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Television vs Cinema: A battle of the screens

One of these things is not like the other : These days, tuning in to the telly can give you as exhilarating an experience as watching a movie at the cineplex. Can you guess if the Spuds are in a cinema hall or just plonked in front of the telly?

One of these things is not like the other : These days, tuning in to the telly can give you as exhilarating an experience as watching a movie at the cineplex. Can you guess if the Spuds are in a cinema hall or just plonked in front of the telly?

Has television viewing upped the ante so much that it now surpasses the movie-going experience?

I used to love going to the movies. Something about the dark cinema hall, popcorn and soda in hand, the Dolby sound that makes your seat almost vibrate – the whole experience kind of transports you to a different world.

It’s an escape of sorts that you can’t really get anywhere else; one moment you’re hanging from wires disabling a bomb in Mission: Impossible; dodging bullets or speed kungfu fighting ala the Wachowski siblings, or falling in love with John Cusack in any number of rom-coms. Depending on the type of escape you needed, cinema once had all the answers.

But then, somewhere in the last half-decade or so, things started changing in a big way. The big money-making movie companies began selling out. Good stories and scripts were deemed secondary to eye-popping CGI and box office totals. Man Of Steel, Pacific Rim, Battleship, Transformers ... I don’t remember what any of their plots were all about, and half an hour after watching these films, I had totally lost interest in them.

Okay, so there have been some good movies. Iron Man 3, Prisoners, Gravity, The Conjuring, Avengers, Guardians Of The Galaxy were all entertaining. But lasting memories? Uh-uh. And really if you take IMAX and 3D out of the mix, you’d have a hard time getting me to a cinema. I’m actually in a bit of dilemma because I would rather not watch anything if it is on a regular screen these days. And I couldn’t decide when it came to X-Men: Days Of Future Past if I should watch it or not. The movie turned out to be quite entertaining, but the cinema experience paled in comparison to IMAX viewing, that I was left a little disappointed.

Television, on the other hand, has grown from strength to strength. For starters, TV has the time and space to develop story arcs and characters in a way no 90-minute movie can. And so these days we get such top-notch storytelling on a weekly basis, season after season.

Game Of Thrones, Homeland, House Of Cards, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Dexter, Modern Family – all boast such splendid storytelling, dialogue and characters, I have come to empathise with the folks in TV Land, and look forward to meeting them on a regular basis to see what happens next in their lives.

Gone are the days when MacGyver would save the day with some duct tape and a Swiss Army knife in under an hour. Today’s television is created by the creme de la creme of Hollywood’s scriptwriting fraternity, who creatively concoct extended story arcs with multiple plot lines, as well as philosophical, sociological and political undertones; which are then brought to life by some of Hollywood’s most prized actors.

Television also need not be pigeonholed into a certain genre, the way movies usually are (okay, so maybe Django Unchained bucked that trend). Shows like Supernatural, Dexter, Breaking Bad and Fringe seem to jump all over the place – deadly serious one week, laugh-out-loud funny the next. Fringe even had a musical episode with singing corpses!

And ain’t it just grand to see all sorts of A-list movie stars on TV? If you can have Kevin Spacey and Matthew McConaughey in your living room on a weekly basis, why would you need anything else?

My favourite thing about TV, though, is that it affords me the opportunity to watch it as I choose. A whole season in a marathon viewing weekend, an episode a day on my iPad in the comfort of my bed, lights off and 3D goggles on and plonked in your favourite recliner with blanket in front of a ginormous 55in LED HDTV screen. Don’t forget I can pause, and rewind to my heart’s content, mess around with the volume, adjust those speakers so I am seated in just the right sweet spot, and get rid of those annoying subtitles. Technology has allowed for TV to flourish because it has put the power in the viewer’s hands. – AMC

My husband often gets annoyed every time I turn down his invitations to take me to the movies (it happens quite often). He scoffs when I suggest we stay home and watch TV instead, even though I offer to make him popcorn. Like many others, he enjoys the whole movie experience – the big screen, the surround sound (even the best home theatre system cannot come close), the plush seats, etc.

Actually, I really love the “movie experience”, too – one of my favourite parts of it is at the film’s opening credits when suddenly, the cinema hall falls silent in anticipation (except for the one loser who always forgets to turn off his mobile phone). The cinematic experience is, to be totally cliche, simply magical.

To be honest, I don’t know when exactly it is I started favouring TV over the movies. It was probably some time in the last decade or so, around the time when the landscape of television started changing and blurring the lines between the type of shows you can get on TV and what you see on the silver screen. All of a sudden, there wasn’t such a big difference.

I think it began with HBO’s classic mob drama The Sopranos. I keep referencing the show in this column, but it is only because The Sopranos truly was a game-changer. Everything changed after Tony and his family of mobsters and their rivals came on the scene. From the type of stories that were being told to the quality of acting to the size of the productions – everything just got bigger, better and more awesome.

All of a sudden, the stories that were being told became more complex and audiences started getting invested in the show and the characters. Shows began to stand apart from one another instead of following more or less the same format. TV wasn’t so much about mass appeal anymore and networks started taking risks. After all, if a whole nation and beyond could love .... no, be obsessed about a show revolving around a gangster and relate to the characters on that show, maybe the traditional boundaries that kept television shows polite, safe and as inoffensive as possible could be shifted.

And thank goodness for that because as a result we have shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Weeds, Sons Of Anarchy, The Walking Dead, Justified and so on.

I also enjoy TV because it allows me some closure. You see, I tend to get attached to the characters I see in a show since you follow a character through the seasons and build a relationship with them. You can’t do that with movies. Your relationship lasts only as long as the movie does ... unless there is a sequel, in which case you get a second chance. There’s something more personal about TV and I love that.

I wonder ... am I too clingy?

There are some areas that TV will never compare to the cinema – an action sequence will never look as good on TV as it will on the big screen. And I’ll have to admit it – Henry Cavill would not have looked so good on the small screen.

Ok, I’m shallow and clingy, but TV still rocks my world SI

TV Sofa Spudniks

Ann Marie Chandy and S. Indramalar

Ann Marie Chandy and S. Indramalar regale us with what’s happening in TV land, past and present.