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Marshall McLuhan, What Are You Doing?

April 19, 2014

There’s been a lot of chatter of late about how this is a golden age for TV; that TV is a more vibrant medium than movies. The TV touts claim TV writing more interesting, presenting multi-layered storytelling featuring complex characters. They go on to say that the medium allows characters to reveal themselves over time in relationships that are given ample space to develop.

I can appreciate everything being said. Do remember that in Victorian England audiences eagerly awaited each new installment of Charles Dickens’ work. Of course, they had to wait for the next publication date for each periodical to find out what befell Nicholas Nickleby, his sister Kate, Little Dorrit, or Pip. Later, Dickens chapters would be bound and published as complete novels. And another revenue stream would open up. Sound familiar?

Not to be overlooked, the serialization of stories transferred readily to the movies. Silent film audiences picked up where the Victorians left off.

At one time, TV viewers also had to wait a week for the next installment of their favorite show. Besides, there were only three networks. Cable, then the internet, changed all that. Now we can watch our shows on different devices, when we want, where we want, and in what quantity we want, since we’ve now entered the world of binge watching.

But with all this, I still feel movies are more interesting, especially when it comes to telling a story visually. Over time, I’ve heard the chatter about this must see TV show or that. But most every time I’ve sampled those shows, I’ve found myself tiring of there “set rhythms” after fifteen minutes, thirty at most. Plus I don’t find them as interesting to look at as a movie.

There’s something about the texture, scope, and rhythm of movies that grabs me where TV doesn’t. There’s a musicality to film that I don’t find in TV. It’s a Marshall McLuhan, hot/cold kind of thing.

I also look to this past year which was particularly rich for feature films what with Nebraska, Captain Phillips, Rush, Gravity, 12 Years A Slave, Llewyn Davis, American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club, Moonlight Kingdom, The Great Beauty, Her, All Is Lost, Blue Is The Warmest Color

The Dangling Conversation

(Simon & Garfunkel)

It’s a still life water color, 
Of a now late afternoon, 
As the sun shines through the curtained lace 
And shadows wash the room. 
And we sit and drink our coffee 
Couched in our indifference, 
Like shells upon the shore 
You can hear the ocean roar 
In the dangling conversation 
And the superficial sighs, 
The borders of our lives. 

And you read your Emily Dickinson, 
And I my Robert Frost, 
And we note our place with bookmarkers 
That measure what we’ve lost. 
Like a poem poorly written 
We are verses out of rhythm, 
Couplets out of rhyme, 
In syncopated time 
Lost in the dangling conversation 
And the superficial sighs, 
Are the borders of our lives. 

Yes, we speak of things that matter, 
With words that must be said, 
“Can analysis be worthwhile?” 
“Is the theater really dead?” 
And how the room is softly faded 
And I only kiss your shadow, 
I cannot feel your hand, 
You’re a stranger now unto me 
Lost in the dangling conversation. 
And the superficial sighs, 
In the borders of our lives.

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4 Comments
  1. barbara permalink

    I mostly agree. The rhythm of TV, having to plan for breaks where commercials are, can make a story feel chopped up and formulaic. And most are formulaic. However, PBS, seems to be able to mitigate the interruptions and still maintain the flow.

    You always make good points, you’re writing is engaging and I always learn something. You da man, Rayman.

    Like

    • k james peterson permalink

      Another insightful read from the Ray Man… Thanks bro

      Like

  2. Rebbit…rebbit…

    Like

  3. Paul permalink

    Interesting blog about TV shows vs movies. There is something to be said for both in terms of character development vs theme development. Of course something that has tried to be in the middle-of-the-road for years is the mini-series. While I do like some of the longer term development of some characters in TV series, like Downton Abbey. I also very much enjoy the beginning and ending of a story in one sitting that I get from watching a movie. The idea of “story interruptus” experienced in having to wait a week between episodes is frustrating to people who like to get the whole story at once, and are willing to trade off some character development (unless they read the book previously). Those who especially like greater depth in character development will gravitate towards the TV serials. So IMHO, I think it is less a debate about television versus movies, but rather a debate in audience expectations. And knowing your target audience makes the medium more impactful than the message…with apologies to Marshall.
    Paul

    Like

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