Television: The bottom of the creative pile?

Last Monday I found and posted Roald Dahl’s Television and had a little personal chuckle, I have a degree in television and film and I have used this degree to make a living… What would Mr Dahl say? My challenger of #nablopomo @mugofdecaf would have laughed, she knows it’s funny because I’m a telly addict.

Books will never replace television, and television will never replace books. They are supplements, they feed into each other, they feed the imagination and inspire. I read Little Woman & The Railway Children when I was 13/14, and I loved the jeopardy of their lives, it is with that passion I watched Friends every week to see the interactions. The first time I read Twilight I didn’t think ‘wow that’ll make a great film with Hollywood heartthrobs’ I thought how it reminded me of Pride and Prejudice or Romeo and Juliet, a simple story that transfers across genres. Stephenie Meyer clearly knew her classics. Maybe this is why Downton Abbey has done so well, love stories, stories of gentry with just a little bit of history to educate.

To know the classics, to know where the stories come from, to use these stories to inspire a concept or a format on television, is it really that bad? The first series of Big Brother could have been based on Lord of the Flies, at the time I was 18 and it was so groundbreaking, no one had come up with such a unique concept – of course reality television is now 10-a-penny. Gene Rodenberry was inspired by the sea captain in C.S.Forester’s Horatio Hornblower for the original Star Trek  which drew acclaim at the 1967 Emmy’s.

Television is the popular format, to coin a theatrical term it breaks the fourth wall (a Brechtian technique), the idea that observers are conditioned to believe the world of the play is ‘real’. To see the imagery and to see it come to life is enthralling, and it’s there in the heart of your home. Television is an extension of the theatre, Dennis Potter was a genius at writing a script for television, Richard Carpenter’s adaptation of The Borrowers was captivating. Is every piece of television groundbreaking? No, of course not. Just as every book isn’t always for the popular taste. I actually hate reading Dickens as it’s hard work, but to see it acted on stage of television or film is a delight; one of my favourites is the 1946 version of Great Expectations with John Mills and Jean Simmon, so noir and so powerful.

I know I have strayed from television, to film, to literature and to theatre but it’s because I believe no one can survive without the other. I hope I have inspired you to not put television at the bottom of the creative pile. Rather than judging it, why not just wonder where the idea came, did it come from a classic, is it a story updated, or is it an idea you’ve not seen before… Maybe, just maybe, you’ve just seen something groundbreaking??

Towards the end of his career even Roald Dahl went to write screen plays for television and film.


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