How television is rising above Hollywood

A few weeks ago Charlie Brooker argued in his blog that Hollywood is increasingly devoting its budget to economically safe films – the huge rise of children’s animated films and sequels, not to mention the rise of 3D, are all focussed on the audience of the younger generation. They are more influential, more likely to buy merchandise and more likely to guarantee a profit. We’ve seen every global industry take steps to ensure financial safety in the past few years, but now Hollywood is risking losing its core meaning.

Brooker comments on a time in which an adult could go to the cinema, safe in the knowledge there would always be more than one favourable film choice if the film they wished to see had sold out. Not only does this barely happen anymore, but the weeks in which just one film to get excited about is released have become few and far between.  

3D specs and animation: the sum of today's Hollywood

The 21st century has seen us all turn our attention to new or more prominent entertainment mediums: the rise of social media means we are opting to stay at home and socialise virtually more often, and the increasing popularity of gaming means the same thing, as well as a redirection of the media industry’s attention. What I’ve found interesting however is the change in television we have seen recently.

Once seen as an outlet for Saturday night game shows, soaps and other easy-to-watch entertainment, television is rapidly becoming what the Guardian have called ‘the place to go for adult storytelling’. Series and productions such as the BBC’s The Shadow Line and Todd Haynes’s Mildred Pierce for Sky have had critics excited for something which could be described as real cinema alternatives. Television is becoming clever, serious and much more of a respected entertainment outlet. Of course, this is not new – producers have been creating respectable television since it began, but this surge of cinema audiences rapidly turning to television as an alternative is giving the industry the boost it needs after years of becoming renowned for cheap celebrity and reality entertainment.

Perhaps this is a reflection of not only the financial hardship of the film industry, but also of the individual – people have gradually become not only less willing and able to spend money on entertainment, but they have also come to expect more for free. The fact that we can spend as much as time as we like on Facebook, Twitter, and most importantly, YouTube, without paying a penny says something about this new culture. Music artists have fast developed a trend for producing free material, relying on other outlets of the business to ensure income. The public is simply not willing to pay for something we can now get for free – hence the amount of illegal downloads of both music and films. The media industry recognises this and in return is providing quality entertainment through television rather than cinema. Kate Winslet’s participation in the new Mildred Pierce series is her first television role in twenty years but is just as likely to be taken seriously as a role she has accepted as those in her recent films.

Kate Winslet as Mildred Pierce

What will be interesting to see is the change that may or may not come in future years when the global economy is in a more stable place and Hollywood regain some freedom to expand their target audience. My guess is that children’s animated film will stay, but hopefully we will also see a rise in films of a lower blockbuster nature. The change of the media industry has changed the pace at which it works – films from the cinema go to DVD release much quicker than in the past and this is also a reflection of the demand being placed on the industry for entertainment. We need entertaining more often, quicker and with more material. Television is benefitting here, but I hope Hollywood can catch up soon.

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One thought on “How television is rising above Hollywood

  1. In my opinion, 2000 was the year when British TV relinquished any dignity it still retained by producing the first series of ‘Big Brother’. That opened the door to ‘I’m a Celebrity’ and various other shows that continue to vomit out of our screens, one of the most recent being ‘The Only Way is Essex’.

    And yet, having said that, these visual offerings certainly do get the viewers talking. Be it virtually, at work, over a coffee, it doesn’t matter; the point is that people can share something easily accessible on a mass scale, even more so when using social networking. There’s almost something vaguely wartime about it, except that instead of everyone conversing about the possible ramifications of the Prime Minister’s speech on the wireless, they’re slagging off someone for being too tanned, not tanned enough, the wrong type of tan, or the right type of tan but it not complementing their body hair.

    I was originally a snob (it doesn’t show, does it?) and thought that anyone who watched this stuff was automatically an idiot; but then one year I caught a few minutes of BB and realised to my horror that I was enjoying it, mainly due to the not only permitted but intensely promoted voyeurism. I can even understand finding TOWIE entertaining, especially the cringeworthy Essex accent and the discovery that these beautiful adults have the combined IQ and charm of a dozen tab-ends floating in the dregs of a necked pint of Stella.

    I suppose, in all fairness, I love action films, animated movies, all kinds of things that are fast-paced, colourful, filled with explosions and comedy sound effects – it’s not like I’m constantly watching the news or the History Channel – so I’m just as guilty of yearning a diversion as anyone else. And, as you said, Laura, at least now the menu is more balanced: we can sink our teeth into a period drama starring an excellent actor and treat it as a main course; then, if we’re still peckish, we can enjoy a guilty spoonful of chavs, tarts, crims, Class A-ers and gypos for dessert.

    After all, we need to make the most of our TV License payments don’t we?

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