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Treasuring Television

Updated: Feb 24, 2022

The Tale of Despereaux, Bridge to Terabithia, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: artifacts my teacher’s took from me during class. While most kids doodled or dozed off, I engrossed myself in fictional worlds. I would hide the books in my notebook, racing to finish them before the week was over for the chance to watch the film over the weekend.

The book or the film?: an age long question that has a cult-like following. Both mediums have their benefits and drawbacks. Books lack the visual and auditory aspects films thrive on, while film lacks the detail books thrive on. Is there a happy medium? Where the consequences of both fall and the benefits of both rise?

Despite delays due to Covid-19, Denis Villeneuve announces the release of his film Dune in 2021. Film fanatics excitedly await Villeneuve’s newest masterpiece after his release of Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, and Prisoners, while science fiction fans excitedly await the Villeneuve’s rendition of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune. A film based on Dune was originally released in 1984; however, with a 39% and 51% on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes respectively, the film was not well received. Why would Villeneuve attempt another film adaptation? Dune is a novel with a page count of 412; however, feature films tend to have 90 to 120 pages. How does one shorten a masterpiece without infringing on the enjoyment of viewers?

Television is a medium often overlooked. Although most television programs lack subsistence, some cradle the happy medium film and book lovers have sought after. After the age of the situational comedy, most television production relies on views for renewal. An industry surrounds television, attempting to engross a wide range of viewers. With broadcasting companies prioritizing views over content, the capitalistic complex that television exists in creates an aura of inauthenticity. From commercial breaks to brand placements, the ulterior motives in television are notoriously evident.

Rather than an art form, many view television as a way to pass time. The benefits of television are hard to see amongst the consequences of capitalism. Although similar to film in visual and sensory terms, Television has the time to indulge their universe into the immense detail books create. Writing a great television show, in my opinion, requires forethought and planning. One cannot trick their audience into believing the outcome of a story if it does not make sense, regarding the entirety of the plot. For example, the writers of Gossip Girl upset viewers once they revealed who Gossip Girl was. It was evident that the writers wrote the show without a clear or definite idea of who Gossip Girl is. Due to the fact that renewal is not guaranteed, most writers lack the privilege or ability to plan their story: a disappointing consequence of television.

Much of the content on television is churned out. An audience can feel the love or lack of love those involved in creating a show had for their project. The life of a work depends on the life creating the work. Viewing television as a way to garner views rather than a way to tell a story suppresses any life in the show. Shows that accomplish a cohesive plan and story often gain a cult following. From Breaking Bad to Bojack Horseman, the audience recognizes and appreciates the thought that went into planning the show. Every plot point connects and continues the previous without underestimating their audience’s intelligence.

If television better mirrors a novel, then why would anyone sacrifice their story for a film? Guaranteeing views remains a challenge. Traditionally, a television show is confined to the hours it is on air, while a film is confined to the weeks it spends at the box office. Films may be more convenient than traditional television. Film is less of a commitment and is more readily available; however, in an era of quarantine films have lost their accessibility. Movie theaters have shut down nationwide. With a mass amount of people ready and able to consume, the video streaming service market has garnered growth. With services like Netflix or Hulu, audiences no longer have to wait for live broadcasting. This newfound flexibility creates the perfect time for a shift towards treasuring television. Let’s reform the stigma surrounding television. I urge filmmakers to view television as a mode for storytelling, rather than a mode for revenue. Television is not the land of failed filmmakers; it is the land for futuristic filmmakers, willing to explore their cinematic world in detail.

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