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Is American TV better than American film?

Is American TV better than American film?

Is the Small Screen Better?,” asks Devin Gordon in this provocative Newsweek article. With shows like “Rescue Me,” “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “The Office” and many would add “Deadwood” — which one filmmaker recently told me was “one of the best pieces of American filmmaking in ten years” — television has proven itself to be a more potent American medium, with more nuance, complexity and great writing, than just about everything that we see in multiplexes.

The article taps into a story of my own that I’m researching at the moment: If TV can be so damn good nowadays, how come film critics — those highminded arbiters of taste and shrewd analysts of popular culture — don’t spend more time thinking and writing about the medium. The same could also be said for direct-to-DVD and web cinema: As multiple distribution platforms upend the tradtional theatrical premiere, where is the press? Are the conventional arts-and-entertainment pages lagging behind where the actual media is going? Shouldn’t the New York Times and other large media outlets be expanding its arts coverage — not cutting it down — to include everything from YouTube webisodes to cable-shows to world-cinema Jaman downloads never before seen in the U.S.? If the borders are blurring between film-TV-DVD-Internet, perhaps film critics and journalists should more readily follow suit.

If you’re a filmmaker who has gone straight to DVD or cable TV, I’d be interested to know your experiences with the press coverage around your film. Do you feel like the media world is catching up to the new distribution paradigms? Or is it woefully behind the times?

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Sujewa Ekanayake

Woefully behind the times I think. Indie bands, theater, even opera & other performances that play for a couple of nights in a city get reviewed, but for most movies, at least a one week run is necessary before most newspapers would review it. Good thing blogs & bloggers exist, to pick up the slack right now. But it would be much better if review habits of newspapers were to change to keep up with the changes in viewing and distribution.
I have seen some newspapers (like the Washington Post) sometimes review indie DVDs that more or less have gone directly to the DVD market, so maybe things are changing slowly.

– Sujewa

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