Communicator (communicator) wrote,

TV as theatre

HBO are to create a new version of I, Claudius. Boy, that's an ambitious aim. It will all depend on the quality of the actors. Replace Derek Jacobi? Tall order. And John Hurt, and even cuddly Brian Blessed. Tough acts to follow.

The Guardian has an article on this:
Even a lavish period BBC drama such as I, Claudius feels a bit low-rent by today's televisual standards. The acting is formidable indeed but technically, it's very static and staged. There are long, "unblinking eye" camera shots, occasionally trundling in for close-ups in moments of high drama, with very few cuts

I disagree with the Guardian that pre-1980s TV is poor, or even 'low rent'. It is just operating to different implicit standards. Something happened in the 80s so that TV stopped being a type of theatre and became a type of cinema. We don't say theatre is static and staged, with low-quality sets, because we don't expect a stage production to be like a film. It has different virtues. As they say here 'the acting is formidable indeed'. It's the acting and scripts that were (sometimes) very good in old telly.

I wish that critics and viewers could be persuaded once again to see TV (well, some TV at least) as a type of theatre. I think that would get us away from a fixation on verisimilitude, and would allow lower budgets, which might make TV executives more open to formal experimentation and moral challenge.
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