Posted by: Kristen Hicks | April 14, 2011

TV: the novel :: Movies: short stories

I have grown to genuinely love television in the past few years.

I watched a lot of tv growing up, but I didn’t love it, so much as once I was in front of it, I had a tendency to stay there for a while.  I spent many hours watching tv, while only sort of liking most of what I took in (I’m sure I’d be mortified to learn the number of hours I devoted just to Saved by the Bell and the Law and Orders of all persuasions).

It used to be something I thought of as a guilty pleasure, but little by little, in the past 5 years or so, I’ve discovered more and more tv shows that are easily of the caliber to rank with the great stories of other artistic genres.

Increasingly, I’ve come to see tv shows as comparable to great novels in the way that short stories are to movies, which explains why I tend to feel more strongly towards the tv shows I really love than the films.

One of the greatest features of outstanding storytelling in my opinion is the creation and development of realistic, relatable characters (something I respect all the more for my complete inability to do it myself).  I find so much pleasure in getting to watch characters, both those I find likable (like all of the Buffy crew) and those I thoroughly dislike (looking at you, Pete Campbell), grow and develop, all the while becoming more complex and real and revealing truths about the world through their fictional experiences.

Taking in the full run of shows like The Wire, Mad Men, Deadwood and Buffy the Vampire Slayer feels very similar to me to reading a novel; particularly, the longer, more expansive novels such as those by Dickens or Tolstoy.  I get to spend years with the characters, take in the large moments and the small (both of which have plenty to teach us), watch relationships form, grow and end and it all feels terribly personal.  It makes me feel strongly like I have a stake in what happens next.

That’s one of the reasons, this brilliant comparison of The Wire to the works of Dickens was such a treat to come across (image linked):

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