Neil Calloway asks whether TV is becoming less original…
It’s easy to slate the current state of cinema, and far too many people do it in an attempt to look superior and informed, but when they do it, it has a ring of truth to it. Not a single film in last year’s worldwide box office top ten was an original; all were sequels, remakes or both. When someone has told you how “it’s all just comic book movies now” and dismissed any argument that the cinema landscape isn’t all awful, they’ll probably also tell you how great TV is these days.
Again, they have a point. Away from The Real Housewives of Leicester and the Only Way Is Dorset, there are some fantastic projects being made from the small screen right now, but you can’t avoid the creeping sense that things aren’t all rosy and the franchise behemoth will swallow your TV soon. You only have to look at the news stories about a new Avengers TV series – that’s the British spy show, not the superhero movie series – and the long promised John Wick spin off show, as well as a potential Watchmen series to think that TV studios are falling back on familiar material. It’s easy to see why they’ve done it – tried and tested material takes less marketing to sell, it’s easier to write than original stuff – characters and plots are already there – and is generally less of a risk than original TV.
I like a nice remake or adaptation as much as the next person; it’s like slipping on a comfortable old pair of trainers; it can be nice but I don’t want to wear them all the time. Similarly, when the cinemas are full of remakes, reboots and sequels that have been endlessly reshot to please a studio accountant, I want some originality in my television, and it looks like that is going to be an increasingly difficult thing to find.
Some spin off TV shows exceed their original film – the small screen Friday Night Lights is superior to its big screen counterpart – but many fail to recapture what was great about the original, and with very few exceptions, updates of old TV shows only suffer when they are compared to their predecessors. A John Wick TV spin off set in the Continental Hotel sounds great, but it worked on film precisely because it was this strange, original, mysterious place; blowing open its secrets on TV every week would ruin that.
So many of these TV shows work well on paper – they’re a great idea, a pub conversation about what would make a great series, but fail to deliver when they actually reach fruition.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive. Check back here every Sunday for future instalments.