Friday, March 1, 2024
Tv Series

TV series are being “cinematographized”. And that’s not a good thing

TV series are being "cinematographized".  And that's not a good thing

A specter is haunting the world of TV series, and claims victims of all kinds: from the most illustrious to those you forgot about after the first viewing. A specter with a benevolent appearance, in a certain sense also similar to the TV series, which uses this similarity to attract and overwhelm them: the cinema.

What does it mean that TV series are being “cinematized”? This expression does not refer to how much good the serial world has taken from the cinematographic one, such as the attention to photography, writing and direction, but to the more consumerist aspects that the world of cinemas and popcorn has instilled in the environment of laptops, home televisions and covers and hot tea.

At a time when TV series reached their peak, not only in terms of popularity but also of quality (the so-called “golden age” of TV series), the world of cinema inevitably found itself displaced. The long supremacy of the cinema, at most the rental or purchase of a title, were now called into question by a type of totally domestic vision, the prerogative of every social class, at a price which, at the time (now, with the crazy price increases on the platforms, this aspect has definitely changed) was undoubtedly competitive compared to that of a cinema ticket.

The best price advantage was that, for the cost of a movie ticket, in a month you could see not just one movie or series, but dozens and dozens of titles. Cool, right?

Netflix (640×360)

It’s a shame that everything changed then. Cinema has raised its head again (fortunately), as much as a sector that was seriously affected even before the pandemic can raise it and which with Covid has begun to see a great light and the irresistible impulse to run in that direction and end it. But, somehow, cinema is making it: it must have been the injections of confidence (and billions) into the box office of some lucky titles (Barbie e Oppenheimer, to name only the most recent ones), but the seventh art has no intention of giving way to TV series without a fight. But the problem is not this, but rather that it is “infecting” them with a virus that is leading the environment to seriously question the future of this type of entertainment.

We have addressed the question of the future of streaming in this article, but the question can be summarized as follows: is it still worth spending the cost of a cinema ticket to see, in a month, titles that will probably be canceled in a few months?

And again: it really makes sense to follow the example of cinema and build franchise upon franchisesequel after sequel, spin off after spin off, in a short-sighted and bulimic way, from a series that had already said everything it had to say?

But also: TV series are becoming more and more spectacular, perhaps wanting to match cinema or for its own affirmation of value. The media, however, have remained the same: does it really make sense to continue watching episodes with battles filmed in 4K on a laptop or a living room television, when the cinema exists with all its technology that cannot be replicated at home?

As regards the first point, undoubtedly in recent years we have witnessed a real one hemorrhage of TV series, with titles that were brutally canceled after just one season, series that couldn’t find a conclusion one step away from the end, desperate fan petitions to have at least one final film. Precisely, a film: the cinema which, magnanimously, comes to the aid of the series and saves it.

On an economic level, producing a final one-hour episode rather than a final season consisting of several episodes is certainly an advantage. However, it makes us think about the fact that cinema is seen as a sort of “plan B” for a product that would have been destined for cancellation and which, in this way, can at least boast a conclusion.

Cinema is debased by economic logic: if you really want an ending for a TV series, get this thing that is neither a final season nor a real film.

1899 (640×360)

The economic issue is also the real reason behind the cancellations: the platforms do their accounts on aseptic Excel sheets (we don’t know if it’s true, but it’s nice to imagine it like this), they weigh listening expectations and real data and draw a red line on the title that didn’t perform well enough. End. And those who lose out are stocks that can be a gamble, even if they have a success story behind them, such as 1899whose project of a new trilogy after the successful one of Dark it sank shortly after setting sail.

Stocks that seemed to have already been won can also lose out: let’s do it again How I Met Your Mother but from the female perspective, they tell themselves at Hulu, what could go wrong? Let’s break a spear in favor of karma because the history of remakes and spin-offs is full of such statements which then turned into sobs of disappointment: let’s think about the catastrophic Joeyspin-off of Friends which no one felt the need for except, evidently, the producers.

But it is clear that even if series like How I Met Your Mother they are no longer a guarantee of success for their “daughters”, there is a problem. And it has to do with the tendency of the serial world to copy bulimia for remakes, the sequels, the 2 chapters of any successful title. Even years later and, above all, if the ending had not fully satisfied the fans at the time. This discussion obviously applies to HIMYM but also for another series, perhaps the queen of series with a disappointing ending, because it managed to give us not one but two endings to forget.

Dexterwhich returned with huge expectations after ten years and ended like the memes with the flute playing My Heart Will Go On Of Titanic.

