Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"Newsweek" finally catches on; Rest of media world hopefully to soon follow

In the most recent episode of Newsweek, Devin Gordon looks into the argument that right now, the quality of television is far superior to that of cinema.

Devin, what took you so long?

I linked to an LA Times article that no longer is on their server over a year ago that featured Denis Leary talking about how he felt the television industry had surpassed the movie industry, which was the first mainstream piece to discuss something a lot of people have been feeling for a while. While I'll certainly agree with the concept that an Oscar trophy is considerably more valuable than an Emmy, that has more to do with how absolutely terrible the Emmy voters are and history than the current quality of genre.

I find myself without time to catch up on all the Oscar films this year, and I desperately want to, but if I don't, oh well. Right now, on television, shows like Friday Night Lights and The Office are doing things better than the majority of big screen dramas or comedies. If you want to extend the list, and I'm about to forget a whole lot of stuff, the following shows have been regarded as somewhere between "Good", Completely Entertaining" and "Absolutely Awesome" over the last few months. Ready for this (and please, I know I'm missing a lot here)?

Veronica Mars, How I Met Your Mother, Lost, Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs, My Name Is Earl, 30 Rock, The Wire, Rome, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Sopranos, The Amazing Race, CSI, Law and Order(s), The Shield, South Park, Reno 911, House, Rescue Me, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Heroes, 24, Ugly Betty, Survivor. America's Top Chef, Project Runway, Monk, Psych, The OC, Las Vegas, American Idol.

Now, I know I missed a bunch in that list and you could debate a few of them out (I would personally), and I'm purposely not even counting MTV or VH1 stuff that's endlessly entertaining despite being morally defunct and mind-numbingly stupid, but that off-the-top-of-my-head sample just shows that I've enjoyed or know that others/critics have enjoyed over the last few months. I'm generally regarded as some sort of television connoisseur, yet I get to watch well less than half of those on anything resembling a regular basis. I desperately want to watch House and The Wire - seriously, total desperation to just have time to break into both of them - yet the time isn't there. Still without Tivo capabilities here in the District, I'm struggling just to keep up with the onslaught every Thursday night. There's some shows I enjoy immensely, such as Prison Break or Ugly Betty, I've just given up on until more time arises, at absolutely no fault to the show.

Granted, there are a lot of good movies out there, but there's also a lot of crap. Last summer's blockbuster season wasn't particularly good, and while this summer is far more exciting, it's mainly because of the sequelriffic nature of the whole thing. In an attempt to follow the creatively superior television, movies are doing their best to serialize great franchises becaise coming up with creative, fresh, new material is difficult, and in the case of movies much moreso than television, incredibly expensive.

Granted, I'm still the guy who loves nothing more than to be at the Friday night - or hell, midnight showing - of the latest blockbuster to come out, and I will gladly tell you that Pan's Labyrinth, Casino Royale, Children of Men, Little Miss Sunshine and The Departed are as good as entertainment as you can find, but while there's good television available all year round, your last few box office leaders have been Norbit, Ghost Rider and Stomp The Yard. Yes, a lot of Oscar films are great- and some that weren't even nominated were better - but the ratio of "Good" to "Bad" (think of all the miserable horror remakes) is relatively high when you look at the ratio on Sunday through Thursday primetime television, which skews a lot more towards the good side.

I'm glad you've finally joined the party. Sit down, pick up your remote and realize what frugal college students have known for years now: Television rocks.

UPDATE: I just realized I left out another part of television that does a fantastic job: your Discovery Channel/History Channel-type documentary stuff. Even the really fun stuff, such as Man vs. Wild, Survivorman and the always-great MythBusters, are really informative, and the more thorough and well-researched programming is as educational as any textbook you'd pick up.

You also, depending on your faith in the industry, may want to count television news as another positive aspect of the small screen, but that's certainly debateable with the rise of 24-hour networks that devote the majority of their time to Anna Nicole Smith-type stuff and talking heads screaming at one another. But there's some positives there as well.

And Gameshow Network never fails to entertain, although "quality" wouldn't exactly be rated high for most of that programming.

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