Five years ago, in response to his cancer diagnosis, Walter White connected with his former student Jesse Pinkman and started a business producing crystal meth. There were ups and there were downs in the five years that followed. Mostly there were downs. Breaking Bad took viewers to dark, anxiety-filled depths, but even while it wouldn’t be called an enjoyable experience, it was a profoundly addictive one.
After finally catching up with the finale of Breaking Bad, I got to thinking about how many crazy good TV shows there are these days – Mad Men, Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, to name a few. They all have incredible production value, especially compared to older TV productions. Of course there have been countless good TV shows in the past, but it feels as though TV has only recently matched the quality of movies. The relationship between TV and movies has long been akin to siblings competing for attention.
First there was the big screen, in all it’s glory: A train rushed forward, seemingly through the screen, sending an audience running in panic and claiming a dominant space for movies forever more. Then, television sets entered living-rooms in the nineteen forties and fifties. You could watch moving pictures in your own home! I can only imagine how incredible that must have been (sorry, born in 1985). Would this be the end of movie theaters? Hardly. Color came to movies first, making them all the more lifelike. Of course it was only a matter of time before TV sets would master the technology as well. Theaters had increasingly great sound and image quality – and eventually the 16:9 wide screens. But it’s younger brother was gaining fast. Alas, the home theater, with Dolby surround sound and high-definition 1080p, flat-panel widescreen televisions put a stake right through the big screen’s heart. 3D may be the movie industry’s last gasp for air. TV sucked it right up. Word is still out on whether 3D, which has far improved since its last attempts in the 1950s and 1980s-90s, will make much difference.
Okay, so the race for the best technology continues. But the fact is, TV technology is far enough along that it can beautifully present high-quality productions like Breaking Bad. It’s no longer a second-tier outlet for directors, writers, actors and the rest of the entertainment industry. And so much of the storytelling and production quality has drastically improved. At least that’s my take on it, which, by the way, I’m sure is in no way a novel one and misses many important details!
And of course I’m leaving out another sibling. The Internet is younger and likely more revolutionary than her older siblings. As the lines get blurrier and the Internet continues to fragment and democratize most entertainment mediums, it will be interesting to see just how much the quality of programming changes, for better and for worse.