“American television’s mission of selling viewers consumer products and services does not negate its possibilities for creative expression.”- Michael Z. Newman
I recently had a discussion with a friend over which medium wins: TV or film. I rooted for television while he took cinemas side. His argument was that a movie was a work of art while a television show was not and could never be one. While I can agree with this in regards to some television shows, there are some that force me to argue both sides of this topic.
It is true that movie makers have more freedom while making a film. They are not controlled by the television industry, which includes station networks and sponsored commercials. This allows them to take risks and shock the audience while television shows are heavily censored. When a film goes out of bounds, the audience is forced to think about something leaving one with something to go more in depth about even after the film is over, and even if the film wasn’t that great.
A TV show is all about being in the moment and relating/fitting into your daily life. One does not have to do any extra thinking, it is much more passive. But sitting and watching something that you have grown to be apart of is just as much a work of art. As Michael Z. Newman’s writes in “From Beats to Arcs: Toward a Poetics of Television Narrative,” “the artist is interested in gratifying rather than challenging the audience.” A 21 or 41 minute story can be a work of art. Characters have been built that you love or hate and an emotional connection can often be built with them. Heated discussions about last nights episode of Lost, Mad Men, or Grey’s Anatomy is a new form of art critic.
Of course, a movie can go through all these emotional steps in less than two hours, and it does it in a more glamorous way than a TV show often can. More time and money is spent on a movies and all the effort from the artist is put in to a final piece of work, making it seem more… honest. The image quality, actors, and settings are often better and there is a feeling that the film makers really believe in the film and really want the audience to love it. I think the reason TV is not seen in the same light is that television “rewards its audience and its advertisers” (Newman, 2006; emphasis on the and). People love to hate anything benefiting mass media.
What if TV had no commercials and just TV show after TV show? Would people think more highly of it?