life of me explain. Why am I more likely to make a time commitment to watch a pilot and see if it's appealing, especially when even if it's not that appealing or the quality isn't there I will still likely continue to watch the entire series (charmed)?
I love movies. And I think you make your point beautifully, Dana5140. But I have been moved as much as, if not more, by certain episodes of BtVS than as by my favorite movies. The show, to me, is that good.
that's a nice comparison, but it does not take into account the episodic nature of television, which happens to be its strong point.


GVH, the first thing i've got to ask is... have you ever read "A Tale of Two Cities"? It's definitely episodic, most likely because it's a serial story that was first published in installments in a newspaper.

I'd argue that TV's episodic nature is what makes it most able to recreate the ups and downs and character development native to a certain kind of novel. I say "certain kind", because post-modernism has done some funny things to novels.

Also, if you think about it, how many times have you sat down and read a 600 page novel in one sitting? I know it's possible, and I've surely done it a few times myself, but it's more likely that you'll read chunks here and there in fits and starts, kind of like you would with a TV series, specifically a TV series on DVD. Sure, you might get on a roll and watch 9 hours of Farscape on a Friday night, much to the disapproval of your roommate, but that's an exception to the rule.

I'm sort of digressing, though. My real argument was that every medium has its own best way of telling a story, but that doesn't make one medium better than another. Just different.

The problem is that certain mediums (comic books, tv) and genres (sci-fi, mystery, romance, etc.) have been ghettoized by public opinion. And therefore Art Cannot Be Made when you are making TV. Or sci-fi. Or whatever. So it's "surprising" and "news" when somebody figures out the strengths of a demonized medium and proceeds to get down to the business of making art.
those shows do create whole worlds that I can live and move in and care deeply about

Amen to that. This has been a wonderful discussion and I wish to thank all. There's no room finer than this.
On "Watchmen":
Personally, I think if it does die it may be a blessing in disguise

Agreed. Watchmen was perfectly suited to the comic-book medium; it took advantage of every strength of that medium. Any film adaptation will sorely lack many of the things that made Watchmen great.

If there's one thing about the movie industry that I dislike is its belief that everything is fodder for movies; that all novels, short stories, comics are written purely for Hollywood to come along and adapt to the big screen. But rarely does the transition work. And the assumption is bogus.

This whole discussion is maddening because the article compares niche TV to blockbuster movies. HBO and its ilk are more comparable to independant films - or at least the independant arms of the big studios (like Warner Independant that released "Good Night and Good Luck").

And given the number of TV networks and the number of hours in the day, there's a hell of a lot more crap TV churned out than crap movies.
If there's one thing about the movie industry that I dislike is its belief that everything is fodder for movies; that all novels, short stories, comics are written purely for Hollywood to come along and adapt to the big screen


I think you're right, KG, but I honestly don't have a problem with that belief. The results are often terrible, certainly. But remaking books and comics et al. as movies doesn't really hurt anyone, does it?

In a general sense, the money could be better spent elsewhere (but probably wouldn't be) - and I suppose you could argue that the original artistic vision has somehow been tainted. (Personally, that argument is about as strong to me as the argument that gay people getting married somehow hurts my heterosexual marital status.)

OTOH, the remake may be great, and attract more viewers to the original. And the original artist will make some, possibly a lot of, money out of the deal.

The problem is just that the adaptations are usually not. very. good. whether because the moviemaker didn't get what made the original so good, or because it was so fundamentally right for the original medium, and so completely untranslatable as a movie (and I suspect Watchmen falls into that category). I see no harm in at least *considering* making such movies - the fault lies, more often than not, in the execution.
SNT- yes, Buffy is that good and I agree completely with you, in the sense that each one of us is moved by what moves us, which I do not mean as a tautology. What I mean is that each of us finds certain things appealing. I have been studying cinema on my own, and have found the films of the transcendental filmmakers, such as Robert Bresson, Yasujiro Ozu and Carl Dreyer. Working in a more limiting medium than TV, each has contructed films that rank amongs the most magnificant ever made- Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar, Mouchette and Pickpocket; Ozu's Tokyo Story, A Story of Floating Weeds, Early Summer, etc. In fact, the Lars von Trier Movie Breaking the Waves, itself an astonishing film, is based on Dreyer's work. Even Brokeback Mountain is moving in its own way. And when I come to tv, I find that I do not experience these kinds of transcendent moments as I do in film- though for me there are few greater moments than Willow and Tara at the end of New Moon Rising, or Dawn breaking down in The Body, or Buffy confessing her affair to Tara, or Spike asking for rest as he lays against the cross, or Faith crying in Angel's arms as the rain comes down, or Wesley and Fred at the end of AHITW. But I think maybe what we all take from this is an understanding of what we all find so wonderful, and if perhaps you, Sodding Nancy Tribe, seek out a film like Au Hasard or the astonishing Ponette, and I find a tv show I had not experienced, we all come out the better.
It's true that many of the greatest films of all time have been adaptations, but that fact in itself may show a certain lack of imagination. It can be depressing to consider just how rarely when watching a film I really don't know what is going to happen next. Obviously that is not always because I've read the original book/ watched the original play/ listened to the original song but there is a certain mania (driven by the desire to minimise risk) to make a filmic version of something that has already been successful rather than try to create something truly original.

