Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #845: TV Has Them Now

TV now has Bacon.

Not that kind of bacon, though it would be great all fried up nice and crispy..... hmmmm....

Anyway, I'm saying that feature film actor Kevin Bacon has just inked a deal to do a pilot for a TV series. 

He's not the only actor to make the leap from the big screen to the slightly smaller HD screen.  Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman, current Oscar nominee Nick Nolte, and character actor Don Cheadle have had their TV efforts renewed for a second season.  People are also speculating on which movie stars should also make the leap to television.

There was a time, and it wasn't that long ago that the sight of a big screen star doing television was seen as a come down.  People would cluck their tongues and say: "Oh dear, I guess they couldn't get another movie, now the poor person's stuck doing TV."

There used to be a stigma to doing television. It was the hyperactive little brother of the movies who had to wear a helmet all the time because it was prone to doing really stupid things. For a movie actor to do television was akin to prostitution, something they would only do if they were truly desperate for money.

Now that stigma is gone, and you're probably wondering what happened to it.

Now each actor probably has their own individual reasons for doing television, but the one reason they all share is STORY.

Television has become the home of stories and the characters who dwell within them.  Movies have become the home of gimmicks, and story is usually the last thing they consider, and when they do, it's only to dumb it down to make more room for flashing lights and loud noises.
It's killing the movie industry, look at how desperately they cling to the slightest good news and use to crow that happy days are here again, only to box office receipts return to their ongoing downward slide.

Why does the box office keep going down?

Because people are at home, watching stories on the television.
One of the chief reasons the major studios have given up on stories is because developing good stories requires the people making them to understand the art of story-telling, to work hard and trust their instincts. Understanding the art of story-telling, hard work and gut instinct requires learning, effort, and taking responsibility for one's decisions.  

They obviously don't teach understanding the art of story-telling at Harvard business school, and taking responsibility for one's decisions could put their fat paychecks, company cars, and quarterly bonuses at risk.

It's easier for them to pass off all the decisions to marketing focus groups.  Then they can say: "It's not my fault, it tested well," and live to screw up another day.  If a problem pops up, just throw their parent company's money at it until the focus group tells you what you want to hear.

Meanwhile, TV has tons of competition, because there are dozens of companies, running hundreds of channels, and the ones that put out the quality original content are the ones that win the viewers.  This has made the TV business, specifically the cable channels, leaner, meaner, and more responsive to their viewers.  If they don't deliver story, they don't get subscribers, and if they don't get subscribers, they don't make money and can quickly go out of business, or get taken over.

This attitude is slowly and surely creeping into network television as well, which for decades was even more inane than the studios when it came to bureaucratic buck passing.

I'll conclude with this excerpt from New York Times critic A.O. Scott's review of the Katherine Heigl movie One For The Money, I think it speaks volumes:
Not long ago it would have been possible to convey the bland, lazy, pedestrian qualities of this picture — its lackadaisical pacing, by-the-numbers performances, irritating music and drab visual texture — by likening it to a made-for-TV movie or an episode of a series on basic cable. But nowadays that would be praise, and movies like this must set their own standard for mediocrity.




1 comment:

  1. What would it take to make a movie on the cheap in Canada as opposed to America?

    Are there different pitfalls? I think I see as many cheap independents made in the USA as I do in Canada (I live near BC and have visited many times so I usually recognize the West side anyway).

    Since independent movies should be fairly cheap and entertaining, what are the options for distribution (you're not going to entertain anyone if they don't see it).

    BTW This is Rainforest Giant again, but Google is giving me fits this morning.