TV shows have seen an upsurge in the quality in recent years. There have always been those few that stay with you simply because they filled more than just your weekly episodic fix. They featured exceptional writing and performances and explored worlds in ways that movies just could not. However, in the past, mostly in the last millennia, TV and film were mutually exclusive, with some rare ‘crossover’ stories because being TV famous doesn’t necessarily translate to movie success – just ask Jimmy Smits (though he’s overcome that hurdle just because he’s Jimmy Smits) or David Caruso. For instance Hollywood tends to use SNL as its pool of talent when looking for fresh comedic material or performers.
But I’ll mention 2 shows (and their respective leading actors) that really influenced the modern Hollywood-film/TV culture that truly brought the two sphere’s together from opposite ends:
‘The Sopranos’ and ‘24’
Mafia movies of the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s really cemented the public’s vision of that world, with cinematic gems like The Godfather and Goodfellas establishing the quintessential stable for the genre, but then insteps James Gandolfini to display all those familiar elements, but in a modern world, and not just that; he and the show creators made you sympathise with the bad-guys, giving Tony deep flaws, effectively morphing the image of the typical mafia boss. Even in and amongst the collection of top class talent and writing that comprise the show (and brutality), The Sopranos still makes for one of the most comprehensive character studies in television.
On the flip side, we have Kiefer Sutherland; accustomed to the spotlight courtesy of the exceptional and ever present talent of his father Donald. Kiefer was steadily carving out his own niche and was/is for various reasons and roles, a household name. However, a series of unfortunate career events put his movie appearances on the downslide… Hollywood just wasn’t that interested in him anymore and his career was in jeopardy. In steps 24. Need I mention the ‘real-time’ format, or the fact that Sutherland’s acting exploits as a potentially burnt-out actor aided in the incarnation of Jack Bauer. In any case, his is one of the posters of success for an actor moving from film to television – but more than that, it’s a case of television revitalising a fledgling career.
Now we see a slew of mainstream film talent moving to TV screens. It’s no coincidence that this trend comes at a time when Hollywood is going through a slump in creativity either.
Let me paint a picture for you: A few years ago we had the much publicized writers strike in LA, demonstrating or enlightening us on how Hollywood treats is greatest assets – the storytellers. From then we’ve tracked the seeming downturn in quality storytelling and writing in tinsel town as producers place even more emphasis on the safety net of tent-pole blockbusters, scrambling for comicbook material for the headline makers whilst generally turning to pre-existing material for adaptations/reboots/remakes/sequels etc. All the major film franchises are exactly that because they provide multiple bites at the cherry (In this case being your pocket). On the back of the Harry Potter franchise and Lord of the Rings before that, Hollywood, having mistreated the writers for so long, are now untrusting of any new and fresh material so they’re relying on titles audiences are familiar with – it’s hard for even established and big name filmmakers to get original projects off the ground. What we’re seeing now is the aftermath of the writer’s strike from several years ago as producers ‘consolidate’.
This is by no means the crucial moment of TV eclipsing film (in quality storytelling at least), or matching it for power, but it is a major influencer in the game, tilting the scales dramatically.
Look at Game of Thrones, Sherlock Holmes, Luther, The Walking Dead (well, season 1 mostly), Hannibal… even the recent Penny Dreadful (created by Sam Mendes) is headed up by 3 actors who made their names in film. Whilst Sci-fi (Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica etc.) has always lent itself to TV because there’s so much material to be explored there, from characters to entire worlds. Look at the lead actors in True Detective… or what Madmen did for Jon Hamm, or what 30Rock did for Alec Baldwin…
TV will always have its limitations – it won’t receive the wide marketing that films do, and won’t be distributed to as many countries so it will stay clear of the much cherished hype machine, for the most part anyway – although Warner Bros and George R.R. Martin are seriously considering a GoT movie or 2. That being said, people are cottoning on to the downward trend in cinemas; e.g. although Xmen:DoFP is a top earner at the boxoffice, even with that success, the overall money earned from films is down roughly 15% from the same period in 2013. And if you’ve seen Paramount’s recent 2016 Tent-pole forecast (6 sequels and a Ben Hur remake), you can understand why more people are staying home.
Hence this look at 6 upcoming TV series (by some talented people):
Wayward Pines – (FOX)
Okay maybe this is from a former talented person, so as to not put you off I shan’t mention his name, though it does star Matt Dillon, Juliette Lewis, Terrence Howard and a number of other A-list stars and familiar faces. Perhaps this is [he who's name shall not be mentioned]‘s chance of redemption, to find his feet again in TV after his multiple cinema sins. I’m adding it because you never know; this could be brilliant, or just an expensive take on a bad joke.
The Strain – (FX)
Created by Guillermo Del Toro – a sci-fi series vaguely in the segment vacated by Fringe I suppose but more horror than mystery, about a Vampire virus.
The Leftovers – (HBO)
From Damon Lindelof (one of the men behind Lost, Prometheus, StarTrek: Into Darkness – okay so not a stellar track record, but the trailer looks cool), starring Justin Theroux, Amy Brennaman, Liv Tyler and Christopher Eccleston – about the people who remained behind after a strange incident where a small percentage of humanity just vanished.
Halt and Catch Fire – (AMC)
Starring Lee Pace (That’s all the reason I need!) and Scoot McNairy and set in the 80′s (with customary retro soundtrack) about the rise of computers… with the tagline of “The Battle for CTRL begins” as a visionary, an engineer and a prodigy take on the corporates. I know I’m keen!
The Knick – (Cinemax)
Directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Clive Owen; set in the early twentieth century involving the staff of NY’s Knickerbocker hospital. But yes, those two names were enough to win you over already.
Legends – (TNT)
From the makers of 24 and Homeland. Sean Bean stars as a deep cover agent loosing his mental faculties as his Legend starts to infringe upon his true identity – which may well be lost.
Any other upcoming or announced TV shows you’re looking forward to?