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May 1997, Week 3


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Bet MacArthur <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 20 May 1997 00:04:49 -0400
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On Wed, 14May97, eva katz <[log in to unmask]> asked:
>I would like to get some examples of films that were
>developed to TV series and some ideas to teach this topic.
>Thanks   Eva Katz   Media Education Dept.  Beit Berl College
Two examples that come to mind right away are the current "Buffy The Vampire
Slayer," from the 1992 movie of the same name; and the popular '70's TV
series "McCloud" (1972-1978), starring Dennis Weaver, about a modern-day
Western marshal who is transferred to NYC---taken from Clint Eastwood's
"Coogan's Bluff" (1968). Contact me for more info about the latter example if
Don't know if they'd serve as teaching points, but two issues which come up
here are:
(1) exposure: it takes only 2 hr or so to take in everything a film has to
offer; while a TV series takes many months of [steady, weekly] viewing--or,
at best, many, many hours of viewing of pre-recorded or re-packaged episodes
on tape.  And, in the case of an ordinary series, it cannot usually be
assumed that all viewers are working with [have seen] either a full set, or
even the same set of episodes.
(2) Character backstory:  In film, with its finite script, backstory is
easier to develop and insert, and often aids  narrative as well as character
development. In TV series (comedy or drama), use of character backstory is
usually much more limited, or even avoided altogether, in order not to
introduce limitations to the character which may interfere with future [as
yet unwritten] story lines.  In recent decades, there has been a small trend
toward the cumulative reading of a TV series' content, ie more reliance on
viewers' knowledge of past episodes (some series more than others, eg
especially daytime soaps, but also in nighttime series), than in earlier
decades. But this is still by no means the rule as above.
        It was actor Dennis Weaver, in fact, who first described this problem
(#2) to me, in explaining the [lack of] backstory for his Emmy-winning 1950's
character 'Chester,' in CBS-TV's "Gunsmoke". The series still leads the
record as the most successful dramatic series in TV history (1955-1975 in
production, and continuously in syndication since), and in ratings is only
second overall, behind the comedy series 'I Love Lucy.' Contact me for more
on this if needed.
Bet MacArthur
Arts Analysis Institute
Cambridge MA USA
Massachusetts: (627) 455 6189
Los Angeles: (310) 313 5059
Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the 
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