“American Horror Story” has been a hit since its inception in 2011, tapping into a realm of television that seemed missing. It has explored our deepest subdued fears — ghosts, demons, death, even murderous clowns — and taken us to unique and bizarre settings — a haunted house, an evil insane asylum, a modern-day witch coven and a retro freak show carnival. Seeing these settings and scares, and whatever the anthology series has in store for us next, on the IMAX screen might get the series’ heart thumping again — as well as ours. With “Freak Show” having recently come to an end, it remains to be seen what direction the show will take heading into its fifth season. Whatever it is, the value of IMAX would do it wonders.
“Band of Brothers”
If asked to list the most technically marvelous television programs ever made, it would be hard to imagine the Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg collaboration “Band of Brothers” landing outside the Top 5. Not only is it a loud, gritty and gorgeous depiction of WWII, but the 10-part miniseries captures the harrowing nature of war as well as (if not better than) the duo’s earlier cinematic effort — and best war film this side of “Platoon” — “Saving Private Ryan.” When the 1998 Oscar winner (and Best Picture snub) was released in theaters, stories popped up all over America of veterans struggling to get through the film’s relentless first 30 minutes, depicting the invasion of Normandy in all its anti-glory.
Imagine seeing that on a screen so big it’s impossible to imagine a world outside of it. Throw in sound that creates layers in the air, so bullets aren’t just whizzing by your ears but in front of your face, above your head and behind you. It may not be a good idea for anyone suffering from PTSD, but good luck finding a more attractive venture for film and TV fans. If forced to pick two episodes to screen, as “Game of Thrones” is doing, we’d recommend the initial invasion of Normandy depicted in “Day of Days” (Episode 2) and “Bastogne” (Episode 6), which includes the Battle of the Bulge.
The only thing better than an awesome space battle on the big screen is an awesome space battle on the even bigger screen. And “Battlestar Galactica,” while not a perfect show over the course of its four seasons, never lacked for awesome space battles. Would the show’s grim nature and occasional fondness for draggy political debate translate successfully to the large-screen format? Maybe, maybe not. But the opportunity to see the Galactica and its fleet of Vipers face off against Cylons on an “Interstellar”-scale is too much to pass up.
Come on, the Vince Gilligan-helmed masterpiece is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest-rated TV show ever. It just makes sense. In fact, the only drawback about “Breaking Bad” coming to the (really) big screen would be that it would be ridiculously hard to choose just two episodes to run. Can you imagine the hurts-so-good pain of watching SPOILER shoot SPOILER in the head? Ooh, or how about watching the arguably even more painful scene where SPOILER shoots SPOILER in the head? Heck, we’re not even getting into when SPOILER gut-shoots SPOILER and leaves him to slowly die, or when SPOILER literally gets half his face blown off… Basically, the possibilities for heart-wrenching, hand-wringing violence are near infinite, and if the tears you shed are directly proportional to the size of the screen — get ready to cry a river, baby.
A major concern when adapting a movie, let alone a television show, for IMAX, is having visuals that are compelling enough to capture an audience’s attention. Too often movies don’t gain anything from being adapted for this format, but “Cosmos’s” stunning images of stars, planets and nebulae are perfectly suited for a big screen adaptation. Imagine an asteroid hurtling toward your face, or a milky way swirling across the screen. As viewers board the “Ship of the Imagination” in this update of Carl Sagan’s classic series, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s sonorous voice guides the audience through the galaxy. Is there a better way to promote interest in outer space than to hurtle viewers into the galaxy itself?
Noah Hawley’s multi-award-winning anthology series only has one season under its chilly belt, but the way in which the creator nailed the visual scope of the Coen Brother’s 1996 masterpiece proves why the television adaptation is worthy of an IMAX release. One of the critical similarities between the drama series and the movie is the visual representation and utilization of setting: Towns such as Fargo and Bemidji are shot and incorporated into the story so they are not just landscapes where the characters and plot take place, but also vacuums in which our character’s fates and arcs are intertwined and knotted like loose thread. A lot of the plot mechanizations in “Fargo’s” debut season rely on chance encounters and karma, and what keeps these fate-heavy story moments moving with specificity is the sense of the setting as more than just an inhibited space of characters. The way vast establishing shots shrink or expand characters’ relativity to one another, or the way slow zoom-in close-ups cave in the space around characters, goes a long way in visualizing how the higher order of “Fargo’s” world operates, and the larger these moments can be represented, the more engrossing and richly detailed they’ll become.
