For the past 50 odd years people have had three viable options when it came to consuming their entertainment. Film, television and the written word.
If you’re looking for a more detailed story, one that will take far longer to finish and will require great commitment, choose a book. If you want that story in a condensed, more visually entertaining form, buy a cinema ticket. Then there’s the awkward middle child, our television screen.
Lacking the on and off-screen talent associated with the silverscreen, television has long been a wasteland for the has-beens and the never-will-bes. Occasionally an up-and-coming writer, director or actor would cut their teeth on the small screen, but rarely would more than one of those three be found together on the same project.
This was until HBO stepped forward, a shining light for quality programming on TV. With shows like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and The Wire, the network captivated audiences and brought them on journeys that films simply couldn’t. With series often lasting over 60 hours, and spanning more than five years, television became a place where writers and directors could continue to create and develop stories, but without the need for sequels, special effects or gimmicks.
The audience tuned in because they wanted to, not because there wasn’t anything else on in the cinema, not because there was a recognisable face they liked in a different film, and not because of a huge marketing campaign behind it. TV shows began to gain a hardcore following, and soon these fans would question why their favourite actors on TV weren’t ever given a shot in a Hollywood blockbuster.
Flash-forward 10 years, and we wonder which A-list actor will be the next to pop up on our TV’s. Robin Williams, Don Cheadle, Kevin Spacey, and the duo of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey are the latest to take up roles in TV dramas. McConaghey and Spacey’s decision to turn to a HBO show could be the catalyst for the television takeover.
No longer seen as second best, this year television was home to two Leading Actor Oscar winners, as ‘True Detective’ and ‘House of Cards’ showcased the massive benefits of working in the longer format, so much so that Martin Scorsese is currently developing his second TV show, after creating the massively successful Boardwalk Empire.
Television has quickly become the best place for actors to develop, as well as for writers to create and adapt. With the success ‘Game of Thrones’ has received, we now await a bombardment of novel adaptations, which, much like TV’s assault on film, threatens to steal limelight away from books.
Why read a book when you can see it played out on screen? Rarely are the phrases “they left that bit out” or “they changed that bit” associated with books that make their screen debut on TV rather than film. Obviously this poses some questions. Is that a good thing? Shouldn’t people be reading more, and the book must surely be better?
The answer is pretty simple, read if you want. For everyone else, sit back, enjoy, and don’t talk to your friends that read. If the books were that life-changing, you’d have heard about them before they were put on TV.
While TV won’t attract all of the film talent you want, and for the most part, you might pick up a few more things if the story is put on a page, it’s still a lot simpler to binge watch something on your couch than make the trek to the library, and a lot cheaper than forking out for the cinema.