TV is better than film

It’s Time Out’s film month, but TV critic Alexi Duggins reckons cinema is obsolete and TV is where it’s at. Here are his ten reasons why

Read Film Editor Dave Calhoun's retort.

1. TV takes the time to go much, much deeper

At a real stretch, film directors have four hours of footage (excluding the possibility of a money-grubbing sequel or two), whereas TV directors can have anything up to 22 hours for a series. The movie industry cannot match the long-running subplots and subtle elucidation of characters’ personalities in a series like ‘Six Feet Under’, or the exquisitely paced novel-like intricacies of ‘The Wire’. Don’t believe me? Two words: ‘Brideshead Revisited’.

2. TV’s comedy track record is far better than film’s

Post-‘This Is Spinal Tap’, it’s hard to think of any mould-breaking film comedies: meanwhile the sophisticated use of cartoons pioneered by ‘The Simpsons’, the aggressively nonsensical meeja parody of ‘The Day Today’ and the intrusive camerawork of ‘Peep Show’ have led the way. What can the past decade of cinema hold up to the wit and understated hilarity of TV programmes like ‘Brass Eye’, ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’, ‘Arrested Development’ and ‘The Thick of It’? Film versions of the last two, that’s what.

3. Documentaries simply don’t work on film

Audiences heading to the local multiplex pick and choose their viewing, so their chances of watching something they’re not interested in are minimal. As a result, documentaries on the big screen are preaching to the converted, so their educational scope and ability to change society is limited. In contrast, TV’s social impact even over the past few years has been astonishing. In 2003, ‘The Secret Policeman’ and its exposé of racism within the police prompted a shake-up of anti-racist policy within the force, and more recently, programmes like ‘Jamie’s School Dinners’ have actually driven Government agendas.

4. TV unites the nation, film just divides

By screening sporting fixtures, concerts such as ‘Live 8’ and events including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, television allows for shared experience, bringing the country together. Head down to the cinema, however, and a couple of hours in sticky-floored darkness is your destiny, where any attempt at human interaction will result in a narky film-buff hissing at you.

5. TV is far greater value for money

Compared with the £10-ish a pop for a single trip to most London cinemas, £150 gets you a Freeview box and a TV licence – providing the public with hundreds of hours of programming a day. Unrivalled value for money, not least because…

6. Shelling out for TV is money well spent

By stumping up the cash for a licence fee, you fund the BBC’s commitment to taking risks and making challenging, rewarding programming. Whereas a trip to the cinema just enables Brangelina to buy another kid.

7. Thought-provoking work is intrinsically harder to find in film

Box office crowds are dwindling and cash-desperate Hollywood execs are increasingly pandering to the masses. As a result, we get so many sequels that the dead horse isn’t so much flogged as sandblasted. There are examples of worthy major-release films trying to buck this trend (‘Frost/Nixon’, ‘Gomorrah’), but most of the silver screen’s thought-provoking artistic works rely on small independent cinema showings. Seeking them out is far harder than finding a hidden gem in a post-iPlayer world of TV.

8. Film’s day has ended, whereas TV is still coming into its own

With programmes like ‘Planet Earth’ and ‘The Sopranos’, television continues to create programming held up as the greatest work in its field to date. However, increasingly it’s hard to think of contemporary films which are bona fide all-time works of greatness. Just look at what many herald as the greatest film of all time: ‘Citizen Kane’. What did cinematic visionary Orson Welles do as one of the final works of his career? Voice Unicron in the ’80s cartoon version of ‘Transformers: The Movie’. And that’s essentially a long TV programme.

9. TV is far less guilty of false advertising

There’s a popular belief that while film is somehow a worthy and highbrow medium, TV is visual wallpaper, the purpose of which is to numb the minds of the masses. Sure, there are plenty of reality TV and quizzes on the small screen, but 90 per cent of any artform is drivel. In the box office top ten for Oct 10-12, we find ‘How To Lose Friends and Alienate People’, ‘Righteous Kill’ and ‘Mirrors’. These are films variously described by our team of critics as ‘bland, old-fashioned and largely mirthless’, a ‘dispiriting affair’ and ‘without question the dumbest horror movie of recent years’. At least TV doesn’t have to put on airs to con people into attendance.

10. TV allows the viewer a more satisfying emotional experience

Escapist long-running soaps like ‘Coronation Street’ allow the viewer to develop a relationship with a character over decades. As a result, the emotional ties developed with characters make for a far richer viewing experience than anything film can offer – despite Harrison Ford’s best nonsensical fridge-nuking attempts at reprising Indiana Jones.Agree? Fuming? Leave your comments below

Read Film Editor Dave Calhoun's retort.

Author: Alexi Duggins. Photography Rob Greig





Top Stories

Paul Thomas Anderson interview

Paul Thomas Anderson interview

The director talks Scientology and working with Joaquin Phoenix.

Read the interview

Hilarious horror films

Hilarious horror films

Ten funny horror movies which went spectacularly off the rails.

Read 'Hilarious horror films'

What's your film guilty pleasure?

What's your film guilty pleasure?

Mean Girls? Dirty Dancing? Tell us your favourite film guilty pleasure.

Read 'Film guilty pleasures'

50 years of James Bond

50 years of James Bond

From Connery to Craig, we revisit all 22 Bond films.

Read '50 years of James Bond'

Autumn horror films

Autumn horror films

We round-up the five best horror movies of Autumn 2012.

Read about this Autumn's best horror movies

On the set of Skyfall

On the set of Skyfall

Time Out visits Istanbul to see the latest Bond movie being made.

Read 'On the set of Skyfall'

When teen stars turn serious

When teen stars turn serious

Ten young actors come of age on the silver screen.

Read 'When teen stars turn serious'

Bond: then and now

Bond: then and now

Does Skyfall refresh or rehash the James Bond franchise?

October film highlights

October film highlights

Daniel Craig’s 007 comeback, a genius indie romcom and all the mysteries behind ‘The Shining’ unravelled.

Sam Mendes interview

Sam Mendes interview

Dave Calhoun speaks to the director of 'Skyfall' about the latest film in the Bond franchise.

Sally Potter interview

Sally Potter interview

The British director explains why 'Ginger and Rosa' is her most mainstream film yet.

Daniel Craig interview

Daniel Craig interview

'I’m almost as in demand as Brad Pitt’

Tim Burton interview

Tim Burton interview

The director talks about his new film, 'Frankenweenie', which he describes as 'the ultimate memory piece'.