“Hannibal” creator Bryan Fuller has been a game-changing creator for television in terms of the visual flare he brings to his work (which is perhaps why he’s the only creator on this list with two shows). To watch “Hannibal” is to descend into the madness of its characters, enabled by the show’s frequent use of dream sequences that might not really be dreams. Even when pushed to the extreme (man-on-woman-on-man-on-woman-on-Wendigo fivesome, anybody?), you can’t look away from “Hannibal” on your ordinary TV screen, sohe IMAX experience might drive you as mad as a cannibal… And yet still be worth it.
Showtime’s Emmy-winning drama excels at a number of things, but chief among them is making audiences feel like they’re living in the show. During the best of the hour-long episodes, it’s impossible to break free from a world so very close yet wholly different from the one we live in: Carrie, Saul and Brody are living past the line we dare not cross, and seeing their journey in a wholly immersive environment could only improve the addictive spectacle. For those caught up with the show, imagine the the most harrowing shot of Season 3’s finale. Or the intensity of earlier seasons, especially Brody’s flashback to what pushed him over the edge and into Al Qaeda’s arms or the impossibly tense bunker scene at the end of the first season. Amplify them by however many times bigger the IMAX screen is compared to your TV. Consider us addicted all over again.
The closest thing to a western ever released in IMAX was the 2011 film “Cowboys and Aliens,” and that’s hardly one any fan of the genre cares to remember. Given the costly nature of the formatting, the competitive nature of the business and the western’s steady decline in popularity as IMAX screens expanded, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that no pure, 100 percent westerns have screened in the new standard for theatrical excellence. People simply aren’t as likely to attend those screenings as they are to go see “Transformers 4,” for example. It’s a sad but true fact, but one that could come to an end if “Lonesome Dove” found its way into the venue.
The beloved 1989 miniseries, starring the still-popular stars Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Duvall, Diane Lane, Anjelica Huston and Danny Glover (during peak years of hotness) has stood the test of time. Parents have passed it on to their children, as nearly everyone who watches the six-and-a-half hour story of Texas Rangers Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call falls in love with it. It was filmed very much like its genre’s cinematic counterparts, featuring many wide shots and beautiful scenery, thus making it an ideal inclusion for the IMAX treatment. Please, someone, get on it. We need a western revival, and who better to bring one than ol’ Gus?
Though essentially a character-driven drama, the “Lost” pilot’s opening scenes alone make the show worthy of an IMAX recreation. The harrowing, frightening and jaw-dropping plane crash that begins the series was said to have caused panic attacks, because it was so realistic and stress-inducing. Now imagine that on the big, big screen. After you’re done hyperventilating, the medium could be used to highlight any other of the show’s occasional high action scenes: The first time John Locke encounters the smoke monster in “Walkabout,” Charlie’s epic final swim to the Looking Glass station at the end of Season 3, or any of the utterly stunning moments of Hawaiian scenery all come to mind. And hey, maybe if we watch “The Little Prince” in IMAX, we’ll be able to figure out who is on the other outrigger!
While we wouldn’t be caught dead in an IMAX theater to watch anything even remotely scary — we don’t do well with horror films — the attraction of seeing “Penny Dreadful” on the biggest and best screen imaginable might be enough to lure us into the theater. John Logan’s artfully-told fright fest features fancy period clothing, lavish visuals and, oh yes, some mood-altering scenes of terror (aka, moments that will make you crap your pants). All of these visual pleasures would only be enhanced by the carefully choreographed sound design and video presentation of an IMAX theater. Let the ticket buyer beware — everything but the delivery, that is.
Take a moment and try to imagine the resulting high from watching the eye-popping storybook world of “Pushing Daisies” in IMAX. Yeah, we’re speechless too. Bryan Fuller’s short-lived critical darling is fondly remembered for many things, from its forensic fairytale plot to its quick-witted wordplay, but its idiosyncratic visual style stands above the rest, full of fantastical whimsy and inventiveness. Much of the Emmy-winning series’ bold aesthetic has to do with Fuller’s cinematic vigor as showrunner: Echoing the masterpieces of Stanley Kubrick, Fuller’s illustrious set designs manipulate the eye through use of symmetry and linear perspective. Like Wes Anderson, he employs sensory and ever-changing color palettes to help draw out the thematic tones and characterizations of his warped stories. And like Tim Burton, the fantasy aficionado combines the beautiful and the macabre to bring unusual, striking worlds to visual life, creating a place where childish tropes are subverted by their adult realities. In the grand tradition of these visionary directors, the larger the screen featuring Fuller’s works, the better, making “Pushing Daisies” one of the biggest no-brainers when it comes to television shows in need of the IMAX treatment.
