Television Vs Movies

If a genie would grant any wish your heart desired, but you were only able to watch TV or movies for the rest of your life, what would you choose? You don’t believe in wishes…okay. Let’s say Hollywood only has enough money to keep one industry alive, and you are tapped to make the decision of which will continue, do you keep movies or television? That scenario doesn’t make any sense, you say…well, you are just being difficult and don’t understand how hypothetical questions work.


A great television show is able to create layers of complexity into the world and its characters. Throughout a season, audiences have approximately twenty-two hours to build a relationship with the cast and learn about the mythology. Creators are able to introduce subtleties and foreshadow events which might not occur for episodes (or seasons). This long form version of storytelling can lead to amazing payoffs as viewers’ hopes finally come true or the conventions previously established are turned on their head.

The ability to watch an episode at a time or binge watch a season offers fans choice. And having more options is always better, right? If you want to stay up to speed and tune in every week, go for it. If you prefer to not start a show until the final episode has aired, that would work (as long as you are able to avoid spoilers). There is more control with how television is consumed than movies, which typically ask the viewer to sit down for at least two hours. The smaller time commitment means that fans can squeeze in episodes of their favorite shows at more convenient times. If you wake up before work, you might not have time for a full film, but you could watch a quick sitcom episode.

Films might have character arcs, but television has character sagas. If a show runs long enough, viewers will see them go through a series of trials and life events. It is possible to watch these characters evolve through multiple phases of their lives. There is something to be said for watching a coming of age show like The Wonder Years or Boy Meets World, when you happen to be in the exact same age range as the protagonists and grow up with them.


Once the title cards end, viewers are treated to a complete story (usually) before the credits role. Movies offer audiences a tale with a defined beginning, middle and end to enjoy. There is no “To be continued…” or cliffhanger ending that could take all summer to resolve. The experience is a single piece of media that can be consumed with little to no regard for anything else. Even the connected movies, such as Marvel’s franchise, are meant to be watched one at a time and are not required viewing across series.

The production budgets within cinema are larger than television. This impacts every aspect of the final product. Typically, the actors, script, director and set pieces are better or larger in scale. The special effects are more detailed and head and shoulders above of what will be shown on television. The story is able to take place across multiple set pieces and juggle a more varied cast to help build a more robust world. When studios spend two hundred million to create two hours of footage instead of a million dollars for an hour, there is a noticeable difference in the production values.

Finally, while watching a movie, there is a feeling of consistency that is not available on television. The same director, writer and crew help out in every facet of the movie. This ensures that there is an even feeling throughout the product. Television suffers from rotating writers and crew. One episode could be a serious commentary on a social issue and the next week could feature a musical spoof. Within movies there is a uniform feel and vision for the story.


My cop-out answer is that I would rather watch a mediocre movie than a mediocre television show, but I enjoy a great show more than a great movie.

If the genie or Hollywood agent came to my door, I would give the edge to television. When I think of the properties that I enjoyed most throughout my life: Doctor Who, Chuck, How I Met Your Mother (first three seasons), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman The Animated Series and a plethora of others…they’re all TV shows. There are movies that I enjoyed watching and I will continue to get excited about midnight releases for the rest of my life, but there is something about watching a TV show that is able to capture the case/freak of the week scenario and build a greater universe that films won’t be able to trump.

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