Television at the movies
In the March 4 issue of Entertainment Weekly, the magazine proposed “10 Ways to fix the movies.”
Along with solutions like “Embrace the On-Demand Button,” they also commented on how television writers and creative teams are superior to those currently working on feature films.
This isn’t far from the truth, especially when you consider that with each passing television season, many shows are starting to look more like movies.
While Home Box Office (HBO) has long held the cinematic standard for television series with shows like “The Sopranos” and “True Blood,” many other networks are learning from the network’s success.
The following are some of the top television series that boast quality programming that fits the sort of grand entertainment of the theater into your flat screen television.
“The Walking Dead” (AMC)
“The Walking Dead” was a popular comic book series by Robert Kirkman prior to its television adaptation on American Movie Classics (AMC). Revolving around the struggles of Officer Rick Grimes, the show follows Grimes and an ensemble of survivors throughout the zombie apocalypse.
With “The Shawshank Redemption” director Frank Darabont and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” producer Gale Ann Hurd leading “The Walking Dead” creative team, said there was no denying it would turn out to be an event worthy of the big screen.
The show’s pilot, entitled “Days Gone By,” debuted on Halloween night 2010 and was the highest rated debut for AMC, home to beloved series like “Mad Men.” The second season has been sent into production for a Fall 2011 release, and Anchorbay Entertainment is releasing a worthy DVD & Blu-Ray of the complete first season on Tuesday, March 8.
“Doctor Who: Series 5” (BBC AMERICA)
Steven Moffat, creator of popular British series “Coupling” and a lifelong “Doctor Who” fan, has taken the reigns of the iconic flying police call box known as the TARDIS for the series’ outstanding fifth season.
As executive producer and head writer, Moffat has introduced more fantasy and character-driven elements to the well-known sci-fi series, making the journeys of the time-traveling Doctor and his faithful female companions more accessible than previous seasons. Moffat also utilized notable talent from the film world, like “Love Actually” writer Richard Curtis.
The show’s enchanting Christmas special, “A Christmas Carol,” was released Feb. 15 from BBC Video, and is far more engaging than most perennial Christmas favorites. The first part of the Moffat-led sixth series is set to air this spring on BBC America, and Moffat is also credited as one of the three writers on Steven Speilberg’s Winter 2011 blockbuster “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn,” proving that Moffat knows fantasy.
Comedy shows like “Friends” or “Two and a Half Men” feature audience laugh soundtracks that prevent the shows from achieving any sort of cinematic quality. Starting with series like NBC’s American remake of “The Office,” the forced or created laughter of an audience has disappeared and been replaced by genuine hilarity.
Creator Dan Harmon’s “Community” is perhaps the tipping-point for situational comedies that are worthy of laughs on the silver screen. Each episode, even when they involve a continuing storyline is capable of standing on their own as a short film.
Episodes like the action packed “Modern Warfare,” the stop-motion animation Christmas special “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” and the series Halloween specials showcase a well-written and constantly inventive show that retains its quality, even if it has yet to hit its peak. The first season is available on DVD now, while the second season is currently running Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. on NBC.
“The Vampire Diaries”: The CW
With executive producer credits on “Dawson’s Creek,” and screenplays for all four “Scream” films, Kevin Williamson is a man who has demonstrated he understands the angst of a high school teen. “The Vampire Diaries,” based on the popular young adult novels by L.J. Smith, is a show whose sole purpose is to entertain, and it achieves this goal on a regular basis.
Williamson has co-written many episodes and overseen the show’s first two seasons, keeping it from veering into the campy supernatural territory of shows like “True Blood.” While its main storyline, a teen girl caught in-between a bitter love triangle with two male vampires certainly is familiar, it’s the series’ grounded nature that keeps viewers wanting to sink their fangs into its teenage drama.
The series is currently wrapping up its second season on The CW, home to other teen favorites like “Gossip Girl” and the revamped “90210.” You can catch “The Vampire Diaries” on Thursdays
at 8:00 p.m.
“Boardwalk Empire”: HBO
Having Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese direct the pilot episode of a television series that boasts actors like Steve Buscemi, Michael Shannon, Kelly Macdonald and is executive produced by “The Fighter” star Mark Wahlberg, is certainly a way to set your series away from the pack.
“Boardwalk Empire” creator Terence Winter, who also executive produced many episodes of HBO’s “The Sopranos,” had lined up the perfect creative team to bring his tale of Atlantic City gangster Enoch “Nucky” Thompson to the masses. The show debuted on HBO to strong ratings, and walked away from the 2011 Golden Globes with statues for Buscemi’s performance as Thompson, as well as Best Drama series.
The series’ first season was helmed by many other marquee names like “Remember Me” director Allen Coulter, as well as horror auteur Brad Anderson, who’s been responsible for “The Machinist” and “Transsiberian.” The show’s second season is set to air in Fall of 2011, and looks to continue its reign as a cinema worthy television series. The first season is currently available on HBO On-Demand, with no release date announced for the DVD & Blu-Ray.