By Francisco Portillo
The vast landscape of television programming today has far surpassed the quality of storytelling in films. As televisions upgrade, so does the programming that is made available for consumers.
Some of TV’s greatest characters aren’t so black and white. Instead, they live in the grey area between hero and villain.
HBO’s drama “The Sopranos” was the first to contain such a character as its lead protagonist in the form of Tony Soprano, played by the late James Gandolfini.
The show opened the floodgates for other iconic characters such as “Breaking Bad’s” Walter White to become an icon. The beauty of these characters is watching them transform in front of our eyes.
In the best drama series of all time, high school chemistry teacher Walter White, who is masterfully played by Emmy winner Bryan Cranston, resorts to manufacturing and selling crystal meth with the help of his former student Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul.
What begins as a mission to leave his family with money after his death, quickly spirals into the need for power in the criminal underground.
Watching Cranston’s character change from an innocent man into a drug kingpin, who manipulates those around him, is the most engaging story told in TV’s history. If “Breaking Bad” was created as a film instead of show, Mr. White wouldn’t be as great a character.
TV has the advantage of telling weekly stories that connect to a larger scheme. The longer time frame that is allowed grants the audience the opportunity to better understand the characters and motives involved.
Their progression as characters feels more natural than forced for the sake of plot.
Films are constrained to three hour storylines in which the plot is meant to come to a reasonable conclusion.
There are certain films in which three hours is more than enough time to tell a complete story. “Moonlight” is the perfect example of a perfectly told story during the time constraints of film.
It focuses on a young African American named Chiron, who is confused about his sexuality and what it means in terms of social acceptance. By the end of the film, viewers have been taken on a journey that feels natural to the character’s progression.
Despite being able to completely tell a narrative within three hours, the film’s subject matter would be better told throughout eight to ten hours of a dramatic show.
Allowing the audience to have more time with the characters develops a stronger emotional bond.
The writers are constantly delivering interesting, complex characters that resonate with the audience. Having these characters in their homes is what causes the emotional connection with the audience.
Television is a much more intimate medium than that of film.
The death of a character in film, while still impactful, fails to pack the same punch as losing a character with hours of connection.
One thing that might make a film better than television is the special effects. Some of the most popular movies these days rely heavily on special effects. Most of the Hollywood blockbusters contain computer generated images that can make or break a movie. The “Lord of the Rings” franchise is an example of these films. The budgets for blockbuster films are far greater than TV shows and it shows in the effects.
However, the past season of “Game of Thrones” featured more CGI than its previous seasons and was far better than any current CGI-heavy films. In the best episode of the season,
“The Spoils of War,” viewers were finally gifted with seeing a full-grown dragon fly into battle. The devastation of facing these ancient beasts was beautifully expressed as the dragon burned soldiers to ash. The CGI rendering of Drogon, the dragon, was the best in any medium.
If given the budget, TV shows can far surpass films on all fronts including special effects.