Television in Movies

What item is in 98% of all homes in the U.S.?  The television set.  In fact, there are “…2.4 television sets for each of the more than 114 million households in the United States.”  (DuBravic)

When television was first marketed to the public, the film industry didn’t welcome the device with open arms. In fact, Darryl Zanuck, movie producer at 20th Century Fox said these famous words about television in 1946, “Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” (Live Cinema Research Blog) Then came the 1950’s and television almost put the movie industry out of business. 

Of course, the film industry answered back with Cinemascope™ and movies in color. Those things helped to bring people back to the movie theater. Still, it could be said that Hollywood never got over the shock it received when television first came along.  If you look at certain movies, you’ll see that television is not viewed as merely a piece of furniture or as a means of amusement. 

For example, the classic film Network presents a vision of television where the pursuit of high rating supersede issues and even the worth of a human being. The Truman Show shows how the medium can create a celebrity out of an Average Joe and in this case, without the Joe realizing it. It also shows how people invest their time and emotion in a television show then quickly toss it aside when something new comes along. Quiz Show shows how television can be used to both create celebrities and manipulate and fool an unsuspecting audience. As these films show, television isn’t portrayed as a friend. Rather, it is a box that can unduly influence and dehumanize people. So beware, the message states.

Yet, hasn’t anyone pointed out that there isn’t much difference between watching a movie and watching a television show. In both cases, someone is passively viewing something. A person viewing a movie or television show could instead be interacting with family and friends, working on a hobby, doing some physical activity or just catching up with some household chores. Of course, movies and television both sell fantasy and offer an escape from everyday life. In the end, they are like two bratty siblings. Instead of fighting over who gets the last piece of cake, they fight over who will get the audience and their dollars. Yet, like siblings, they each get what they need, be it high ratings or high box office returns and, at the end of the day, it all evens out.

DuBravac, Shawn G. The U.S. television set market. (FOCUS ON INDUSTRIES AND MARKETS) Business Economics, July 1, 2007.

Live Cinema Research Blog April 03, 2006


The Truman Show

Quiz Show


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