I love going to the movies. I love sitting in a big, darkened theater, a box of popcorn in my hand, watching coming attractions and films. I love that I’m sharing this experience with a group of strangers. I love the way things look on the big screen.
I don’t go to the movies much lately. The obvious reason why is cost: it’s just really expensive to go to the movies, unless you only go to matinees or second-run theaters and don’t buy any snacks. But the less obvious reason is this: TV has finally become better than the movies.
There have been some truly great movies that have come out in the past 10 years, no doubt about it. But when I look at those movies and compare them to what’s on American TV on a regular basis, movies lose out. Big time. I really believe that even the best movies of recent years can’t compare with the narrative complexity, the clever dialogue, the depth of characterization, the sophisticated humor and even the cinematography of TV shows like Lost, Arrested Development, The West Wing, How I Met Your Mother, Battlestar Galactica, Mad Men, Firefly, Community and The Big C. And I’m positive anyone reading this can think of at least a handful of other TV shows I haven’t named that are better than anything that’s been in the movie theater. On top of that, I think TV has become much better at featuring compelling, non-stereotypical characters that are women, people of color and LGBT.
Sure, there’s still a lot of crap on American TV. There’s also a lot of crap in the movie theater. But TV is increasingly getting more intelligent and daring. The most daring thing movies have done is to go 3-D.
I’m not enough of a cultural critic to go into why TV has passed movies, although I think there are some obvious financial reasons. But as someone who grew up glued to the TV set, it’s pretty satisfying to see so much good stuff on TV now.