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TV: The Problem of the Long Form



If you look at my Letterboxd diary you’ll find that I haven’t been watching many movies lately. That’s true, but I recently finished a television series which took up a lot of my movie-watching time. I find it difficult to commit to a TV show, especially one that contains multiple seasons, but I also get bored easily. (I'm also a big advocate for most - but not all - movies having a running time of no more than 90 minutes. Another conversation for another time.) Maybe you get somewhat bored, too, or maybe not. Regardless, I have some questions for you at the end of this post.


 


People often recommend shows to me, and my honest response is usually, “Thanks, but I probably won’t watch it,” citing all the movies I see, books I read (around 100 a year), etc. Even shows that I begin watching and even somewhat enjoy, I usually abandon before a season is over. I recently watched the first two episodes of The Last of Us, and while those episodes were good, I didn’t care enough about the characters or the plot to keep watching. (Don’t hate me. It’s probably not the show’s fault.)


Most series simply do not appeal to me. And yes, while I did enjoy all things Star Wars for a number of years, (and this is a big “Don’t hate me”), I could care less about any of that stuff now, especially The Mandalorian. I know, you’re going to tell me it’s different, but really, I have no interest. Zero. If you like the show, I’m happy for you. Go in peace.

My favorite response to those recommending a television series is “A TV show is such a long-term commitment. A movie is a one-night stand.”


If it’s a show I think I might like, I’ll give it a couple of episode if I can access it. (I subscribe to just a few streaming platforms, so if I can get it there or from the library, there’s at least a chance I’ll check it out.) I only know of two current shows I’d like to check out and one I definitely will.



I’ll definitely check out Season 2 of Perry Mason (HBO Max). I enjoyed the first season, although it’s largely Mason’s origin story and is far removed from what we’ve come to expect from the original series starring Raymond Burr. But it’s very noirish and from what I’ve heard, even more so in the second season. (For more on the first season, you can read my review.)



Everyone’s talking about Poker Face (Peacock), and I like the concept, playing off the original Columbo series, but I wonder if I’ll tire of it quickly. Like Perry Mason, it seems this show is derivative but with a gender switch. I’ll give it at least two episodes. Plus Rian Johnson’s behind it.



One show (actually a mini-series) I’m interested in seeing that no one appears to be talking about is A Spy Among Friends ((Amazon Prime), based on a nonfiction book I greatly enjoyed titled A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre. It’s a mini-series and a limited commitment, so chances are I’ll check it out.



But the TV series I just finished is Better Call Saul, which I plan to write about more in the coming days and weeks. This show, along with Breaking Bad, are the two best TV series I’ve seen in a long time (understanding that I haven’t seen that many series in the past 10 years). Stay tuned.


So how do you balance TV vs. movie watching? What decisions do you make? What criteria do you use? How much of a factor is binge watching? Let me know what you think. Thanks for reading.


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Hi Andy! So yeah, I'm basically on the same page as you. But I think it's the opposite of the one night stand vs long term commitment concept (which I realize was just a joke, but it helps me make my point..). I see movies as fully formed and conceived works of art. They can take risks because they don't need to hook you into anything more than the 2-ish hours you commit to watching them. They're worth spending time thinking and talking about- why the director made various choices, etc. (obviously not true of the blockbuster genre, but I would argue that franchise movies are more like TV series). A TV series might have an artistic vision for the…


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awolverton77
awolverton77
Apr 10, 2023
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Great to hear from you! I agree that the artistic vision of a TV series may certainly become compromised due to not knowing whether you'll get another season or more. Storytelling suffers. I think the Brits do a much better job of knowing how long their stories are going to be, then make it happen. I only knew of Mare of Easttown due to seeing it on the shelf at the library, so maybe I'll check it out. Yes, binging *is* tempting if you get interested in a show, but there’s something about the delayed gratification of an old-school “Join us next week for the next episode” type of situation we grew up with. It forced us to dwell on…

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