Last night, while I was enjoying free time at home I decided to watch a movie. At first, a seemingly nice and easy task, just to sit down and choose something suitable to feast my eyes on, but it ended up in a huge disappointment. After browsing through many Internet databases, I did not find any movie (one that I had not already watched) which would anyhow appeal to me. There was literally nothing interesting that I would go for. And it made me realise that instead of forcing myself to see a film that I will forget the moment I finished watching it, a much better option is to choose a TV series. In the past, TV series were mainly associated with tackiness, cheap entertainment and elderly ladies as the primary audience. But those days are long gone and nowadays TV series are created by best directors, star most popular actors, and involve great screenwriters. The constantly growing popularity of TV series inevitably produces the idea that people are simply bored with movies and they perceive the cinema as an outdated concept, and, as a result, they turn to TV series as a much more appealing alternative. Is it just a fleeting fad for TV series or are we facing the death of the cinema?
In an attempt to find the answer to this question, it seems to be reasonable to consider a few examples. House of Cards is the brainchild of Netflix, an American provider of on-demand Internet streaming media. Directed and produced by David Fincher, famous for such productions as Se7en, Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and starring Hollywood superstars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, House of Cards is a political drama that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. What is important is that you don’t have to be interested in politics at all (as it is my case) to become utterly engrossed in this political drama. House of Cards presents the world of politics as an ongoing brutal competition between people who are unscrupulous and devoid of any conscience or moral spine. Majority House Whip Francis Underwood (Spacey), a power hungry Democratic congressman, after not being appointed Secretary of State, a post he had been promised as a reward for securing the election of President Garrett Walker, becomes overwhelmed by vicious anger and swears to take his revenge on those who wronged him. Supported by his wife Claire (Wright), who ensures that her husband has enough determination to fight for what he wants, Underwood starts to manipulatively and deceitfully climb the hierarchical ladder. Why is this grim portrayal so fascinating and what makes it so popular? Probably because deep down we all know, although we would not like to know, that the real world of politics, hidden behind the elegant diplomacy, is depraved and full of nasty games that politicians play just to stay in the position of power. Although situations in the real world may not be the same, the mechanisms that govern politics are very similar if not identical to what we can see in House of Cards. Interestingly, the cost of 13-episodes season of House of Cards is 100 million dollars, a mind-blowing sum for the TV series, or rather Internet series taking into account the way it is broadcast. Not only is it innovative in this respect but also in the fact that all episodes are released at once. The problem in this case is, therefore, not “I watched the last episode and have to wait a week to see the next one” but “I watched the whole season in one sitting and what I should do now”.
Just as one season of House of Cards can be perceived as a 13 hour movie, True Detective is an 8 hour full length film. Starring Academy Awards winner Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, True Detective is a story presented from two perspectives. On the one hand, there is a retrospection, the events that took place in 1995. Two detectives, Rust Cohl (McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Harrelson) try to solve the mysterious case of a ritual murder. On the other hand, we are in 2012 and see a police interrogation of Hart and Cohl. Brilliantly written and masterfully directed, True Detective seems to be another nail in the Hollywood film industry coffin. Not only TV series take over the best actors, directors, and screenwriters but also they simply appear to be much more absorbing than films. Just as the example of True Detective shows, they serve a perfect, close story that lasts not an hour and a half but eight hours. A story is so excellently presented that it is difficult to resist watching it in one sitting. And because of the fact that TV series directors and screenwriters have at their disposal much more time than movie directors, the final product of their work is more carefully worked out in terms of the script, dialogues and the creation of characters. There are no shortcomings and no visible shortages in the budget of the production. In fact, it is exactly the opposite – TV series are at the highest Hollywood level, one that used to be reserved only for the top budget movies.
Apart from the quality of TV productions, their social impact that cannot be compared to even the best Hollywood movie productions is extremely important. Let’s take as an example Sex and the City, one of the HBO’s flagship shows of the turn of the millennium. It was aired between 1998 and 2004 and, according to a popular view, became the voice of the generation, redefined the way people spoke about sex and relationships and was a real breakthrough in the media portrayal of people living in metropolitan areas. Although often pigeonholed as a sitcom, it was in fact a modern romantic comedy which successfully fought off the limits of that genre. Through six seasons, millions of women (and maybe also men) followed the stories of four main characters: Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte. Sarah Jessica Parker, who starred Carrie, has become the symbol of an emancipated and independent woman and her style was zealously followed by fashion-lovers around the world. Daring in its approach to modern femininity, Sex and the City has probably done more for the emancipation of women than various feminist movements in the past decades. Not to mention that there was no movie before Sex and the City that touched upon the issues of sex and relationships in such a bold manner. Moreover, six years seem to be more than enough to become close to the characters, live their lives along with them, cry when they cry or laugh when they are happy. And it seems that the impact that SATC had on women all over the world was so great that it would be impossible for any movie to get even close to it.
So why is that movies are superseded by TV series in so many respects? Is it because people love to binge-watch? Is it a guilty pleasure of our generation to live the lives of TV series characters actually more than we live our own lives? Is it the quality of TV series, actors, directors or screenwriters that convince people that a given TV series is worth watching? The answers to these questions may not be straightforward, but what is known for certain is that if the movie industry does not try harder to satisfy the demands of the audience, the future of entertainment will belong to TV series.