Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Specialty Box Office: 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck' Primes HBO Pump, Russell Crowe's 'Water Diviner' Is Spotty Specialty Box Office: 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck' Primes HBO Pump, Russell Crowe's 'Water Diviner' Is Spotty Friday Box Office: 'Adaline' Bumps 'Furious' for a Day; 'Kurt Cobain' Big in 3 Theaters Friday Box Office: 'Adaline' Bumps 'Furious' for a Day; 'Kurt Cobain' Big in 3 Theaters Remembering Film Critic Richard Corliss (1944-2015) Remembering Film Critic Richard Corliss (1944-2015) Cannes: Denis Villeneuve Says Drug War Film 'Sicario' Is "Very Dark" and "Quite Violent" Cannes: Denis Villeneuve Says Drug War Film 'Sicario' Is "Very Dark" and "Quite Violent" How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show Meet the Director of 'Tangerines,' the 2015 Dark Horse Oscar Nominee You Missed (Exclusive Video) Meet the Director of 'Tangerines,' the 2015 Dark Horse Oscar Nominee You Missed (Exclusive Video) LA Film Fest Unveils Horror Slate, More World Premieres, Zoe Cassavetes Film LA Film Fest Unveils Horror Slate, More World Premieres, Zoe Cassavetes Film Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO) 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

IS TV THE NEW CINEMA? From 'Scandal' to 'House of Cards,' Pundits Continue the Debate

Thompson on Hollywood By David Chute | Thompson on Hollywood December 3, 2013 at 3:48PM

There was an odd discussion on a recent Charlie Rose show, seemingly about TV as an art form, although technology and business models took up too much air time. These were the subjects the men on the panel (David Carr, Terence Winter, Josh Sapan, Rose himself) seemed most comfortable talking about. New Yorker critic Emily Nussbaum was the only participant who stayed on topic.
3
Kerry Washington in "Scandal"
ABC Kerry Washington in "Scandal"

"I`m hardly an expert on the economics of television," said "New Yorker" TV critic Emily Nussbaum during a recent Charlie Rose discussion of the so-called Third Golden Age of Television. "I mean," she said, "I`m mostly interested in whether I like the shows or not." Well, yeah. Me, too.

Damian Lewis and Claire Danes of 'Homeland'
Damian Lewis and Claire Danes of 'Homeland'

Apart from the obvious omission of discussing a concept for thirty-some minutes without mentioning the critics who introduced it, principally Alan Sepinwall, this was an odd discussion about an art form that was more often about technology and business models. I began to get the feeling that these are subject the men on the panel (the New York Times' David Carr, "Boardwalk Empire" showrunner Terence Winter, AMC Networks' Josh Sapan, and Rose himself) were most comfortable talking about.

Either that, or they avoiding the issue in order to gloss over the fact that they don't actually watch much TV or care very much about what's specifically on it. They are serious grown ups who wrestle with the big questions. Discussing whether you like something or not gets dangerously close to talking about feelings.

Downton Abbey Season 4

Nussbaum referred several times to a vastly entertaining show that I'm convinced none of the guy panelists have ever watched, Shonda Rhimes' deliriously overwrought "Scandal" (ABC). The show had an all-time episode last week ("Vermont is for Lovers, Too," directed by Ava DuVernay) that packed more plot twists and reveals into a single hour than two Bollywood melodramas. The storyline was squeezed through a space time anomaly as transformative as anything on "Doctor Who."

The point is, those are often the sort of thrills people are enjoying on TV even when they pretend otherwise. When my cousin Jim referred to "Downton Abby" as "'Dallas' with British accents," I knew I'd never be able to think about that show any other way. "Downton" has mind-boggling episodes that pay off almost as many plot threads per minute as "Scandal."

Kevin Spacey in 'House of Cards'
Kevin Spacey in 'House of Cards'

Similarly, fans may object to Nussbaum's suggestion during the Rose panel that "Scandal" and "House of Cards" are fundamentally the same sort of back-stabbing political melodrama, though "House" is decked out with markers of quality that allow cable TV viewers to enjoy it without feeling guilty. It's a key responsibility of a critic not to be taken in by that kind of stylistic misdirection.

TV is good enough now, as Nussbaum says here, that it's no longer necessary to grade on a curve. Yet embracing the notion of the Third Golden Age (GA3) often seems to make people less rather than more critical. Safe in the arms of PBS or HBO, they relax and accept things that they would be tensely be on guard against if they were watching a network.

"Homeland" gets a pass for implausibilities that would be scornfully rejected if they cropped up on "The Blacklist" or "Marvels' Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." -- most recently that it would only take about two weeks of jogging in the countryside to rehabilitate a drug addicted ex-marine. I was willing to let that one go because, like the show's producers, I desperately wanted Brodie to get back in the game, and was willing to give up a few degrees of verisimilitude to achieve that. That's why they call it "fiction."

This article is related to: Homeland, Television, Television, Charlie Rose, Scandal, Critics, TV IS THE NEW CINEMA, TV, TV Reviews


E-Mail Updates