Is Television The Future Of Entertainment?

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Read George’s previous piece on ‘The Progression of Modern Television’ here.

For the longest time, it has been the general consensus that movies are made to a higher quality than television. It seemed like one of life’s key truths, up there with the likes of “toasters make bad bath companions” and “don’t eat an orange after brushing your teeth”. But in more recent years, while baths/toasters and citrus/toothpaste still stay far apart, people are starting to ask, is film still better than TV? In short, not really.

Don’t get me wrong, film is still fantastic, with all manner of interesting and high-quality movies being released. But it has reached the point where the TV industry is on par with, and in some cases has exceeded, the latest the film industry has to offer.

A huge part of why TV has been reaching new highs, and film new lows, is the global pandemic. While we all yearn for new content to consume, with cinemas closed we have had to turn to other forms of media. Obviously, films are still on the table, but more and more people have been turning to TV to help kill the endless amount of free time. Big companies are already starting to see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, seemingly abandoning film and cinemas like an old toy.

The most obvious example of the sudden change in direction for content creation is Disney. Only a few years ago, Disney had barely any big-budget shows to their name, but by the end of 2020 had announced enough shows to make any binge-watcher go into shock. This year alone we have WandaVision (which just started streaming), The Falcon and the Winter Soldier in March, and Loki in May, curing the drought of Marvel content with a flood at a time where no new MCU films were being released. In the coming years, the number of shows they are releasing seems to only be getting bigger, and while movie releases are still on the table, there’s a definite change in business practices for Mickey and pals.

But you can’t discuss the increasing number of TV shows without mentioning the content machine that is Netflix. While they are making more and more movies (some they maybe shouldn’t have), Netflix is still on top when it comes to TV. Shows like Stranger Things, Tiger King, and The Crown are just a few of the global successes from the streaming service, showing not just how popular Netflix has become, but how influential TV is.

One of the reasons why films are held in higher regard is just how big they can get. Blockbuster movies, ever since Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, have always been a huge draw for not just film lovers and cinephiles, but everyone with a pair of eyes. As of late, with films like Avengers: Endgame, the standard has been set so high that no show can hope to match it. And while it is true that we are way off TV show budgets frequently exceeding those of film, we are already seeing more than a few examples of shows going above and beyond, both in scale and budget. One of the most obvious examples is Game of Thrones, which despite its less than positive critical reception, should be commended for the high level of quality it achieved by the end of its run (minus a coffee cup here and there).

“It isn’t just the big companies making a hop and a skip to the small screen, independent studios like A24 have proved just how good shows can get.”

You also can’t mention budget without mentioning the money man himself, Jeff Bezos. Amazon is developing one of the most expensive shows ever with a Lord of the Rings prequel, making sure to reach the scale of, and potentially exceed, Game of Thrones. Disney is also unafraid to splash some cash on the small screen with their original shows like WandaVision and The Mandalorian being some of the most expensive ever made, the former now being the most at time of writing.

A great many would argue, myself included, that bigger does not equal better, but fortunately for TV (and us), the quality of these new shows has only gone up. It’s no secret that the recent Star Wars trilogy wasn’t received overly well by fans or critics, so upon the announcement of The Mandalorian, it seemed as if, initially, there was little to no hype. Cut to now, where The Mandalorian is one of the most in-demand and successful series in the business, and we’re all neck-deep in Baby Yoda merch. Yes, many factors led to the last trilogy falling short of the mark, but it doesn’t take away the fact that when it came down to it, a TV series beat a film, and Star Wars was the franchise in question! Shows like Netflix’s Daredevil (taken from us too soon), while nowhere near as successful as the MCU films, have been better received critically. These are just a few examples that emphasise how the best way to tell a story isn’t always on the big screen.

It isn’t just the big companies making a hop and a skip to the small screen, independent studios like A24 have proved just how good shows can get. The likes of Ramy and Euphoria have been huge successes, earning both numerous awards. A24 is no stranger to winning awards with films like Moonlight earning Best Picture the Oscars in 2017, despite La La Land‘s best efforts. Yet for a company with only a few TV series under their belt, they have raked in an impressive number of awards in a relatively short space of time, perhaps hinting at a future where the best content comes on the small screen.

The best example of this transition from film to television may not come from a show or studio, but rather an actor. Pedro Pascal is one of the best and most prolific actors out there, with leading roles in blockbuster films like Kingsman: The Golden Circle and the recent Wonder Woman 1984, yet despite this, he is most well-known for his TV roles. Currently leading the insanely successful The Mandalorian, Pascal has earned lots of praise and lots of fans for his performances in shows like Game of Thrones and Narcos. It just goes to show how despite the power of blockbuster films, it is television shows that are helping to shine a light on this immensely talented actor.

The time of TV exceeding the praise and attention the movies get is still a long way off, but hopefully, sooner rather than later, we will get to see a bit more love for the little (screen) guy.

Words by George Bell

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