Television: The New Movies

Home TheaterTechnology is once again changing the face of personal entertainment.  Not long ago, the only place one could go to experience epic stories brought to life on a big screen with heart pounding acoustics was the local movie theater.  Today, with the growing commonality of big screen TVs utilizing new technologies such as plasma and LCD projection, as well as home theater surround-sound systems, one can experience this in the comfort of home. 

This transition to the home theater was first recognized and promoted through DVDs, which quickly became collectors items, and which seem to grow in special features (often warranting additional discs) with each passing year.  But the media industries are now taking this to the next step:  ordinary television shows, which in the past were vastly episode driven (each show complete in itself, e.g. the multitude of crime related shows currently being broadcast) – are slowing being joined with more and more shows which follow a long, complex storyline, not unlike that of a multi-hour (multi-season) movie.  These shows exist with the intent to take a regular audience on a journey which continues from show to show, from season to season, from pilot to series finale. 

The first notable shows to attempt this and succeed in recent years were Alias and 24.  On the success of Alias, its producer launched an even more bold and more successful show: Lost.  More recently, others like Surface, Invasion, and Threshold (unfortunately discontinued) joined the ranks, these all with a sci-fi slant. 

In order to gain a following for these shows, their producers are counting on people’s ability to watch every (or nearly every) episode, to ensure that they won’t get lost in the history of details that grows with every showing.  They try to fill in new viewers with the short recaps at the beginning of each show, but realistically, they act more to remind those who have already seen the show about recent events.  Since most people can’t be home for every episode, they are record them to ensure that they stay up to date on the latest plot twists.  VCRs (or more specifically, those who program and load them) have proven unreliable as a recording medium.  But with TiVo, and Personal Video Recorders like it, people can ensure that every episode is recorded and available for them to watch whenever it is convenient for them, and the media industry is counting on it.

Even movie actors and actresses have recognized the shift to TV.  Along with providing a more stable career (not that they need it), it provides an opportunity for them to make their mark on America’s new favorite media.  Among them are Charlie Sheen of Two and a Half Men, his father Martin Sheen of West Wing, Jason Lee of My Name is Earl, and Kiefer Sutherland of 24, to name a few.  Many others join their ranks each seasons, some less well known, but the occasional superstar as well.  TV production’s off season still allows them to make movies if they so desire.

Not only are the broadcast giants promoting movie-like stories, with movie-stars as actors, in their programming, they are also using new technologies to enhance the viewers’ experience.  The majority of today’s best shows, as well sports events, are broadcast in high definition and surround sound.  High Definition Television (HDTV) is formatted to a wider aspect ratio, similar to that of a movie screen, because it better fills a person’s bifocal field of view.  It’s not hard for someone watching programming of this quality to forget that they are not, in fact, in a theater.

All in all, the trend in entertainment as well as many other areas of life (shopping, for example), is moving away from the city and into our homes, and today’s digital technology is making this all possible.

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I grew up in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area, where I currently live with my family. I earned a degree in Electrical Engineering from Calvin College. After college I worked as a software engineer for two years and then switched careers, becoming the music director of a large church. I enjoy all things technical and musical, as well as skiing, tennis and television.

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