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Criticwire Survey: Directors Who Should’ve Done TV

Criticwire Survey: Directors Who Should've Done TV

Every week, the Criticwire Survey asks film and TV critics two questions. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?” can be found at the end of this post.) Send suggestions for future questions to sam at indiewire dot com.

Q: After announcing  his
retirement from the film business,
Steven Soderbergh has segued neatly into a career in television, first
with “Behind the Candelabra” and now “The Knick,” the first of whose 10
episodes premieres on Friday. What film director, living or dead, would
you like to see try her or his hand in the current TV environment?

Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat, Film Racket

It would be fascinating to see what John Waters could do with the medium of television. Here’s a guy who has done his own thing, his own way, for decades. With the proliferation of cable channels, many of which are fully willing to invest in risky programming, Waters wouldn’t have to hold back. He could explore whatever “trashy” topic interested him, and he’d presumably have full authority to be as outrageous as he wanted. Considering that he hasn’t directed a film since 2004’s “A Dirty Shame,” television would likely stimulate his creativity in all kinds of sick, wonderful ways. Besides, a lot of great TV has come out of his native Baltimore anyway — “The Wire,” “Veep,” “House of Cards” — so this possibility seems ideal. 

Matt Zoller Seitz, Vulture, RogerEbert.com

Todd Solondz. “The Sopranos” felt like “Happiness” with gangsters half the time anyway. “Six Feet Under” sometimes felt like “Happiness” with undertakers. Cable might as well just get Todd Solondz and let him make whatever show he wants.

Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter, Tribune

The obvious answer — given his genius with the serial form — is Louis Feuillade. But given that neither Feuillade’s career (he died in 1925) nor his reputation are exactly crying out for a boost, I’ll take a practical, advocatory stance and nominate the very-much-still-with-us John Carpenter. Carpenter isn’t a stranger to the small screen, and showed his mastery of the standalone TV-movie format with Someone’s Watching Me! (1978). He can remake the three original BBC Quatermass serials from the 1950s: “The Quatermass Experiment,” “Quatermass II,” “Quatermass and the Pit.” With James Woods as a badass Quatermass.

Danny Bowes, Salt Lake City Weekly

Elaine May, specifically for Fox, because it’d be the greatest show that ever existed and the cost overruns would send Rupert Murdoch to debtor’s prison.

Alissa Wilkinson, Christianity Today

I’d love to see Jeff Nichols do a 10-episode series. Partly because I love everything he does, and partly because I always leave his films having enjoyed them immensely and feeling as if they are much longer than they actually are, but in the best of ways. There’s an element of the mythic to them, and I’d like to see that spun out over a longer arc. (I think “Take Shelter” would make a really phenomenal series if given the “Fargo” treatment.) Jeff, if you’re reading, I’ve got ideas for you.

Kenji Fujishima, Slant Magazine, In Review Online

Considering how obsessed with history and the passage of time Taiwanese New Wave directors like Hou Hsiao-hsien and Edward Yang were in their films, I, for one, would be curious to see how they would handle a long-form television serial, where concerns of history of time are, theoretically at least, inherent in the multi-episode, time-spanning format. With Yang, for instance, I could already see something like Yang’s “A Brighter Summer Day” and “Yi Yi,” with their novelistic richness of plot, character and setting, lending itself well enough to a mini-series format, at the very least.

M. Leary, Filmwell

I would like to see what Park Chan-wook would do with the time and space a TV season provides. The way his style alternates between playful and so gravely baroque makes me think he could bring a lot of craft to the episodic format. Even though his work may be a bit heavy for a ten episode stretch, I could imagine TV providing a little breathing room for his mannerisms, which are often quite wry and engaging. At the very least, he would provide a little melodramatic relief from the increasingly homogenous and staid vibe of American quality television.

Sean Axmaker, Keyframe, Cinefiled

I would have loved it if Orson Welles had found a home for his half-hour TV pilot “Fountain of Youth” and turned to TV in the “Playhouse 90” era with his own take on telling short stories on the small screen. I can’t say it necessarily would have found an audience at the time, but it would have been a glorious experiment.

Richard Brody, the New Yorker

The problem with so-called quality TV isn’t the medium but the quality — or, rather, the simulacrum of quality. What’s missing from TV is the exuberant absence of quality — the kind that comes from directors who have far less story sense than emotional intensity, less skill than will, which is why the lost hero of modern television is Ed Wood. Second vote: no director satirized the medium more gleefully than Frank Tashlin; I’d wish for him to have a chance to enter the belly of the beast. (He did direct a couple of episodes of General Electric Theatre in the mid-fifties; I wonder whether that experience was the source of his sardonic view of the medium.)

Scott Renshaw, Salt Lake City Weekly

Like many such questions, it seems desperately unfair; any filmmaker whose work you love, you’re probably happy to see more of it, in whatever way is possible. Yet I’ve got a hunch that Quentin Tarantino might be a perfect fit. He generally works on a scale that would work for the small screen, and he creates the kind of sprawling, multi-character narratives that seem tailor-made for a 12-episode HBO season. In fact, it might even be better if he worked for AMC or FX; I have a hunch that he’d get wonderfully creative with the obstructions built into writing/directing for basic cable. Let’s make this happen, universe.

Adam Batty, Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second 

Many of my favorite filmmakers have worked in television in the past. Orson Welles, Jean-Luc Godard and David Lynch all experimented keenly with the medium, while Michael Mann’s work for the small (and increasingly larger) screen is a favorite too. As such, my answer is a tad dull: I’d like to see David Lynch back in Twin Peaks. Granted, this is borne as much from a desire to see Lynch film anything that runs for longer than the length of a music video, but the idea of him revisiting the town from which (arguably) the modern TV landscape sprung from, preferably with a real-time set sequel, tantalizes immensely. 

