Ryan McGee criticizes the recent trend toward the “novelization” of television he claims was begun by HBO, says:
HBO isn’t in the business of producing episodes in the traditional manner. Rather, it airs equal slices of an overall story over a fixed series of weeks…HBO isn’t in the business of producing episodes in the traditional manner. Rather, it airs equal slices of an overall story over a fixed series of weeks.
He argues that television’s structure demands that it be about episodes, not long-form story-telling.
James Poniewozik argues against him. But in doing so, he actually says something similar:
It’s true that a TV series is not a novel. But it’s also not a movie. Every medium works best when it takes advantage of what’s distinctive about it.
Both are falling under the spell of what philosopher Noel Carroll called the “specificity thesis.” It’s an idea dating to Kant, and it basically states that each art form should restrict itself the particular properties of its medium do better than any other art form.
But why? The specificity thesis seems absurd and limiting. Don’t we want more great artworks? Who cares if it happens in one art form when it could have arguably been done better in a different art form? Because movies are better at showing snow falling outside a window, do we really want to stop plays from using lighting effects to show snow falling outside of windows? And isn’t there something lovely and clever in the way theater lighting designers come up with ways of showing snow falling outside windows?
Television can be talky. And can be silent and primarily visual. It can be episodic. It can tell a story novelistically over some length of time. Why should any show restrict itself because it is perceived that some other art form can also do any of those things? Surely there have been excellent talky shows, excellent visual shows, excellent episodic shows, and excellent novelistic shows. Should we cut any of those out because we have some preconceived notion of what TV should be? I certainly hope not.
(h/t Andrew Sullivan, although the post seems to be removed now)