In Defence of Frothy Films (and the like).

In Defence of Frothy Films (and the like).

We’re living in the golden age of television. Apparently. And bully for us. Who doesn’t love them some prestige television binge-watching? I know I do. But you know what I also love? Frothy TV. And you know why? Because sometimes I don’t want to have to compile my own flow chart to keep track of a storyline. 

Prestige shows like your Fargo (watched some, not all), your True Detective (only the first season, and even then…), The Wire (yes), your Mad Men, your Mr Robot (is that still a thing?), your Peaky Blinders (also yes) — they’re all brilliant in their own way; critically regarded, and ultimately effective at blurring the line that exists between the highfalutin world of film (not movies) an Cinema, with a capital C. They’ve made it not only trendy but financially feasible and career-optimal to make a shift from one mode — film — to the other — television — and back again, not only for actors but for writers and directors, too. And that is great. Truly. But prestige television also doesn’t invalidate fluffy, fun, frothy TV, either. 

As far as I’m concerned, there are two things, main things, to be said about the value of network shows, sitcoms, and soapy dramas. The first is the value to viewers — yes, we like your high-strung tension, sweeping and cinematic cinematography, and award-winning actors actor-ing their asses off. But we also like white noise while we’re cooking, reliable laughs at the end of a long day, and fun and easy viewing that makes us smile and doesn’t demand all that much thinking power. 

Entertainment is the name of the business. And the truth is, different people are entertained by different things, and not only that but the same people are attracted to different forms and kinds of entertainment depending on their mood or what they’re doing. We don’t all want to have to watch Game of Thrones while we’re coming down from a crappy day at work and trying to make our way through a pint of mint chip ice cream. It’s in those moments we want to watch Gilmore Girls repeats, or Will and Grace, or people having mini-breakdowns about baking. 

The other thing to be said about the value of network shows and soapy dramas is this: people need somewhere to learn. Creatives need a space where they can try their hand at directing for the first time, surrounded by a cast and crew of talented people who know exactly what it is that they’re doing, and understand how it all works. It’s a starter job, with training wheels. 

Writers need to work in a room with other, more experienced writers before they can brave it and go out on their own. Producers need somewhere to learn how and what goes, just like focus pullers and camera operators and stunt people and consume and set designers, do. 

Frothy tv is fun to watch, yes. But it’s also a breeding ground for new creatives, the ones just starting out, and the ones who might go on to put together the next big thing. But that can only happen if they have someplace to hone their skills and learn their craft.

So, all of that prestige television? It wouldn’t exist without the frothy stuff. The frothy stuff is good stuff, too. It’s just good in a different way.