Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Golden Age of Television

Critic Alan Sepinwall has declared this the golden age of television and a movie I recently saw at the dollar show points out why. EDGE OF WATCH was a darn good movie. Except it was far too much like SOUTHLAND, a tv show, to make me sit up and take notice. I spent the entire movie thinking about this. I don't know if police dramas at the movies can separate themselves from shows like SOUTHLAND and THE SHIELD. Especially ones that dramatize the danger inherent in police work. Sure they can have slightly more villainous villains and more profanity but then what. And this was a good movie, not the run of the mill sort. This is especially true of movies dealing with crime and police officers but I see other genres suffering the same fate.

Have certain genres of movies become obsolete in now that cable television can spend so much more time on character development, etc?

21 comments:

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Patti, I can't say about movies but medical dramas on television have lost their novelty. In case of GREY'S ANATOMY, currently the household flavour, it has lost all sense of proportion too.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - You know, I have to agree with Prashant. There used to be some good medical dramas but there haven't been any truly good ones for a long time...

Dana King said...

It was THE WIRE that first made me aware of this, how multiple story lines could unwind and still remain coherent, even with a large cast, it you took the time. Movies can give a relative snapshot; long form television (THE WIRE, DEADWOOD, THE SOPRANOS, JUSTIFIED) can let stories open up on their own terms.

George said...

Science fiction seems to have vanished from TV despite the SyFy Channel. England sends us DOCTOR WHO. I miss STAR TREK.

Chris said...

I don't get it. Some of the TV shows that have been mentioned as being so great -- THE SHIELD being a perfect example -- have been unwatchable to me. Golden Age of Television? I don't buy it. Watchable TV is so rare for me that I will take movies for my visual entertainment every time.

pattinase (abbott) said...

If you like crime drama, I think there has never been a better age for it. THE WIRE, THE SHIELD, SOUTHLAND, JUSIFIED, THE SOPRANOS all develop story lines and characters over a long period. SOUTHLAND seems very much the same as this movie.
Medical shows seem much the same now as they ever did except ER, for instance, or St. Elsewhere focused mostly on the personnel rather than patients. And HOUSE was about HOUSE in all his lunacy-cases included.
I think FRINGE is probably a decent SF show but I have never watched it much.

Ron Scheer said...

I'm not sure what the word "TV" means anymore. The 90 minutes of a movie seem truncated and superficial, more like a short story compared to the expansive novel-like THE WIRE, especially when you're watching both at home on DVD.

Todd Mason said...

HOMICIDE was the template for most of the best television crime drama since, even given the virtues of the likes of L&O, CAGNEY & LACEY, HILL STREET BLUES and NYPD BLUE, and before them KOJACK, POLICE STORY, NYPD, and stretching back through NAKED CITY and all...I'm glad you're finally coming around on television, Patti...but that doesn't make films obsolete, it just means they have to maintain the same focus they always have...as Ron notes, as the equivalent of short fiction. I'd suggest the golden age of television remains around 1998-2001, but we're still benefiting from the strides being made then (and overcoming the industry setbacks in the wake of cultural reaction and economic slump thanks to the attacks and the general tenor of the Bush Admin).

SF drama: Well, yes, not much on tv except the intentionally cod-sf humor of FUTURAMA and NTSF:SD:SUV: and some minor items such as FRINGE and WAREHOUSE 13...fringy indeed. Low turnout for near-future sf such as THE LAST RESORT and such films as SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (or even LOOPER, eh? haven't checked its figures) might not encourage the networks nor cable, no...though there's certainly a fair amount of attempts at dark fantasy/adventure still.

Since the collapse of HOUSE, not much good medical drama, no, aside from, again, surreal humor over at CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL.

Todd Mason said...

Most of the reviews I've seen of END OF WATCH suggested it was pretty trivial...I imagine it would fare poorly in comparison with SOUTHLAND no matter how viewed...being from the same folks responsible for the goofy TRAINING DAY can't help.

Richard R. said...

I disagree, but don't have a strong argument. It just seems most of what's on TV is so bland compared to what was on 3 or 4 decades ago. Probably just my age and memory. I miss good PI shows, westerns, SF.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I can't think of many shows from forty years ago that had the depth of character, writing, etc. that so many cable TV shows have today. There are lousy shows on now too--mostly on the networks--but there are pretty amazing ones that veer away from the routinized, formulaic, cookie cutter approach of the major networks.

Arcs have made a major difference.

What advantage does a show that does not develop characters have-and that's what the comparison with movies means. How much can you learn about a character in two hours compared to five years. But if the writers are only interested in solving a crime each week, I am not interested. Exactly why I have not found ELEMENTARY the least bit enticing.

