By Allison Cavin
I used to think of myself as a “movie person” or a “movie buff,” even. My friends and I would hold daylong movie marathons every weekend, watching everything from “Saw” to “Pineapple Express.” We would go to midnight movie premieres in our pajamas, the smells of salty popcorn and expensive microwave nachos creating an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation. I would spend my free time watching films, curl up in bed at night and pop in my favorite DVDs, and fall asleep to the sounds of Napoleon Dynamite muttering “Gosh!” and “Spy Kids’” Carmen and Juni fighting evil mutant thumb robots.
My parents made it a point to do all of the grown-up television watching when I wasn’t present. Because of this, as a child and even a teenager, I wasn’t really exposed to television much past Disney and Nickelodeon. I wasn’t allowed to watch Cartoon Network because it was, in my mom’s words, “offensive and crude.” When I wasn’t in the room, my dad watched “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “The King of Queens.” My mom would get up in the morning before my sister and I were awake to watch “Ugly Betty.” While it’s definitely true that I loved, and still love, “That’s So Raven” and “Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” I craved something more. My film maturity was much more developed than my television maturity. The films I was watching at that age had substance, character growth, a plot about more than just making it through middle school.
This kind of upbringing made me fall in love with movies. It made me believe that movies were superior. After all, people paid a lot to go to the movie theatre, I didn’t see actors like Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp acting in TV, and Stephen Spielberg hadn’t stooped as low as television directing.
It wasn’t until I got Netflix at the age of 18 that my television education began. I obsessed over “Parks and Recreation,” binge-watched “Mad Men,” hate-watched “Scandal,” cringe-watched “American Horror Story,” and delved into the mysteries of “Lost.”
It’s interesting to see how TV has affected my film watching. I’ve kept a list of every movie I’ve watched since 2013. In 2013, I watched 136 films, in 2014, I watched 55 films, and since January of this year, I’ve only watched nine films. As TV has become more and more important in my life, films have become less attractive to me. I’d rather spend an entire evening watching a season of “Community,” than watch an hour and a half of some gross-out comedy movie.
TV has surpassed film for me. Gone are the days of movie marathons and frequenting my local cinema. I am a self-professed television addict.
I wouldn’t say that TV is better than film, but I do find television to be much more engrossing and entertaining. Here are my top five reasons why I enjoy TV more than films.
1. I get more emotionally invested in the characters and plots
Generally, characters on television are more intricate and complex than their film counterparts. This is obviously because TV shows have more time to really delve into a character’s psyche and motives. Films, on the other hand, don’t have the luxury of spending too much time developing a character. In television, I get to know the characters over a period of months or years. I become emotionally invested in what happens to them because I see them every week. I feel like I know them. I care about them. A death in a movie has far less impact than, say, the death of a main character in season five of a TV show. When two characters finally get together after seasons of longing glances, the gratification is much more profound than a film that has the characters kiss at the end.
TV, too, goes beyond the end. We get to see what happens after the couple kisses for the first time. We see Nick and Jess’ relationship on “New Girl” fizzle out after their much-anticipated makeout. We see the tumultuous back-and-forth of Olivia and Fitz on “Scandal.” There are no happy endings on television, except that there are. Film is more straightforward. TV is a roller coaster and I like the twistiness of it.
2. The acting excellence is mind-blowing
What do Kevin Spacey, Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Bacon, and Michael Sheen all have in common? They’re big name Hollywood actors starring in television shows.
There will always be an air of glamour and prestige attached to film actors that television actors just don’t have, at least not yet. It’s disappointing because some of the finest acting I’ve ever seen has been on TV. Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss of “Mad Men,” Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad,” Julianna Margulies of “The Good Wife,” Lizzy Caplan of “Masters of Sex,” and Kevin Spacey of “House of Cards” all come to mind when I think of outstanding performances. Actors on television have the challenge, and also the advantage, of living in the same character for years. They grow with them and become them.
3. The cinematography is first class
Each episode of “The Walking Dead” is like a mini-movie in terms of cinematography and graphic effects. “Game of Thrones” has had the best, most realistic, beheadings I’ve ever seen on the screen. “Broadchurch’s” beautiful ocean views are breathtaking.
There might have been a time when TV effects were inferior to movie effects, but today, TV and movies are probably on an even playing field when it comes to directing, scenery, visual effects, and overall feel, tone, and atmosphere.
Plus, have you seen some of those zombie… I mean, er, um walker kills on “The Walking Dead”?! Beautiful.
4. The writing is more interesting and nuanced
Of course there are exceptions to every one of the reasons I’m mentioning, but in general, TV writing is more rich and complex than film writing. This is because films have to tell a single story in a relatively short amount of time. The writing usually suffers because of this. Television allows writers more freedom to write what they want to write, without too much restriction in terms of timing. Every episode doesn’t have to have a complete beginning, middle, and end.
Movies are also highly franchised. This causes directors and writers to focus more on the visuals, as opposed to the content. A superhero doesn’t need to be a well-written character to sell a lot of action figures, they just need to look good.
5. People connect over television
I don’t think I’ve ever had an exciting discussion with anyone about a movie. (Apart from maybe why Rose didn’t let Jack on the rather large piece of floating wood in “Titanic,” or whether or not Leo Dicaprio was in reality or a dream at the end of “Inception”). I have, however, had heated arguments, passionate conversations, and light-hearted chats about my favorite TV characters and their predicaments. Should Olivia Pope choose Jake or Fitz? Who the heck is “A” on “Pretty Little Liars?” Should “The Good Wife’s” Alicia Florrick divorce her sleazy husband once and for all?
I say this very loosely of course, but films don’t allow much room for thinking. Most movies are wrapped up at the end. In today’s social media scene, live-tweeting TV episodes is the new “thing.” I, for one, love it. I love seeing other people’s reactions to events, their opinions on a character’s motive, and their theories on what’ll happen next. I love the anticipation I feel after an episode leaves on a cliffhanger. I love talking about it with other fans. But most of all, I love how exhilarating television is.
Allison is a 20-year-old college student born in a small town in Oklahoma and raised in a small country called England. She is currently living on “What Am I Doing? Street” in a magical town named “Second-Guess City.” She has obsessions with chickpea peanut butter cookies, The Killers, fleece-lined leggings, Nando’s, and British game shows. She is on a never-ending mission to create the ultimate carrot cake smoothie. You can follow her on twitter @owiesun where she talks almost solely about Brandon Flowers, or keep up with her on her blog nosillablogs.wordpress.com where she writes about annoyingly attractive middle-aged men and TV shows that make her cry.