Downton Abbey as Art: Some Thoughts on the Great Series

Television is rarely art.

A big part of that is because of how it is made, this is especially true in America.

American television is a business model made out of light entertainment, with the hope of reaching as much of the viewing population as possible.  While a creator may start with the spark of an idea, it is in the manufacturing of that idea where the art is lost; and business men take over, hoping to stretch an idea out for as long as possible, generating the highest quota of viewers and advertising sales. And through this process sadly creators can disappear (Consider Dan Harmon and Community, which I wrote about here), walking away (or forced away) from their own creations, their own babies.

To understand what I mean about art, consider one important element that makes a good novel art. It is not merely the initial idea, but the follow through from the beginning to the end, everything coming together to make a wonderful perfected whole, like a present with a bow on top. Television doesn’t have that, especially in America, and it is rare that any writer or even creator know what they are working towards. Don’t believe me? Remember when they gave an end date for the show Lost and everyone thought that was revolutionary?

So while a show might have a few great episodes, a few great seasons, it is rare you can step back and look at a complete package and say that is a well-told story from beginning to end. Continue reading

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Jesus or Red Dwarf? I Choose the Return of Red Dwarf

First and foremost, this is not a love letter to a TV show. Sane and mature adults do not write love letters to sitcoms, especially science-fiction ones with campy special effects and a man pretending to be a cat. No, not at all.

Red Dwarf as a concept should not work as a TV sitcom premise; let’s get that point out of the way as well. Sometimes I am floored it ever moved forward to filming in the first place. It could never have sold in America (and for those that know the failed American pilot of it, it didn’t!).  I am serious when I state it is probably the darkest, most bleak idea for a series, especially a comedy.

Breaking Bad? Game of Thrones? The Wire? Oz? No, Red Dwarf is darker. They can’t even compete against it. Continue reading