Miriam Bale, “She Is Me” 

My choice is so easy and obvious that it’s embarrassing. David Lynch! He hasn’t made a feature since “Inland Empire,” and he directed one of the only TV shows that was consistently interesting and the work of a great director. I’d also like a reboot of “Fantasy Island” starring Owen Wilson. I’m not sure who would play Tattoo. (In real life I’m very much looking forward to Whit Stillman’s and Amy Seimetz’s upcoming shows.)

Josh Spiegel, Movie Mezzanine

This is a challenging question, if only because I’m split between wishing every director could get their hand at the level of creative freedom available in premium cable, and wishing they could find that level of freedom in cinema all the time. But if I have to choose and can only choose one, I’m going with John Huston, whose ability to focus on complex, amoral characters, the Fred C. Dobbses of the world, throughout his career would translate well to the current TV landscape. The appeal of him (or any director) being given something like 10 hours’ worth of content to focus on three-dimensional characters, as well as more time to craft haunting, striking imagery, is too much to pass up.

Ernesto Diezmartinez, Reforma, Vertigo

John Ford in a brand new mini-series: “The Iron Horse.”

Kristy Puchko, Cinema Blend 

I’d really love to see Kathryn Bigelow do some TV work, in part because I’d just love to see more from her than a magnificent movie every few year. (I’m greedy that way.) But with her skill for capturing action, building tension and creating portraits of complicated and dangerous heroes, just imagine how incredible she’d be at the helm in on “Game of Thrones.” Give her a penultimate episode, and she’d kill it better than The Mountain.

Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit, First Showing

I’d love to see Mel Brooks bring his kitchen sink style of comedy to a show of some sort, maybe even the return of the variety-style program? Mostly, I just wish he’d bring back the 2000 Year Old Man, so any excuse for that is a good excuse in my book.

John DeCarli, Film Capsule

To me, the question is: who could create and sustain small-scale, character-based content that would become richer in an episodic format? My answer is a name that has been on my mind a lot recently: Richard Linklater. Imagine “Dazed and Confused” as an ensemble show, or a miniseries of “School of Rock.” Or “Boyhood” given even more time to breathe.

Marc V. Ciafardini, Go See Talk, Big Fanboy

Guy Ritchie and Nacho Vigalondo (for two very different reasons) seem like directors who could easily take any of their stories, both new or existing, to the small screen. Ritchie’s characters are so colorful, if superficial, they deserve more than 90 minutes of screen time and Vigalondo could do wonders with any series resembling “American Horror Story.” One more idea, if we’re just throwing out hypothetical candidates, I would love to see James Cameron get a “True Lies” prequel series off the ground if he was ever considering one.

Tony Dayoub, Cinema Viewfinder, Slant Magazine

I can’t think of a better delivery system for Stanley Kubrick’s well-researched Napoleon biopic than cable TV, where it could have been extended to miniseries length a la HBO’s “John Adams” or “Mildred Pierce.”

Sean Chavel, Flick Minute

I wish Werner Herzog would get bankrolled to make “Encounters at the End of the World” type of world traveling documentaries.

Nell Minow, Beliefnet, RogerEbert.com

I would love to see Preston Sturges bring sophisticated comedy with an edge to television. He could do more to take down the One Percent than a dozen Occupy installations.

Peter Howell, Toronto Star

I’d love to have seen Stanley Kubrick try his hand at a dramatic series, something like “True Detective.” And for comedy, I would have loved to see what Jacques Tati might have come up with for a mini-series or sitcom.

Gary M. Kramer, Gay City News, Philadelphia Gay News

Jamie Babbit, Rose Troche, and Lisa Cholodenko have been working for years doing episodic TV in between theatrical releases. Todd Haynes helmed the “Mildred Pierce” miniseries well a few years back. So while it’s nice to see filmmakers like Cary Fukunaga making (the overrated) “True Detective” or Steven Soderbergh switching mediums, I don’t watch much TV. So for me to get excited to tune in every week, I’d want it to be someone like John Malkovich who directed the remarkable “The Dancer Upstairs,” but only a short film since. I’d be keen to see what he could do if given the time and money to tell a story over several episodes.

John Keefer, 51 Deep

I’d like to see Quentin Tarantino have an “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” type anthology series. Each week we’d be treated to some lurid tale of revenge done in the style of some type of mondo cult film or another, everything from Westerns to exploitation cinema of the 70s to… um, Westerns again. I’d also like the same idea with John Waters. Or with myself, but then I think people would be confused.

Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com

I’d love to see Lars Von Trier do something like “The Kingdom” again in today’s TV world 20 years after the first one. I also think Polanski could create something special à la “The Ghost Writer” on a weekly basis. Clearly, these would both be internationally funded productions.

Jason Shawhan, Nashville Scene,Interface 2037

Kathryn Bigelow (and yes, I remember “Wild Palms”), David Cronenberg
(Think. Of the possibilities.), Claire Denis, Kasi Lemmons, Floria
Sigismondi, and Béla Tarr. But what I’d most love to see is a loosely-linked episodic erotic
picaresque through a fairytale land with alternating episodes from
Catherine Breillat and Yann Gonzalez. 

Edwin Arnaudin, Asheville Citizen-Times

Wonderful as Paul Thomas Anderson’s recent films are, I miss the large casts and numerous story lines of “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia.” A TV series could be a workable outlet for his more sprawling
narratives while he continues with the character-driven films of his
current arc.

Q: What is the best movie in theaters?

A: “Boyhood”

Other movies receiving multiple votes: “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Calvary”

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