MARCIA AND I don’t watch many movies, and when we do we tend to choose them not on the strength of their reviews or by their ratings, but for their running length: are we likely to be able to stay awake until the end? We’re at the stage of life where our seal of approval is not two thumbs up but two eyelids up.
What draws us more when we are wanting to watch something is series dramas—and not just because the chances are we will both make it through a typical 60-minute installment without nodding off. There are several ways that we find that an unfolding story on the small screen―as opposed to a show with self-contained episodes, which are in effect mini-movies minus the budget―beats the big screen.
More manageable. Practicalities are important, and not just for managing to keep weary eyes open. When you have busy schedules, it’s easier to carve out an hour to watch the next installment of something together than two hours for a movie that probably needs 20 minutes trimmed out of it anyway.
More meaningful. Film is a powerful medium, of course, but its format requires compressing things. When the story arc has to be resolved in one sitting there’s not much room for rich character development or backstory; those elements often get reduced to clichés. Series allow room for breadth and depth.
More make-believable. The rise in quality of broadcast productions in recent years has drawn talent from the film world, so some of the faces may be more familiar. But for the most part they are still actors who disappear into their role, rather than “movie stars” you always know aren’t who they are pretending to be. There also tends to be more emphasis on story and less on special effects.
More metaphorical. Stories can teach and touch, and challenge and change us, but by nature of their single-sitting packaging, movies can foster the unrealistic idea that life is tidy. That things can always be resolved and tied up with a nice neat bow. But we all know that many times we have to live in uncertainty and with the incomplete and in-process, that whatever is going on is to be continued…
More mutual. Unless you’re stuck next to that annoying person who won’t stop talking during a movie, films tend to be more an individual experience. Yes, you may talk about it afterwards, but you’re looking back on it separately, not engaged in it with others. Reflecting on a series between episodes provides opportunities for shared reflection, conversation, and anticipation.
More memorable. There may not be the explosive ending of a blockbuster, but we’ve found series often linger with us longer than even a good film. Maybe that’s because the characters tend to be more developed, and you get to carry them with you between episodes, rather than waving goodbye to them as the movie credits run.
A couple of series through which we have experienced all this? The British murder mystery Broadchurch and the gritty Netflix family saga Bloodline (salty language alert). Got any recommendations for us?
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