Is Television the new Cinema?

Television is riding on a high at the moment, thanks to shows like House of Cards, True Detective, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones etc. Whether you like these shows or not is irrelevant, the main thing is that these types of shows are receiving some high profile recognition, especially since Oscar winners like Kevin Spacey and Matthew Mcconaughey joined these shows and the fact they have collected a large amount of accolades along the way. So could it be argued that TV is the new cinema?

I was reading a really interesting article in Total Film by Matt Glasby (who is one of the rare people to share my opinion) and he states that TV is not the new cinema*. Instead, TV is experiencing a revolution which demonstrates that TV can have quality, an example of this is Netflix’s House of Cards. Every episode is so perfectly shot and stylised and each episode feels live a lavish big budget film, which is no surprise since David Fincher is the producer of the show. Speaking of Fincher (who directed the first two episodes of season 1) the fact an Oscar nominated director is attached to the series shows the quality of the series.

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Speaking about star power, Oscar winner Kate Winslet starred in the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce (for which she won a Golden Globe) and the series received positive reviews. The question why someone on her status would front a TV series is answered by her interview with Radio Times, she just wanted to get [her] teeth into something that was bigger” and has “always been a little bit of a risk taker” The mini-series in spilt into five one hour episodes, allowing Kate Winslet to give depth to her character and allow to show her journey over the course of the series. Films being screened in the cinema gives them more importance and stature, you give it your full attention as you can’t pause it or pick it up where you left it. Matt Glasby humourlessly points out TV is still TV despite it’s increase in quality, nothing can change that. They have their own purpose and we shouldn’t try to replace one with the other.

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I think what is changing is the format of most series, a good example is True Detective. Personally it is not my favourite show, however the format allows it to have the potential to stay fresh and relevant due to the fact it is an anthology series. Matthew Mcconaughey and Woodey Harrelson starred in series one (for which they were both nominated Golden Globes) and series two will feature a new cast and a new storyline, each series will be its own thing. As mentioned previously, the fact that the full season of House of Cards was uploaded onto Netflix allowed people to watch the show in a completely different way. This creates an excitement and buzz surrounding the show, for you have to watch it quickly before people dish out spoilers.

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The thing that TV and Cinema have in common is they both don’t know when to stop. Matt Glasby claims that Breaking Bad should have ended sooner and that films are an entry within themselves. However I would point at the Marvel brand, it is almost impossible watching one of the recent films without having to watch the previous entries. House of Cards is another good example of a show that should have had been cancelled “Firefly-style” (as Glasby states Breaking Bad should have just been one season) because the first season of House of Cards was exciting, enticing and driven by brilliant performances. The second season stalled and the third season redeemed itself ever so slightly…but it wasn’t as daring as the first season.

In all honesty, I think it’s a sad time to say that TV is catching up with cinema because they are still two different formats, you can enjoy them on different levels. TV allows a lot more time to develop characters and various themes, but with film it is a two hour experience where you can discuss what was explored in that space of time, there is more variation in film and more history to the medium.

*TOTAL FILM (April 2015). Matt Glasby. Page 143