TV is better than movies

Written on July 24, 2014

I have a confession.

I’m a closet TV junkie. There, I said it. No, not in a sits-around-all-day-watching-anything-on sort of way, but in that I’d much rather watch a great show than a hot new movie almost any day, and do it regularly.

Sure, movies are great and whatever, they can be packed full of interesting story lines, plot twists, characters, special effects, and get the job done in 2 hours. But then…they’re over and wish there was more. Or they’re over and you felt like something was missing, leaving you wanting your evening back.

Movies struggle to develop characters in meaningful ways, often resorting to overused stereotypes to shortcut their back-stories. Ever see Bruce Willis play anything other than an retired law enforcement officer of some sort? Me either.

Movies struggle to develop characters in meaningful ways.

In my opinion, movies really shine when a simple idea is unpacked creatively, like Safety Not Guaranteed, The Artist, or almost anything by Wes Anderson. Those would not make great shows. Sure, I enjoy the latest Hobbit or Mission Impossible installment, but I’d rather see a great TV series instead.

TV shows used to be looked down at as an inferior medium, and never given enough budget or cast to shine. Those days are gone. With 50” TVs in every home and a half-dozen streaming services, all the major players are tripping over themselves to create original content and deliver it directly to viewers. The best part? No ratings manipulation to lasso advertisers and executives canceling and watering down great ideas to bolster numbers. Just raw creativity and storytelling. If you only watch network television, you’ve been missing out on the best stuff.

Shows can take their time developing characters. They can afford to spend an episode or two on back-stories (when done right) and tangents to build a bigger picture. You can get more attached to characters so it hurts more when they’re killed off, or something major happens, or follow more characters (Game of Thrones anyone?). And lastly, the streaming/premium players often limit the number of episodes in a “season” to somewhere between 3 and 10, preventing the drawn out misery that is a lot of network/cable television. 24 episodes a year is too many. Way too many. I don’t like filler. Good shows keep their timeline tight and give every minute a purpose.

When you love a character, you get more of them, more often (great video games do this too) with a show. Sure, I think Chris Pine is great as Captain Kirk, but every 3 or 4 years isn’t enough to matter. I stop caring after a year (sidenote: that’s one thing Marvel is doing exceedingly well these days. They’re keeping you in the “universe” every few months with a tie-in movie).

Alright, before I get too long in the tooth, here are a few new shows my wife and I have really enjoyed that you may have missed. I’m not talking the obvious stuff like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, but the excellent ones that slip through the cracks. Try ‘em out!


Sherlock

From the BBC and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Each season (there are 3 so far) consists of three 90 minute episodes that are almost more like movies. They’re brilliantly written and masterfully acted. Top notch in every way. Every episode is better than almost any movie I’ve ever seen.

Where to watch


House of Cards

Kevin Spacey breaks the fourth wall (looks at/talks to the camera) as a masterfully manipulative, political-chess-playing congressman in Washington D.C. This show gives me the chills - I’ve never seen anything else like it. It’s fascinating as you watch him and his wife (played by Robin Wright) in their dark quest to take over…basically everything.

Where to watch


Moone Boy

I will watch absolutely anything Chris O’Dowd is in, and he wrote this one. This one is about a 12 year old boy, living in the late 80’s in the countryside of Ireland…with an imaginary friend (played by O’Dowd). It’s hilarious, quirky, charming, and we couldn’t get enough. It’s one of those feel-good comedies (like Scrubs) that keeps you coming back. 2 seasons so far and going strong.

Where to watch


Orphan Black

Sci-fi for those that don’t like Sci-fi, created by BBC America. This show blew me away, it has an interesting plot and phenomenal casting. Tatiana Maslany plays a whole pile of characters and she’s incredible. I’ve never seen someone play a character impersonating another character impersonating another character. You gotta watch it just for her performance. Every character is so unique you keep forgetting it’s one actress. Oh, she’s a clone. And they’re out to get her/them. And nothing is what it seems. So good.

Where to watch


Family Tree

Surprise, surprise: another Chris O’Dowd special! This one got canceled after one season (I guess it wasn’t HBO’s normal style), but it’s 100% worth watching. Written and Directed by Christopher Guest (the godfather of the “Mockumentary” — Spinal Tap, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind…), it follows O’Dowd and his weird family (his sister has monkey hand puppet as an emotional crutch) as he developers an obsession with tracking his ancestry. It’s hilarious and heart-warming. One of my favorite combos.

Where to watch

The Wrapup

Go enjoy. Let me know what you thought, or send me a recommendation. I’ve probably seen it already, but I love being pleasantly surprised.