The showbiz paradigm probably has changed more in the last year and a half than in the preceding decade. And we owe it all to the fact that TV isn’t merely TV anymore. Witnesseth:
by Christine Persaud
Flip on your television any given day, and you might think you tuned into a feature film. The once-held stigma about “real actors” appearing on the small screen has virtually vanished, and high-quality television programming has been attracting a swarm of A-list Hollywood talent. Christian Slater, Matthew McConaughey, and James Franco have all recently made the move to TV, and the shows in which they appear are doing very well. This begs the questions: What started this migration, and will the trend continue?
The rise in TV quality
Last summer, Variety interviewed several A-listers appearing in television series: Jessica Lange (American Horror Story, FX) Taraji P. Henson (Empire, Fox), Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex, Showtime), Julianna Marguilies (The Good Wife, CBS), Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder, ABC), and Clive Owen (The Knick, Cinemax), to name a few. They all declared that it’s this supposed “golden age of television” and cited “the material” as the key that unlocked the TV world. Owen noted that, while he wasn’t actively looking to do TV, he “couldn’t put down the script for ‘The Knick.”
“Television is raising the bar on the character-driven drama series.”
During his 2014 Critics’ Choice Awards acceptance speech for Best Actor in a Drama Series for HBO miniseries True Detective, accomplished Hollywood film actor Matthew McConaughey said that, “television is raising the bar on the character-driven drama series.”
In an interview last year with The Independent, veteran film actor and seven-time Academy Award nominee Dustin Hoffman sang the praises of television. “I think right now, television is the best that it’s ever been,” he said. “And I think that it’s the worst that film has ever been – in the 50 years I’ve been doing it.”
Jane Fonda, who appears on Netflix original series Grace & Frankie, says actors simply want to go “where the good writing is.”
And the good — no, great — writing has made its way to television, across genres, from drama to comedy; and through various platforms, from broadcast network TV to premium networks and streaming originals.
Who’s making the move?
Screenwriters, directors, and producers, like J.J. Abrams, known for directing such massive movie blockbusters as Star Trek, Mission Impossible III, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, have long recognized the potential of the television format. Abrams’ hit series Lost (2004-2010), which won two Emmys, could never have been as compelling and complex in the movie format as it was able to be as a television series, which ran for a total of 121 hours over six seasons. Shows like Dexter, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones have proven that the quality of writing in the television space has dramatically improved from the days of cookie-cutter cop dramas and mystery thriller programming….