When TV Shows Became “Prestige”

By: Alex English

October 28, 2016

Am I the only one that gets more enjoyment out of TV shows than movies nowadays? That’s a rhetorical question, I know I’m not because:


So what is the deal? When did this shift happen? The “Golden Age of Television” considered by many to have started with The Sopranos pilot (January 1999) and ended with the Mad Men season finale (May 2015) was not littered with Oscar-winning movie directors and actors; just look at the two shows I just mentioned: James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, John Hamm… those were not names that were setting the box office on fire yet they thoroughly dominated our living rooms more than probably any Hollywood actor during that stretch.

Slowly but surely, TV was no longer the red headed stepchild of the entertainment world.  All of a sudden we had A-listers starring in TV shows.  People generally tend to credit Matthew McConaughey (and to a certain extent Woody Harrelson) with this shift but how about Kevin freakin’ Spacey who signed up for an adapted British drama about politics on Netflix, a little show named House of Cards, you may have heard of it.  This was back in 2013, pre ‘Netflix and chill’ peak popularity.  Today, if you hear about someone not having Netflix and you look at them like they are some sort of sub-human. This was not the case in 2013 and yet Spacey said to himself “Sure, why not? Let’s give TV a try.”  Who can blame him? He got paid handsomely (around half a million dollars per episode according to numerous sources) and was able to work with Hollywood royalty in Robin Wright and David Fincher.  Of course he put in a fantastic performance because of course he did! He is an Oscar winning actor who is getting 13 hours of work on one character!  He was been nominated for multiple Emmys for the role and took home a Golden Globe in 2015.

TV shows = Prestige.

You get solid scripts, talented filmmakers, amazing cinematography (with the shift from the 4:3 to the 16:9 TVs, this no longer limited the medium like it used to before the widespread popularity of widescreen HD televisions) and best of all,  $100 million budgets from HBO among others to make masterpieces (see Game of Thrones, Westworld etc.).  If you are an A-lister in Hollywood, are you turning to your agent and saying “Hey, I haven’t been a good movie in about five years, how do I get me some of this HBO money??”

Yes, yes you are.

If you’ve been watching (obsessing over) Westworld this season like we have been, please think about a sci-fi movie that was better that has come out in the last five years.  I’ll wait… Oh, and we’re only four episodes in.

This is a brave new world we live in and as consumers of entertainment, more quality options is never a bad thing.

-Alex English

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