Graeme Blundell sprints through a histori-ography of the past decade of television in only 4 pages. He excitedly spotlights just how far the old “goggle box” has come to produce excellent content rivaling film, so far in fact, that the past is almost as unrecognisable as an entirely different country.
If we look back to the early 2000’s, the beginning of television’s golden age, when digital forms of shooting, editing and producing footage began to allow for cheaper, fast-paced and highly realistic television (enter The Sopranos), it is easy to see why Blundell got so excited.
The 2000’s latched onto lightweight digital cameras and hard-disc recording with two hands and brought complex and realist drama (The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Damages), observational documentary and reality television (Big Brother), mockumentary and insightful comedy (The Office UK, then US, Modern Family), and with it a new age of television production right into our lounge rooms. Why would you get dressed up for a movie?
Blundell’s past is unrecognisable because of the overwhelming means by which we now view television series’ on our pick of PC’s, iPad’s, iPod’s, DVD’s and who-knows-what-next multimedia streaming devices. Undoubtedly, the previous decade, “has intensified the experience of drama in a way without cultural precedence.”
Importantly Blundell argues that it has delivered us to a new decade where television picks up the slack in quality stakes for film constantly lacking in “story and style”. Blundell needs to calm down.
I see merits in Blundell’s historiography, definitely. Television of the past decade has undoubtedly “intensified the experience of drama in a way without cultural precedence”. I really like to watch excellent television which now exists…when I can find it among the copioushoards of shit saturating my lounge room taking into consideration that anything excellent is most certainly NOT going to be Australian. This year The Slap showed promise, but still, we relied on imported actors. Sure, Big Brother was a revolution for reality television standards (make of that what you will), but it was a landmark case and as disturbing as a turkey slap to the left cheek.
There is something I like more about films. Frustratingly slow and sparse of dialogue ones that look like they have a budget of less than $1m and only have two characters in them and which all my friends can’t understand or appreciate because they liked Valentine’s Day...Hard Candy, 2005, if you're wondering. I might be sounding a lot like poor Alan McKee’s Art purists condemning his Simpsons to the fiery hells of inferior pop culture, but I like indie films because they aren’t choked by Australian broadcast standards and they aren’t degrading reality television – they couldn’t be more different.
In saying that, the excellent television that I do watch, offers me something that films never will, and which is made possible by Blundell’s golden age of digitisation: “an unprecedented level of realism on screen…exploring subtleties of character against the larger dynamics of the social world in a long-running series that played with genre and expectation” (my emphasis).
Hollywood: The Rise of TV (2005) was an interesting meander through the back lots of many television series’ in their own development. Blundell got excited because they talked about televisions’ surpassing of film – TV can shoot 15 pages of dialogue a day, whereas film costs way too much because you only get through 2 pages. TV is economical and dramatic. Film is expensive and dramatic....I found it a most interesting introduction to the creepy underbelly of hit series creators, and generally, to the production process.