There was a time when movies were the most prestigious source of visual entertainment and television shows were considered a joke. It seems today the tables have turned and television is undoubtedly better than film. Television shows today are doing what films could only dream of.
When is the last time a film had a huge impact on pop culture? The last time was probably back in 2008 when The Dark Knight came out. Since then no film has ever truly made a mark in cinema history. Every box-office hit is forgotten and quickly replaced by another. Television on the other hand has had many occasion when all people could talk about was what happened in last night’s episode of their favourite show. Facebook and Twitter blew up when Breaking Bad ended, or when Game of Thrones had their Red Wedding episode.
Why has television taken over? It is because television is able to tell long and complex stories. Films can only last two hours or so; any longer and people will lose interest. That means a film has to introduce, develop and conclude a story within two hours. For television, two hours are the equivalent of two episodes. Seeing as most shows have at least 12 episodes per season, one season has six times more story and character development than a movie.
Films used to have the upper hand on television because films had the budget for fancy special effects. Star Wars could show epic space battles with state of the art effects, whereas Star Trek had cheap looking sets and aliens wore rubber masks. But technology has evolved so special effects are cheaper and more effective. Game of Thrones looks just as realistic as Lord of the Rings.
Another element which makes television better than film today is the fact television takes risks. There has been a trend in television to have the anti-hero as a protagonist. Characters like Walter White from Breaking Bad or Dexter Morgan from Dexter have moral codes which are questionable at best. These characters challenge audiences to question what is right and what is wrong; what can be forgiven under certain circumstances. Television even goes so far as creating villains audiences can root for. Films today are too scared to even attempt this, so they stick with the paragon hero and the malevolent villain, with no ambiguity whatsoever.
Characters can transform authentically in television. People do not just change all of a sudden. The brain is a very stubborn machine that requires time and effort to adapt. That is why characters that go through a metamorphosis on television are more believable than on film. Throughout all of Star Wars Darth Vader is an evil dictator. He neither cares nor regrets killing billions of people. That is why when all of a sudden he decides to help out Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi, his change of heart feels unearned. On the other hand, when Prince Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender decides to go from being a bad guy to helping out the heroes, it is convincing. Audiences are able to see his journey, his trials and tribulations, and how he realises his true destiny.
Television is making such a splash that even big-time Hollywood film actors are switching teams. Kevin Spacey is now the leading man in House of Cards. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson produce and star in True Detective. Claire Danes in Homeland. It is clear to film actors that if they want to stay relevant they have to adjust to the fact that today television has the better dramas and comedies.
Opinion By Ignacio Gatti