Joel Coen: “Movies have a beginning, a middle & an end; TV shows have a beginning, a middle & then they’re beaten to death"

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In a fascinating new interview with the Los Angeles Times, Joel and Ethan Coen spoke about their total disinterest in creating a TV series. They are cinematic creatures and it will stay that way, it seems. Joel asserts that movies and TV cannot be compared due to the ambiguous nature of a TV series' ongoing evolution from season-to-season:

The thing about TV series that I don’t understand and I think is hard for both of us to get our minds around is, you know, feature films have a beginning, a middle and an end,” Joel said. “But open-ended stories have a beginning and a middle — and then they’re beaten to death until they’re exhausted and die. They don’t actually have an end. And thinking about that in the context of a story is rather alien to the way we imagine these things.

They nailed it. That, in essence, is the difference between television and movies. It's quite simple, really. 

In the last 5 years we've seen Steven Soderbergh, David Lynch, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Jane Campion, Cary Fukunaga, Woody Allen, Baz Lhurmann, Spike Lee and hundreds more make the jump to the small-screen. Why? Because the middle-ground to make the kind of films they used to make on the big screen fell out. You know, the kind of projects that were more interested in character-oriented stuff than big explosive effects. And for that, we should be grateful TV picked up the slack. 

And yet, there is a negative to TV's takeover; the adult-driven 2 hour movie is an art form. You can herald the artistic merits of serialized television all you want, but there just is something exciting about watching a 2 hour drama and not having the thought of setting aside some time to binge-watch it. Also, as Joel Coen mentioned, many shows that start off strong end up losing steam in their succeeding seasons; that's just part of the game and is the biggest risk in embarking on such a venture. There has rarely been a TV series that had its last season be its best season. I can count on just one hand the times that has happened. The gist of it is that if a show is successful most producers want it continue on, sacrificing quality over quantity.

The Coens also reveal in the interview that now Netflix seems to be the only studio around interested in producing original storytelling:

"I think the more fundamental thing is that they’re [Netflix] the people who are stepping up and spending money on movies that aren’t Marvel comic movies or big action franchise movies and that type of thing, which is pretty much the business of the studios now. We can’t argue with that."