I tend to believe that any story has a specific medium in which it will work best. Since each different artistic sphere from film to opera to comic book to television has its own set of inate advantages and disadvantages, any specific story is likely to have a best fit.

That is certainly not to say that adaptations should not exist. It is sometimes the case that the first medium used to tell a story is not necessarily the best one. For example, to my mind Laurence of Arabia is one of the greatest films ever made and I would argue that it surpasses the book 'The Seven Pillars of Wisdom' on which it was based.

In a slightly different vein, I would argue that the three Lord of the Rings films are not as good as the books on which they are based, but they are nevertheless superb films. The chance to experience someone else's version of a book which I can already see in my head can be a fantastic if that person has an interesting vision.

At the very least, it would be preferable if Hollywood/ filmakers considered more often the question of whether film as a medium had anything to add to a pre-existing work of art. If the books did not exist, the Harry Potter films would be much better than they actually are. With the arguable exception of Afonso Cuaron's Prisoner of Azkhaban, they don't add anything to the originals.
SNT wrote:
In a general sense, the money could be better spent elsewhere (but probably wouldn't be) - and I suppose you could argue that the original artistic vision has somehow been tainted.

While both of those things are worth arguing, I'm mostly arguing for original content in film. Hey, Serenity was fab and a big screen take on Wonder Woman - I'm tingling with anticipation - but beyond a doubt the thing I'm most looking forward to from Joss is "Goners". Whedon-originated work straight onto the silver screen, oh my!

I understand why studios adapt things or remake them or sequelise (hey, bring on "Serenity 2: Electric Boogaloo"), because of the name recognition. But another way of looking at this argument is that TV series are so often the product of original thinking - very few series are based on failed movies or novels or other TV series. (Yes, I see the irony of that posting on Whedonesque.)

So pitting original series against franchise- and adaptation-happy Hollywood renders the argument impotent, IMHO.
Dana5140, again I enjoyed reading your post, and agree largely with what you say. I am familiar with and a fan of Bresson, Ozu, and Dreyer (La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc is an incredible movie). I'd also throw in F.W. Murnau's Sunrise and Erich von Stroheim's Greed as examples of films that are transcendent and moving, not to mention more recent classics such as Kieslowski's La Double Vie de Veronique.

Such films do operate, IMO, perhaps not on a "deeper" level, but on a level of "spectacle" that TV shows do not, and may thus be capable of awing us in a way TV cannot.

Still, by way of balancing that out, I think the immediacy and more direct nature of great TV, such as certain episodes of BtVS, or Deadwood say, has the capacity to move me, if not in the same way, then to the same extent. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I speak not from ignorance of the movie oeuvre, but from a recognition that TV can affect me in a substantially-different, but equally powerful, manner. :)

Jon, I wholeheartedly agree. Too often, moviemakers display a wilful lack of imagination, and even worse, a lack of appreciation and understanding of what works in the medium of film as opposed to, say, books or comics. I think my original point was simply that isn't wrong per se to try to adapt other sources; it's just that the results underline the failings you properly describe.

And Keith G, I too wish for more originality in movies. Oh yes do I wish for that.
The problem is that certain mediums (comic books, tv) and genres (sci-fi, mystery, romance, etc.) have been ghettoized by public opinion. And therefore Art Cannot Be Made when you are making TV. Or sci-fi. Or whatever. So it's "surprising" and "news" when somebody figures out the strengths of a demonized medium and proceeds to get down to the business of making art.


Now this we can most certainly agree on, unsquare :-).

I've seen some interesting posts in this discussion, but I have to back up SNT in that the best bits of telvision (certainly Whedon's work, but some others as well, like say the West Wing) can affect me as much or more as any great movie. They're different media, with different strongpoints and I refuse to love one more than the other :-)

As for originality: I read a movie magazine (probably either Total Film or Empire) which was asking themselves if 2006 would begin a second golden age of moviemaking. And if you take a look at what's been coming out of Hollywood recently, you'll see more 'small'-seeming movies with 'big' actors doing real subjects and not just fluff, mostly driven by politically murky times, so I'm hopefull the overall quality will pick up again.

Also, I think the amount of people that get into independent or 'foreign' films is steadily growing. Things like 'Amelie', 'Goodbye Lenin', 'Lost in Translation', 'Sideways', 'Donnie Darko', 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' and the likes have more or less become mainstream, which I feel is a move in the right direction.
SNT- I was making sort of an editorial reference to SNT when I suggested watching some of those films- not to you specifically, but to everyone here. :-) Though I am glad someone else shares my passion, both in film and in TV. LOL.
It's not even a contest for me. No movie has ever moved me like a good TV series. I'm a sucker for the long story arc, it's no coincidence that I turn into a crazed fan geek over both loved TV shows and trilogy+ book series. I used to go to movies every weekend and religiously watch maybe 3 shows on TV every night, but now that movies have become almost total crap and genre shows have been ousted by reality TV, I still find myself desperately digging for good TV, but I don't miss the movies much.

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