Thursday, December 30

Movies Vs TV

I had a major realization this year. I like TV shows more than movies.

This is strange for me because in my teens and twenties, I always preached that TV was mostly crap with the exception of shows like Twin Peaks and The X-Files that were quirky or shows like My So-Called Life that was the most realistic portrayal of teenagers I'd seen on TV (and I was the same age as the characters when it came out so I was highly critical) and of course got canceled after a year. Now I still watched some TV. I wasn't a huge sitcom fan (which might have been part of the reason I was so dismissive of TV because that's what seemed to rule network television in the 80s and 90s), but I'll totally zone out to some Seinfeld. And I'm a sucker for melodrama; I've been watching the soap opera One Life To Live since the summer before freshman year of high school. But with the exception of the X-Files for many many years, TV was nothing but mind-numbing entertainment for me. I watched it when I was sick or to wind down from a hard day. Movies were what I went to for real storytelling.

Now the tables have turned.

The realization was shocking for me, but the shift was probably gradual. First, I stopped going to the movies as much. The movies I've seen in the theater the past two years are Harry Potter (which I saw twice), Sherlock Holmes, Alice In Wonderland, Zombieland, and The Hangover... or did that last one come out even longer ago? I also saw the recent (and totally disappointing!) X-Files movie, and I can't remember when that one came out. I might be forgetting something, but I think that's about it. In two years. I used to go to the movies like once a month. Part of this is because it's expensive so I only see things I think are essential to see on a big screen. At least that's what I kept telling myself, but then I realized I haven't been watching many movies at home either.

Up until last month, my husband and I each had a Netflix queue. We determined together what would go in them together and made it so one queue had movies and one had TV series. We get two discs at a time, so this way we always had a movie at home as well as the latest disc in whatever series we were watching. But we'd always choose to watch the TV disc over the movie disc. I only have a couple nights off a week since I work nights, so the movie disc would just languish sometimes for a whole month until I eventually decided to watch it more out of obligation than enthusiasm. I tried rearranging things, examining the queue to find the movies I was most excited about. Then I realized that I just wasn't very excited about movies anymore. We switched it so that Netflix only ships from our TV queue now.

Being the analytical person I am, I spent a long time pondering this and I've come the conclusion that just like I prefer to read and write stories that are driven by unique, fully drawn, multi-dimensional characters, that is what I prefer to watch as well. A TV show has more room to grow its characters and it seems that with all the great dramas on cable TV in particular that TV has finally realized it's potential for doing this.

The two shows that I got completely addicted to this year as we watched them on Netflix were Battlestar Galactica and The Wire (which we are only on season 3 of, so no spoilers please!). I do love sci-fi, but I'm picky about it. I don't watch cop shows AT ALL, so I resisted The Wire for a long time even though so many people told me how brilliant it was. I adore both of these shows because of the characters. Even the "bad guys" are multi-dimensional, they have their own quirks and you get what motivates them even if you don't completely agree with it. If I find myself sympathizing with the guy I'm rooting against, that's some good story telling.

Other extremely well written stories with characters I love include Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls (only on season 5!), and Deadwood, which are recent discoveries for me that I'm catching up with on DVD and True Blood, The Walking Dead, and Californication which I've been watching as they air and in the case of True Blood and Californication, I actually *pay* for premium cable networks so I can see them--something I thought I'd never do, but I am saving that money I used to spend on movies.

Now that's not to say that I've completely written movies off. This year, I had a couple of friends loan me movies and insist that I watch them and I was glad I did. Those movies were Green Street Hooligans and Gran Torino, both centered around unique characters, and I am intrigued by Sofia Coppola's new movie, Somewhere, because the characters interest me. The Harry Potter movies remain my favorites, but I think that's because of the books and since it's a long series, I'm invested in the characters. Those are the exceptions and for the most part movies are mindless entertainment because I either like the goofy comedies (my movie version of Seinfeld but usually with more swearing) or fun blockbuster stuff like Sherlock Holmes and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

What about you? Are you more of a movie or a TV show person? And any character driven movies or shows you'd like to recommend to me?


kathryn said...

I felt the same way as you until about two years ago when I shifted from movies to TV. I think it's because my attention span only lasts for about 45 minutes now.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

LOL that's funny because for me though I will dread watching a 2 or 2.5 hr movie, once I get sucked into a show I will watch it for hours--as many episodes as I can on a disc!

Amanda Ashby said...

Snap - I love TV more than I love movies and my life has been complete since I discovered DVD boxed sets!!! Nothing excites me more than sitting down to watch a show, knowing that I don't have to wait until next week for more!

Some of my fav tv series right now are Skins, Deadwood, Fringe, Vampire Diaries (which my husband hates more than life itself but I think he's just jealous of all the cute guys on it!!!)

Sara Hantz said...

I'm a total TV addict, and like Amanda love the box sets. My obsession at the moment is The Big Bang Theory and I got Lie to Me and Glee for Christmas so really looking forward to watching them.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Yay! So many Team TV people and I do love those boxsets too. I really want to check out Fringe, Glee and see more of Skins. I saw some episodes but am dying to see more.

Lisa R/alterlisa said...

I always feel like I've been robbed when I go to the movies, even if I enjoyed the movie which most of the time I don't. The only one that I went to this year was the Harry Potter movie. I did rent a few from our local video store. They have $.99 Mondays. And I felt robbed here a few times, too! I'd far rather watch the on going shows on TV. My fav are Dexter, Bones, House, any CSI, any L&O, The Closer, and I could probably name another dozen or so.

Sayantani said...

Nice post! I just had the same realization - and now use Netflix mostly for TV shows - old ones (Upstairs Downstairs) and new ones (Battlestar Galactica, True Blood, Big Love are complete favorites!). I agree that it's about well drawn characters - also just about good WRITING - some of these movie scripts are horrid, relying more on 3D and other effects whereas some of these TV shows, including the British version of "Coupling" or BSG, have just stunning writing.

Wendy Toliver said...

very interesting realization, Steph. I am still in the movie zone (esp. indies) but that's because we just got Netflix.