I love movies.
I love a movie that gets me lost for a couple of hours in a story and makes me want to come back again and again, but the problem with a movie is that they have a very limited space to fill in a story that often times doesn’t fit into a two or even three hour window.
That is why movies based off of books are most often not as good as the book. Because a book can hold days worth of story that will not fit into a movie. And a book can do things a movie can not do.
It is also one of the reasons why, up until recently, comic book movies failed so many times. They tried to fit 20+ years of comic book continuity into a two hour film, and you just can not do that.
Lucky for us, television networks have used the serialized format for their shows to give us stories that span multiple seasons and keep us on the edge of our seats from week to week. Series such as The Wire, Breaking Bad, American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, and more are giving us stories that would never be able to fit into a trilogy of movies, much less a single film. Some of these shows are better than others and they do have some downsides to them, but television is setting the bar pretty high for story telling.
There are two series in particular that came out this year. Both of which play out more like an 8-9 hour long movie than they do a television show. They are Stranger Things on Netflix and The Night Of on HBO.
The beauty of Netflix is the ability to binge on the episodes one right after the other with as little or as along of a wait as you want between each episode. With The Night Of I didn’t start watching until the series had ended, so I also got to binge on the episodes right after the other of the course of a couple days.
When you sit and watch 8 hours of a show within the span of one or two days, the show becomes more like a very long movie. And those two series were written just like a movie. Unlike other shows there weren’t any filler type episodes. There were sub-plots and some things that might not have been absolutely essential for the overall story, but all 8 episodes of Stranger Things and all 8 episodes of The Night Of focused on a single story and moved that story along like we were watching a movie.
Another series that comes to mind is 11/22/63 on Hulu. This series was based on the book of the same name from Stephen King. Instead of turning the book into a two hour movie that fell flat they turned it into an 8 episode television show that brought more of the book to the screen and gave us a much better experience than a movie ever could. This show was quite different than the book, but was good in its own right and is well worth the watch.
Stranger Things has announced a second season, and I hope it is as good as the first, but with all three shows mentioned I was satisfied with the story and I am quite all right with just having one season. Just like having a single movie tell you a story you can have a single season tell you a story and then be done with it. Until you watch it again, that is.
But then the question comes up, will subsequent seasons be like sequels? Sequels are not always as good as the original, and television shows can often go down hill when they try to stretch out season after season only because the show is popular. Even while watching Stranger Things I was thinking to myself, “how could they do a second season of this and still be as good as this?”
I can name a shit load of movies that were good, but disappointing in ways. Those same movies I think could work out much better as an eight episode mini-series.
So I think this long form story telling might be the wave of the future. If producers and networks are willing to take a chance on a mini-series that can draw a niche crowd or surprisingly enough draw large numbers then I think we will be getting some good shows in the future.
Hell, we are getting some good show right now.