Not that long ago, films were constructed as one-and-done stories, and TV was similarly episodic. Old TV shows couldn’t rely on audiences seeing every episode (because there wasn’t any way to watch programs you missed live), so instead they made it easy for them to pick up the story as it went along. Films were similar, if for different reasons. No preexisting knowledge was needed when walking into a movie because it was understood to be a standalone story. With a few key exceptions (like “Return of the Jedi”), most movies were meant to be introduced, absorbed and understood in two hours or less, just like TV was to be viewed in 30 or 60 minute disposable chunks.
Now, as TV pushes the bounds of serialized content further and further, film is trying to do the same. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is basically one big TV show with each new film functioning as a new character in an ongoing television series about saving the human race. Other franchises are being constructed with loopholes (“Furious 6”) or outright non-endings (how many dinosaurs escaped the island in “Jurassic World”? One? 500? We’ll find out in 2018) to keep fans invested for future entries. Still others are trying to combine worlds much like TV shows had crossover episodes back in the day (think “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “The King of Queens”).
Still, there are film franchises out there that are kicking it old school and coming out ahead of the game. This week’s new release of “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” is a good example of episodic storytelling in modern film franchises, as well as evidence that this kind of satisfyingly singular entertainment can succeed financially. So what TV tricks show film studios, screenwriters and producers be applying to their tentpoles? Indiewire’s TV Editor Liz Shannon Miller and TV Critic Ben Travers dig into the topic on this week’s Very Good TV Podcast.
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– Ben has made his feelings on the above issue pretty clear. Take a look at his article on TV shows as the new film franchises (and why that’s a bad thing), as well as his latest deep dive using “Wayward Pines” as an entry point.
– Liz offers her own take on TV shows extended into film franchises in this useful breakdown of “The X-Files'” film sequel, “I Want to Believe.”
– Here’s Indiewire’s Chief Film Critic Eric Kohn on “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.” (He loved it.)
– Do you enjoy Indiewire’s TV Podcast? Then why not try out the film team’s efforts, too! Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson’s “Screen Talk” and the Very Good TV Podcast has just been joined by Indiewire Influencers, a new weekly podcast hosted by Editor-in-Chief Dana Harris and featuring interviews with important voices in the indie film community.