It did not used to be the case for me, but I seem to be increasingly preferring to watch Television series over films in general. Of course I don’t really watch TV in the way it used to be watched either - my consumption is almost entirely on-demand now. The only thing I watch live these days is the occasional football match, music award show or the occasional X-Factor or Apprentice episode.
I do like to binge watch on occasion too, but that is not really the entire story, as I’m often sort of put off by films of more than 2 hours’ duration, yet have less issue watching several 30-60 minute TV episodes in a row. TV works both as a long-form and short-form viewing experience, you typically get more time with the characters and get to observe longer story-arcs which bring with them more emotional connectivity and more rounded personalities.
The plethora of different types of TV programmes has never been broader, even within the same genre. I watch Game of Thrones, Vikings and The Last Kingdom - all distinctive types of medieval-styled soap operas - and all with pretty much equal glee.
This year, Season 2 of Fargo reigned supreme in demonstrating how great small screen drama really can be. An amazing virtuoso mix of abrupt and unexpected violence, absurdity, humour, sparkling dialogue and emotion - all wrapped up in the finest cinematography and split-screen action, and punctuated with the most brilliant soundtrack. For something that started off as a cast-off from the Coen Brothers original film, this has now evolved into quite its own thing, and is one of the best things I’ve seen in some time.
I’m also enjoying the renaissance in schlock / B-movie style horror - initially pioneered by shows like American Horror Story. but taken to new heights of pastiche in the more recent iZombie, Scream Queens and Ash vs Evil Dead. Similarly to Fargo, another film which owes a lot to a cinematic forebear is new show Mr Robot (Fight Club anyone?).
Just as Marvel heroes have dominated the big screen, they are now starting to dominate the small screen too via Daredevil and Jessica Jones, I prefer the more textured Gotham in some ways too, and Heroes Reborn brings its own individual spin to the super-hero genre - all shows very enjoyable each in their own way.
The Bridge Season 3 also shows that Nordic Noir hasn’t died off quite yet, even though I’ve sort of given up reading it at least for now. Quantico and Blindspot offer new spins on the ’getting slightly tired’ procedural format. I found Netflix’s pseudo documentary ’Narcos’ suitably enthralling. And was most pleased with the long-overdue BBC adaptation of Mr Norrel & Jonathan Strange.
Most of what I watch is American nowadays - they seem to write with more invention and adhere to higher production values. I cannot watch Doctor Who any more - it seems somewhat incongruous within the much higher calibre of American-produced shows. I’ve also watched some truly dreadful contemporary efforts on the BBC of late, which seems to be defaulting to Period Drama, Documentaries and Reality Shows - its old and new traditional fortes.
One of my favourite games of the year is the spiritual and pastoral sci-fi mystery ’Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture’ - dismissed by some as a walking simulation, when it is more of an investigative paranormal experience infused with creepy atmosphere and brilliant visuals. I see ’The Rapture’ as a possibly extension of Television, which will mix with the forthcoming Virtual Reality technologies to give you truly immersive long-form narrative where you can be a key member of the cast and influence outcomes.
There will be a different calibration of what we consider episodes - they can vary in duration and be more task or outcome oriented - where you can reach numerous different results via making different decision at key junctures.
We love serial dramatisations like Breaking Bad and Mad Men, as we grow to know the leading figures so well, and feel invested in their futures. Modern virtual technologies allied to on-demand services run throught the cloud will give us a very different environment for television in the future - where narrative and interactive gaming combine. We have seen some of this before, but nothing yet to gain full mainstream acceptance.
In the not too distant future we can be the the principal actors / participants in our own episodic virtualised TV dramas ...