This may seem like an odd choice, but hear us out. Without “The Sopranos,” premium television dramas like “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” wouldn’t have been possible — but more importantly, each episode of the mafia drama is a mini-movie. Rich and contemplative, “The Sopranos” shows mob boss Tony Soprano’s struggle to balance his life as a family man with his reign as New Jersey’s leading don, and the style and scope of the show is incredibly cinematic; the dichotomy of Tony’s life as a ruthless criminal is best expressed in the series’ more contemplative and restrained moments. Who could forget iconic moments like Tony and his daughter Meadow’s college visits? What about Tony’s countless therapy sessions with Dr. Melfi? The show’s gangster action scenes would look great popping out at an audience, but IMAX would really serve the show’s more meditative moments, by allowing the audience a closer and more intimate look into the scene. Watching Tony’s internal struggle to reclaim his humanity amidst his criminal empire is a treat that would only be magnified by the IMAX experience.
“Star Trek: The Next Generation”
If any series in the “Trek” universe is suited for IMAX, it’s “The Next Generation.” Sure, there are probably a few bits here and there that need some CGI updating, (Wesley’s shapeshifting girlfriend from “The Dauphin” comes to mind) but there are plenty of epic battles, mezmerizing space flights and cosmic scenery to justify the big screen. Just think of the battles from “Yesterday’s Enterprise” blown up before your eyes! Or the ship-sized alien beings from the pilot episode. An IMAX screen would also expertly highlight an episode like “Cause and Effect,” which used different camera angles for every repeated version of events. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in IMAX? Make it so.
“Top of the Lake,” from Oscar winner Jane Campion, uses its coastal New Zealand landscape to convey impenetrable uncertainty and boundless beauty. In the search for a missing 12 year-old girl, Det. Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) surveys the small town of Laketop: She races through the woods, creeps around bars and trudges through the sand of a desolate beach. Campion and cinematographer Adam Arkapaw take advantage of this conceit by mining an intense mood out of each of these locations, settling on striking images in the process. “Top of the Lake” may be guided by character and story, but its richly cinematic backdrop renders the viewing experience more involving and profound. It’s not as flashy as, say, “Game of Thrones,” but imagining Campion’s unsettling evocation on the very big screen is a simultaneously frightening and enthralling sensation.
Taking a ride with Rust Cohle isn’t an experience anyone will soon forget. The rambling nature of Matthew McConaughey’s delivery paired with the absorbing content provided by writer Nic Pizzolatto — and comedic timing of partner Woody Harrelson — transports a willing audience into a flat circle they’d never dream of escaping. Sometimes, that world takes on its own visual reality as Cohle’s drug-addicted past catches up with his now-troubled mind, showing him swirling clouds of blue light or black bugs. All of this is an aptly long way of saying “True Detective” earned a lot of praise for its addictive storytelling, but sported a keen sense of style throughout as well. What better TV series could one hope to see in IMAX, be it for one, two, or all eight hopefully endless, looping hours? If HBO can set up “Game of Thrones,” here’s hoping we’ll get a “True Detective” screening when Season 2’s trailer is ready to drop. Now THAT would be something to talk about.
Let’s be honest: Not every episode of “The X-Files” would be ideal IMAX fare. (Of all the things we want to see in this life, a 72 foot tall flukeman is not on the list.) But the show was an early pioneer of cinematic television, and there were some truly striking visuals that would be well-served by a mega-screen experience: Mulder’s ill-advised trip to the Bermuda Triangle, Mulder’s ill-advised trip to the Arctic, Mulder’s ill-advised trip to Russia — heck, maybe even one of the episodes where Mulder didn’t do something stupid and nearly get killed as a result. (Those episodes do exist, we swear.) In all seriousness, the show’s dark but rich color palette would stand out beautifully in the theater, making the show’s mysteries all the more immersive.
David Canfield, Helen Carefoot, Casey Cipriani, Travis Clark, Liz Shannon Miller, Rosie Narasaki, Zack Sharf and Ben Travers contributed to this list.