I've noticed over the last few years that television has been evolving. When it comes to screenwriting, I think the very best material you can find is on the small screen. And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that, in television, the writer runs the show.

But there now seem to be two types of television shows. At least in the drama department. The first is the typical set-bound, artificial looking show. Then you have the shows that seem more open and movie-like.

For example, on the one hand you have Boston Legal, which feels very old fashioned to me (although I think it's well written and fun to watch), then on the other you have shows like Rescue Me that really have that hip, movie feel to them.

I'm not sure what the reason is for this, but it seems as if we're in a transition phase. I can remember back when we had shows like Mannix and Ironside, which had a completely different feel than the shows that followed a decade later. Then we moved into the era of Rockford Files, still very televisiony (I think I just made up a word), but brilliant nonetheless.

Now, with shows like Law and Order, Rescue Me, Deadwood, 24, The Black Donnellys, Heroes and Lost, the movieization (another made up word) of television seems to be well underway.

Until we hit a throwback like Raines.

Don't get me wrong. I love Jeff Goldblum and am a huge Frank Darabont fan, and I think the show has a lot of potential. But it feels like old-fashioned television to me. Too "safe" maybe.

What do you guys think?

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Lee Goldberg addressed this issue with regard to Diagnosis Murder. The showrunner husbands the budget money carefully, spending it on big effects when needed, and countering that with scripts that use the already constructed sets and few exterior shots.

Budget limitations also inspire clever thinking. I recall that they bought movie footage of a plane crash and interweaved it into a DM story. The episode looks like one of their big-budget shows, but in reality the expense was far less.
I much prefer BBC, HBO, Masterpiece Theater and Showtime for my TV viewing. They tend to have shorter seasons and longer downtime in between, but that is worth it to me to have the quality I want. Wire In The Blood, Rome, Dexter, The Sopranos and others keep my interest, excite me and stimulate my intellect. BBC America has their fabulous Monday line-ups, with killers shows relacing other killer shows so I am guaranteed quality programs no matter when a show is down for filming. Throw in one of my few network shows, 24, and that makes Sundays and Mondays MY TV nights. I'm not trying to be snotty or pretentious, it's just that it's damned hard finding network TV I can stomach when you are wading through reality shows devoted to every kind of human train-wreck known to man!! And I'd rather pin-point something with quality then spend half an evening surfing desperately to find one hour of good TV.

In general though, I have to agree, television has much better writing staffs with a stronger control than films these days. And pay for view TV has, despite the current administration's efforts, maintained most of their artistic integrity and puts on TV geared to more mature audiences with more demanding tastes.
It also seems as if there is a trends away from episodic writing. Story arcs that arent wrapped up in one hour. The creators viewing an entire season as a canvass to tell one story. This, I think, is a good thing but a show like this cannot have weak writing.

The Wire is probably the exlemplar of this but there are other good shows that reasonably manage over all story arcs.
The downside of this is that there are only so many shows that people can devote that kind of attention to. VCRs, Tivo, and DVRs help out with this. But there still is a limit for most people.
I agree. But I think that the tecnology today (DVD, Tivo, DVR etc) makes it possible for these types of shows to have a longer shelf life. The Wire probably has more people that buy/rent the DVD's then ever tuned into the seasons when they originally aired.

These methods of watching also work in our favor because we can pause and walk away, rewind and re-watch etc. We take it for granted that when we are reading a novel we can easily flip back a few pages to double check something and now we can do the same for shows (those that need it anyway)
Tivo is a godsend as far as I'm concerned. There are a number of shows, like 24 and Lost, that I didn't start watching until recently. I went to the video store and rented the first season of Lost and picked up a copy of the first season of 24 at the local department store.

Didn't know what I was missing. Now, of course, I'm hooked. Which sucks, because I don't have time to watch the next three or four seasons of each.
The Writers have always been king in television.

That's why, as far back as the Playhouse days, and Peter Gunn, I would always put the best of TV up against the best of film.

TV is a storyteller's medium.

Film can be.
If someone has mentioned THE WIRE in this discussion, and I've missed it, then my apologies. But if no one has mentioned THE WIRE, then I have to ask "Why the hell not?"

You can *have* stuff like ALIAS, and *all* of the CSI franchise (talk about a lab-geek wish fulfillment show). THE WIRE is so much better, so much deeper, richer, and fuller than anything else out there on TV right now, it's shifted the goalposts. There's a new measure of excellence. I credit David Simon with bringing in terrific writers (including guys like George P. Pelecanos and Dennis Lehane and of course, Burns) and letting them loose on a story line that was obviously intended to play out both over the course of a single season (thematically at least) and over the course of several seasons as well (see the D'Angelo Barksdale sub-plot from season one and how it was revisited so effectively not in season two, but in season THREE!).

I haven't been this blown away by a TV crime drama since I was in my pre-teens and loving THE ROCKFORD FILES (which also changed TV crime dramas, because it showed that a show could be funny, unlike, say, DRAGNET or MANNIX). I like L&O and L&O: CI, and I have a soft spot for MONK, but THE WIRE is the best thing out there. If you haven't seen it already, Netflix the first three seasons.

Set aside some time, though. You'll likely want to watch them all at one sitting.

Also, Mary, lately all the best screenwriters are fleeing to television because they do have more creative control there. The way screenwriters and writing are treated in film - it's a no-brainer.

Rob, personally I don't watch anything but HBO anymore (now that DEADWOOD's gone, it's THE WIRE, all the way). I think any network show is going to look safe up against HBO.

Okay, I admit, I do watch GREY'S ANATOMY. But being run by a black woman showrunner, it's completely subversive for network TV and I so enjoy that.
I'm another Grey's Anatomy fan. Also love the podcast that Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers contribute to. They are a real kick.


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