Presumed war between film and television is silly
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 23:01
At this year’s Golden Globes, co-host Amy Poehler quipped, “Only at the Golden Globes do the beautiful people of film rub shoulders with the rat-faced people of television.” Or as the crafty Addison DeWitt from “All About Eve” snarked to a naive Marilyn Monroe, “That’s all television is, my dear, nothing but auditions.” These quotes are very indicative of the general negative attitude towards work in television that has been prominent since the rise of television in the 1950s. The conception that being a television actor is less prestigious than a film actor is evident in marketing, actors leaving television to work on their film career, and opinions related to the quality. It boils down to the fight between film and television, and the constant battle for your money. With film damning itself every day with lackluster plots and higher ticket prices, it needs to be more fully aware that television is a fully developed medium with a quality usually outflanking that of cinema.
The commercial emergence of television in the early 1950s was involved in a decline in the Hollywood studio system. While television was a threat to films, there were other shortcomings that affected the success of Hollywood, such as the dissolution of Hays Code, the end of the theater monopoly, the Communist Red Scare that blacklisted some of the greatest actors of the day, and the threat of foreign films. Without going into too much detail, this translates into the fact that the blame for this lackluster period of film does not just belong to television.
If you’re unclear of the snobbish attitude of film regarding its ugly stepsister, television, there are many examples. Starting with awards (it is the season for it after all), earning an Oscar is much more valuable than an Emmy; and while a TV show will advertise Oscars or Emmys won in ads, a movie would never advertise that their actors have only won an Emmy. It’s also evident in the behavior of actors. For example, actors like Steve Carell and Paul Schneider have left their successful sitcoms, “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” respectively, to focus on a film career. (It’s clearly worked out more for Carell, but I digress.)
Television and film are often at odds because film attempts to boast epic films that you simply must see in theater, not just wait for FX to procure the rights to it down the line. “Avatar” is probably the classic example of such a case. But with improvements in technology we now boast the most high definition televisions and Blu-Ray players, some even equipped with 3D technology. Plus, our televisions only get better by the day.
Even better, if you don’t want to upgrade your television every year, you don’t have to pay more to enjoy it, the way films in theaters will make you. That is a field where televisions have a distinct advantage. As ticket prices increase for films, more Americans are just staying at home, preferring to enjoy the latest episode of “American Horror Story” instead of shelling out $10 for a horrific Adam Sandler flick. Because you can cut out the movie theater from your budget, but never the cable. Additionally, you can commit to a couple episodes of “Mad Men” before making your choice on the matter, but once you’ve paid that $10 for “Movie 43” or have popped in the “Red Dawn” remake, you’re typically stuck with the horror.
This leads to an excellent point on defending television; you’re often given more leeway and time to improve as a television show. “Parks and Recreation” is a clear example of why you should always give a show at least a season. Time has always been one of television’s best assets: more time with the characters you love. In many ways, “Breaking Bad” is just a slowed-down and more accessible version of “Scarface,” but with a Shakespearian five act structure of Walter White’s rise to power and then subsequent fall. While the latter is certainly a cinematic classic, Stallone’s lead character is less of developed person. We have more time with Bryan Cranston’s masterful character whose incomprehensible evil and drive push the show to new limits. In essence, television has become a conversation point, something you can tweet about, and there is much lauded about a “water-cooler” show because there’s more to discuss every week compared to the flicker of discussion points that often result from film.
My final hope for the television and film conflict is that they will rise up together. After all, they have a new common enemy: the internet. Soullessly destroying all profit for shows with all the opportunities to watch illegally, the internet and its “internet-only” or “web” shows are so bereft of art that surely movies and TV can band together to despise this new, lower medium! I merely hope that television and film, and the people who create them, can just band together in love and solidarity, since people really love both forms. There’s no need for one to be better. Both are excellent examples of art and wonder, and I’d hate to be without either.