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T.V. Killed The Movie Star

Television used to be the medium of transition for actors. Young stars sought a steady paycheck and name recognition, all in the hopes of catapulting into a lucrative career in movies. Television also served as the place where the careers of movie actors went to die: has-beens strutting across prefab sets in the latest sitcom or warmed-over cop show.

But in the past ten years, all that has changed. HBO started the trend by creating series like Sex in the City, The Sopranos, Rome, and Deadwood. Each of these shows were/are marked by quality writing and acting; layered plots; high production value, and a strong sense of place. Now, AMC has become the new HBO and is ushering in series that are (arguably) more engaging than most multiplex fare.

AMC's Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and The Killing have stormed the gates of what once was HBO’s (and to a lesser extent Showtime’s) prerogative: insanely well-made television shows. FX also has some shows that are well worth checking out.

A strong sense of place figures strongly in each of these shows. Mad Men has swinging 1960s Manhattan. Breaking Bad has stark New Mexico as its backdrop. The Walking Dead has a desolated, destroyed Atlanta. The Killing has soggy Seattle. These locations, in a certain sense, help to define the stories taking place within them. They add mood. They add texture.

Location provides the texture, but none of these shows would work without a strong narrative. And each of these shows definitely have layered, complex plots. The reason these shows can compete, and often surpass, traditional cinema is that they are not constrained by time requirements. Television has always had the ability to take its time when introducing characters and fleshing out a story. Without time as a factor, television shows have the ability to grow, change, and evolve, as well as add and drop characters or plot points.

Of course, movies are great, but consider any one of the above-mentioned series to try something new and exciting.

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