That's why LONGMIRE is letting me down too after my initial enthusiasm for it. It has great acting and great locales, but that darn murder each week leads to dull plots for me.

pattinase (abbott) said...

What medical drama was ever compelling for its medicine? I can't think of one. It was always the medico's lives, not the cases they came up against. The only exception I can think of was MARCUS WELBY which did seem to develop patients beyond the typical episode of Dr. Kildare.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Chris on THE SHIELD and didn't like SOUTHLAND the first season so have never gone back. I also agree with Todd on HOMICIDE. A highlight was going to Munch's bar, buying a t-shirt (which I still have) and watching them film a little outside. This was back in 1997.

We've watched FRINGE since day 1 but I'm not happy about where they've gone in these end days. We do watch a lot of stuff on USA, TNT, FX and the like, which are as good as or better than most network series IMHO.

The Golden Age of TV Comedy was the 1970's and 1980's.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

I see we agree on cable vs. network shows, Patti. Longmire can't squeeze a whole book into one hour with commercials, and some of their choices (Lou Diamond Phillips as Henry) don't work for a fan of the books.

I agree on the arcs, starting with WISEGUY.

Jeff M.

Todd Mason said...

There's a fair amount of cookie-cutting on cable, as well (most obviously, of course, on USA...where what's probably their best series, ROYAL PAINS, aka HOUSE-lite, sometimes does a little elboration on its medical content). You have to take them as they come, on broadcast as well as on cable (and online).

Good and bad sitcoms and sketch comedy stretches througout the decades for me...a Whole Lot of the worst sitcoms and sketch shows were crowding the THE BOB NEWHART SHOW and WKRP IN CINCINNATI and FRANK'S PLACE and SCTV over those two decades, ranging from JOANIE LOVES CHACHI to SMALL WONDER to WHAT'S HAPPENING!? to THREE'S COMPANY...

John said...

I'm with Chris and Rick. I don't see a new golden age of TV either. Back in the mid 1970s and into the1980s there was all kinds of trailblazing going on. These days cable is far superior to network TV but I think it's still all very similar no matter what the genre.

I don't see anything being superfluous but I do notice a kind of program that seems to have disappeared. Whatever happened to the network mini-series? That used to be the big event kind of TV everyone looked forward to. Roots, the John Jakes "bicentennial" books, North and South,, and the rest of them. Did the fast growth of cable networks eradicate that genre from commercial network TV?

Todd Mason said...

No...the relative expense of producing short-run/miniseries (and their lack of great ratings) is what has tended to kill them on US commercial television. Now, with cable channels particularly often ordering rather short seasons of even successful series, there's even less reason for that expense to be assumed. You've noted how "Movies for TV" have pretty much disappeared, as well, with a limited presence on HBO and to a lesser extent other "pay cable" and a somewhat greater presence on Lifetime (where the cookie-cutter works overtime)...same dynamics apply.

If a series has a chance of doing well, the expenses of most US production will be met and rewarded...no compelling commercial reason for miniseries production there. In the UK, particularly, they have another model, albeit it, too, looks more like US cable (short seasons/series) rather than the "true" miniseries...

Todd Mason said...

...even early on with miniseries, the networks didn't want to gamble on them, so THE BASTARD, the first Jakes adaptation, wasn't on a commercial network but was part of the Operation Prime Time syndicated package...and ROOTS was thrown on the air strip-style (every weeknight) by ABC with the thought that they might as well get rid of this white (and African) elephant they'd bought...and while those were smashing successes, as were a few others such as RICH MAN, POOR MAN and THE THORN BIRDS, by the time of SHOGUN's smashing success, a lot more had failed than succeeded, and SHOGUN benefited from a Writers Guild strike holding up the regular season, so this NBC oddity did much better than expected...

Charles Gramlich said...

hum, I'm not really watching any new shows. Don't know about that Golden Age comment. Seems pretty unlikely to me.

Todd Mason said...

Well, Charles, if you don't give the new stuff a try, you can't know. Even George has some current favorites, even if he understandably misses sf tv...George, UNDER THE DOME will be given *miniseries* (John) treatment this summer by CBS...and there's a Canadian time-displaced cop show being imported...but nothing too challenging there, I suspect...

Katherine Tomlinson said...

I think television now owns legal dramas. When was the last good legal thriller movie? (I loved LINCOLN LAWYER but according to Box Office Mojo, I was the only person who saw it who wasn't related to someone in the cast.)

i don't watch medical shows but haven't really seen a good medical movie in well, ever?

I haven't seen End of Watch, although I really liked the script but so many of the corrupt cop movies (Dark Blue, that Keanu Reeves movie) come across like very special episodes of The Shield.

I watch most everything off Hulu or Neflix anyway, so the distinctions between media start to blur.