Screen to Screen: Why is television currently better than film?

Living in the golden age of television has meant that we have lived through some of the greatest shows of all time. From the iconic Walter White gracing our screens to the equally malicious Devious Maids, television has really come into its stride. So it’s no wonder that Hollywood is eager to jump on this bandwagon as quickly as possible, monopolising on its success. But is this necessarily a good thing?

It seems like they know what the audience wants, and they’ve almost always turned out to be box office hits; with The Simpsons grossing £120 million and Entourage grossing £30 million despite being having neither stellar performances nor innovative storylines.

Even with older reboots seeing success across the board, such as the recent hit The Man from U.N.C.L.E rebooting, part of Henry Cavill’s recent run of good hits. 21 Jump Street launched Channing Tatum into a status outside of rom-coms and cheesy dance movies. Mission Impossible did the same for Tom Cruise’s career, cementing his action man profile, spiralling into an incredibly successful franchise. Even classics such as The Addams Family and The Untouchables started out as popular television shows, going on to help define their respective genres. But does this work vice versa?

Spin-offs such as Bates Motel from Psycho, and Damien from The Omen, prove that audiences want something more than the stories they’re getting. A lot of these shows owe their conception to the critical acclaim that Fargo received, which owes itself to the masterpiece of a film it’s based off and the brilliant cast.

But does this regurgitation of ideas prove that producers have run out of ideas?

A pre-made audience can leave writing sloppy, assuming that they already have an interest no matter how poor it is. Moreover, this pre-made audience can make expectations so high for any new material that it’ll be impossible to match, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D being a prime example here.

Interestingly, the popular hit series Mr. Robot was originally intended to be a film before its creator Sam Esmail decided that it would just work better as a series, resulting in one of the best summer shows of 2015 (and 2016 for season 2).  Only proving how choosing the right format is key to a successful entertainment entity.

What should happen: both TV and Film should learn from one another and learn what format suits the story best. Film should take on board the creative risks that television producers take and how to sustain an interesting and engaging narrative that many television shows seem to have mastered. Rather than stealing plot lines and characters from one another, the two biggest forms of entertainment should be sharing ideas and methods.

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