Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1079: Everybody's Doing TV These Days

Everybody's doing TV these days...

Most recently Robert DeNiro's signed on with a legal drama on HBO to take over a role originally meant for the recently deceased James Gandolfini, and Halle Berry's signed on to do a  sci-fi thriller for CBS. Even Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte tried to do it with the HBO series Luck, which was quickly sunk before it could find its feet by the fragility of thoroughbred horses, and Nick Nolte's tendency to bite them.

They join the ranks of other big screen names who have defected to TV, and to name just a few Alec Baldwin, Glenn Close, Bill Paxton, Don Cheadle, Joe Mantegna, Steve Buscemi, Ann Paquin, Robin Williams, Jeff Daniels, Kevin Spacey, Zooey Deschanel, and many many others.

At first the migration began with the top-rank character actors, like Joe Mantegna, Steve Buscemi, William Petersen and Forest Whittaker. But now leads from the movies are doing it to.

It wasn't always like this. Once upon a time it was considered a step down for a "movie actor" to do television and was judged as a sign of desperation. "You heard of so-&-so, the poor guy's so desperate for a paycheque he's agreed to do TV show."

Not anymore.

So let's look at the real reasons why they're doing it.

1. QUANTITY. The major studios are slashing their outputs and show no signs of stopping. Indie companies are having a hard time filling the gaps because it's become so expensive to be heard above the racket made over the majors' blockbusters. If an actor wants to work, then the ever expanding television universe offers lots of it. 

2. QUALITY. Right now TV is going through a golden age. Cable led the way with complex dramas and cutting edge comedies and the big networks are, slowly and unevenly, following suit. 

Can anyone see similar quality coming to the big screen recently in such amounts?

3. SECURITY. If you land a hit series, or even a series that does well, you're going to do great. The pay is good, and regular, and then come the royalties and residuals from re-runs and home video sales/rentals. Sure, it's not as big as the up-front pay-offs given to A-List movie stars, but it's a lot less hassle, and it adds up over time. Now not every show is going to be a success, but when compared to making movies there's a lot less...

4. STRESS. If you're a star trying to get a movie made, good luck. You could be the most popular star in the world, whose home videos of you with a farting dog make a minimum of $300 million domestic it doesn't matter. You could be have a script that literally glows with entertainment brilliance, the hottest director in the industry, and a supporting cast of all stars, all willing to work for scale and still get nowhere. 


Because some VP at the studio didn't like the colour of the tie someone wore at the meeting and screwed you out of your green-light. Or, the studio VP loved your pitch, but the Studio CEO axes it, because he doesn't want to green-light anything that will make the ambitious VP look good, and become a possible replacement. So either you're forced to give up, or you have to truck your project to another studio and go through the same thing.

The big four networks aren't much different, but the cable channels are much more streamlined and easier to deal with in the management department.

That's what I think, tell me what you think.


  1. Sandy Petersen9/10/13 5:34 pm

    Look at the ratings top TV shows have been getting. Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Dexter, Doctor Who, Luther, Sons of Anarchy. Does anyone really argue that these shows are inferior in any meaningful way to the current crop of films?

    Breaking Bad is rated 9.5 on IMDb. Argo, which won an Oscar, is rated 7.9 on IMDb. Now I don't claim that IMDb necessarily reflects a film's "true quality" but it's at least indicative of what's going on.

    TV is plainly surpassing film, and I see no reason to expect this trend to peak any time soon, given the fundamentally retarded fashion in which movie-makers treat the public.

  2. (I hope this isn't too late & Mr D gets to read it)

    So here's what I'm wondering:

    Master D, you've spoken often (at length (repeatedly)) about how dysfunctional movie money managing is (that is my entry for understatement of the year BTW).

    But... how is the management of money when it comes to TV? Is it a bit simpler? More straightforward? Has a net profit been spotted somewhere near I Love Lucy?

    And could that be another factor in this? Are stars jumping ship because it's becoming a better deal? (meaning capitalism wins again?)