Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Alison Willmore
March 1, 2012 9:58 AM
3 Comments
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What We Talk About When We Talk About Television

"Girls": Jemima Kirke, Lena Dunham, Allison Williams Jojo Whilden
Today marks the official start of television coverage on Indiewire, but unofficially we've been talking about TV for a while now -- through posts on our blog network, and thanks to the increasing overlap with the world of film.

Filmmakers we love now regularly turn up to helm series installments, from Rian Johnson's memorable bottle episode in the third season of "Breaking Bad" to Agnieszka Holland trying her hand at "Treme." Lena Dunham is following up "Tiny Furniture" with "Girls," kicking off next month on HBO; Mike White created "Enlightened" and brought in the likes of Miguel Arteta, Jonathan Demme and Nicole Holofcener as directors.

TV isn't just a place for people to work between features -- it's become just as important a platform for distinctive and developed creative voices. A show like "Louie," written and directed by and starring Louis C.K., demonstrates as much authorship as an indie film, while show creators like the Davids Simon, Milch and Chase, not to mention Matthew Weiner of "Mad Men," present unmistakably ambitious personal visions in projects that have become major cultural touchstones.

When talking about how TV has come into its own, there's a tendency to pit it against film, as if one medium has to be ascendant -- see The New Yorker's January panel debate Is Television the New Cinema?, in which David Remnick kicked the conversation off by asking whether TV is eclipsing the movies.

But it's not a competition, it's coexistence, from the many crossovers mentioned above to the fact that in this age of many screen sizes the way shows and films are consumed has started to blend. VOD and streaming have become for many people the primary ways through which they see movies, while it also makes total sense that three episodes of "Girls" will be given a "world premiere" at the Paramount Theatre at SXSW on March 12.

We're excited to be expanding the conversation and our coverage into television because exciting things are happening there in the realm of visual storytelling, because it's become a primary outlet after festivals for nonfiction features and shorts that deserve attention, and because it feels like a lot of familiar faces of talented people we've been following on the site are already there. And we welcome your feedback in terms of the types of shows you'd like to see covered -- no Kardashian recaps here, scout's honor.

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3 Comments

  • noelrk | March 1, 2012 11:20 AMReply

    I'm intrigued by the notion that this indie/TV overlap is framed something "recent" as opposed to something that's been happening for a while, as if Nicole Holofcener didn't direct episodes of "Sex and the City" or "Gilmore Girls" in the late '90s, or that David Lynch didn't make "Twin Peaks" on ABC or that John Sayles never made the short-lived "Shannon's Deal" on NBC in the late '80s and early '90s or that Steven Soderbergh wasn't responsible for "K-Street." (Okay, we'd all like to forget about "K-Street.")

    I'm likewise fascinated by the notion that IndieWire seems to be justifying (whether to its audience or to itself,) its coverage of TV, and only certain kinds of television judging by the dismissal of the Kardashians at the end there, by pointing to ideas of authorship and artistic vision as the way by which "TV has come into its own." Was TV not a valid enough medium to justify coverage until auteurist showrunners (be they writers or producers or both) and indie filmmakers were directing episodes as hired guns (and that is exactly what they are, by the way) were being perceived as the norm within the critical television discourse?

    I also cannot help but notice that your discussion of television within this introduction makes no mention of broadcast programming, choosing to mention or refer only to shows from HBO, AMC, and FX. Are these three channels the only providers of "unmistakably ambitious personal visions in projects that have become major cultural touchstones"?

    As for the technological crossovers, you're absolutely correct, and I applaud the acknowledgement of how the TV screen is helping to raise the profile of shorts, documentary, and nonfiction films. Except, of course, that TV has been doing this for years through public broadcasting and specialty cable channels.

    However, HBO choosing to premiere "Girls" at SXSW at a movie theater is just another example of HBO's "It's not TV, it's HBO" marketing. They're linking themselves to cinema in an effort to further distance themselves from television, not show how the two are overlapping and blending together. It only "makes total sense" from a branding perspective.

  • Tim McAleer | March 1, 2012 11:15 AMReply

    I think the shows mentioned in this article are a pretty promising start to your television coverage. However, in addition to the gems of premium and basic cable in America, I personally would love to see coverage of international TV. It would be cool to hear about what's on the 'HBO' of Australia, or what the latest hit is up in Canada, over in Denmarck, etc. There is so much smart tv being produced by like-minded nations around the world, and I think it would be pretty cool to read about it before we watch the remake over here (ha!). More seriously though, I think that we are increasingly becoming more aware of cultural imports and exports as technology makes them easier to find. Right now you can get a number of anglican exports from places like Australia, Canada, and the UK on Hulu, and pretty soon the BBC iPlayer launches in the US, essentially bringing all the channels of the BBC everywhere, and this is just the beginning. Borders are soon to blur in every facet of society, including and perhaps most importantly in television. So basically, I'd really love to have a place to read about it.

  • Tim McAleer | March 1, 2012 11:15 AMReply

    I think the shows mentioned in this article are a pretty promising start to your television coverage. However, in addition to the gems of premium and basic cable in America, I personally would love to see coverage of international TV. It would be cool to hear about what's on the 'HBO' of Australia, or what the latest hit is up in Canada, over in Denmarck, etc. There is so much smart tv being produced by like-minded nations around the world, and I think it would be pretty cool to read about it before we watch the remake over here (ha!). More seriously though, I think that we are increasingly becoming more aware of cultural imports and exports as technology makes them easier to find. Right now you can get a number of anglican exports from places like Australia, Canada, and the UK on Hulu, and pretty soon the BBC iPlayer launches in the US, essentially bringing all the channels of the BBC everywhere, and this is just the beginning. Borders are soon to blur in every facet of society, including and perhaps most importantly in television. So basically, I'd really love to have a place to read about it.