Which Are Better Written, Movies or Television?

Which Are Better Written, Movies or Television?

E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
May 28 1999 2:06 AM

Which Are Better Written, Movies or Television?

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I deeply respect your threshold of concentration and take seriously your fear of nodding off during our correspondence. I'm concerned that your idea of yet again switching to a new and different topic may not be the answer to your continuing frustration. There may be no solution. Perhaps me and my companionship is what is making you so disgruntled, in which case hang in there for one more exchange and I'll be out of your life forever. The other possibility is that focusing on a single idea and examining it in depth--what you call "going in circles"--is not your cup of conversational tea.

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In either event, as I have said to each of your proposed changes in the nature of our engagement, I again say fine and dandy. Why? Because I'm the most agreeable sort of fellow you'll ever meet, with the possible exception of your future father-in-law, although let's give a few months to you and him living next door to each other before we make a final judgment.

In answer to your question about what I myself would like to do in TV: My own sojourn in the television field has ended, at least for the next several years. I have a bigger and more important job right now, and I can't simultaneously run a TV series and be a full participant, along with my bride, in our baby's life. So, at least until little Emma starts school, the long hours of tending to a tubular harvest will have to be endured by some other farmer.

I'm going to respond simultaneously to all the questions you asked in your latest posting, and also to an issue to which you keep referring, obliquely and occasionally directly--this idea you have about some inherent limitation to television. You're not alone in this. I've often noticed that folks who work in the TV field have a habit of referring to shows they think are well done and even their favorites as very good ... for television, as if there's some kind of Special Olympics of the screen in which TV is forced to compete by virtue of not being movies.

I strongly disagree with your notion that experiences in front of the tube can't be compared to the full frontal impact of "transcendent works of art" such as Raise the Red Lantern, Solaris, or The Godfather, movies that "cannot be matched by the resources available to a TV show." The fiscal and visual resources, yes. But there are endless and rich creative resources possible in the very nature of a TV series that no movie could ever equal, no matter the budget.

By which I mean: Years and years (with no system of term limits, as you impatiently propose and with which I disagree--relationships begin getting truly amazing and exciting after a sufficient number of years of intimacy) of weekly episodes centered around characters whose involvements and deepest yearnings, fears, ambitions, and pain, are all examined honestly and without gimmicks and pitter-patter punch-line dialogue, can yield comedy and entertainment by the ton.

Who says a half-hour or hour of television can't conceivably leave the viewer as drenched and soul-satisfied and knocked on his ass than the best movies ever made?

So, why isn't it happening? Why is there no series on television that either one of us can point to and say without apology, "This is as terrific as any movie I've ever seen"? I, unlike you, am pessimistic about a show like that ever appearing on the air. And I disagree with your belief that the fracturing of the audience and the disarray among network executives will lead to anything but the most minor changes in series television. If you're interested in my reasons for these beliefs, let me know.

If not, hey, I'm game for another topic switch.