Of course, this fate of unfortunate sequels, of revivals that end in tragedy it does not affect all titles: there are series that continue to reproduce themselves undisturbed, continuing to achieve moderate success or, alternatively, to live in a mediocre penumbra in which they do not risk, if nothing else, ending up cancelled.

Let’s think about Sex and The City, a product that continues to be successful, probably because even at the time of its debut it was ahead of its time, let alone now. Six seasons, two films, a reboot after more than twenty years, And Hust Like Thatnow in its third season, not to mention the spin-off on Carrie’s adolescence, The Carrie Diaries. A money-making machine comparable only, in terms of the dimensions of the phenomenon, to sagas of a decidedly different genre such as The Expendables o Fast&Furios.

The Walking Deadone of the series that had raised hopes for the beginning of a true golden age of horror TV series, has over time become a parody of itself: but it has not stopped generating spin-offs, just as the zombie epidemic has not stopped never arrested. Fear the Walking Dead, The Walking Dead: World Beyond, Tales of The Walking Dead, The Walking Dead: Dead City e The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon. Here, however, we are at James Bond level, if we want to pull over The Walking Dead to a seemingly infinite cinematic product.

Other series, however, take one of the worst flaws of cinema, the tendency to parthenogenesisand they translate it into products that go beyond national borders or become pure commercial entertainment: the trailer for Squid Game: the challenge, a reality show in which the contestants will battle just like the unfortunate ones in the series, without however risking dying. An example of a series that becomes reality, as if in the days of Lost someone had thought of parachuting a few dozen people onto a desert island and putting up cameras to see what would happen.

Ah, that’s right, they did it and it’s called The island of the famous.

Squid Game (640×360)

Squid Game is an example of a series for which the process was reversed compared to How I Met Your Father: arriving on Netflix only thanks to the stubbornness of its creator, Hwang Dong-hyuk, it has become so famous that it has made all the other platforms regret not having grabbed it. Similar speech for The Money Heist, which went from being a little-known Spanish drama to becoming such a top product that it even had a Korean remake. TV series are copying from cinema not only the fever for sequels, but also that of remakes: an operation that promises to be disastrous even to think about it.

Then there is one last aspect to focus on to understand how TV series are taking an example (wrongly) from cinema: the spectacular appearancewhich is difficult to do justice to with the media normally used to watch a series.

Let’s take an example: the famous (and criticized) “dark” episode of Game of Thrones. We are in the eighth and final season, in the third episode, entitled, as if on purpose, The long night. An epic battle between the White Walkers, Jon Snow and Daenerys is the focus of the episode, but many viewers complained that the scenes were too dark, making it impossible to understand what was happening on screen.

Between memes, people squinting and going crazy trying to set the television to night mode, this episode went down in history more for this inconvenience than for its objective value. What perhaps hasn’t been said enough is that that sceneas well as many others in the same series, it would have had a completely different impact if seen at the cinemain the dark and with the possibility of truly being catapulted onto a battlefield, in the darkness of the night.

Con House of the Dragonthe spin-off set 100 years before Game of Thrones, dragons are flying again and great battles are expected in the second season. But the franchise based on Martin’s works is not the only one to (also) focus on spectacularity: titles like Altered Carbon o Band of Brothers (you can find more here) they focused a lot on the visual and auditory componentremaining in history as true jewels, easily rivaling their cinematic adversaries.

TV series
Game of Thrones (640×360)

The controversial “dark” episode of Game of Thrones

But the use of such high-level products, through media certainly not designed to give an immersive experience like those of the cinema, risks becoming a regret if you think about how those products would have performed on the big screen. The spectacular nature of scenes like those of Interstellarbut also the same Oppenheimerseen at the cinema, has a completely different effect from that which can be had with DVD at home, even if you have a cutting-edge television.

In an environment where the focus is increasingly on the spectacular, immersive and engaging aspect, TV series will also have to find a way to keep up with cinema. They will be able to choose to completely differentiate themselves from it, returning to offering products that focus more on the script, plot and acting performances and less on the visual component, as happened during the golden age. Or they can think about a totally new approach to the mediumwith for example cinema screenings of episodes that would perform particularly well on the big screen.

Reflection is needed on the part of producers as well as distributors: TV series were created to differentiate themselves from cinema, to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy a multitude of products at an accessible cost and to create stories that did not suffer from the time limitations imposed by cinema. If TV series end up being “cinematographed”, what purpose will they serve?

Giulia Vanda Zennaro