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Risk-taking Television Series Outshine Formulaic Hollywood Films

  • Penelope Poulou

American television series have evolved to a point where their original stories, well-crafted dialogue and talented casts often trump formulaic Hollywood films.

And there is a wide selection to satisfy every taste.

Character-driven

Consider the new series Turn, the latest from AMC Studios. Based on historical facts about American revolutionaries during the War of Independence, the drama flows like a modern-day espionage film in this character-driven TV series.

Today, most of Turn's young actors are largely unknown. Tomorrow, they could be household names. Heather Lind plays Anna Strong, a historical figure from the late 18th century, who spies on the British
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“It surprised me and amazed me how specific and hardworking people in TV are right now,” Lind said, “and with material that every episode is like doing a movie."

Seth Numrich, who plays Ben Tallmadge, another revolutionary, says the plethora of quality series has created many opportunities for actors like him.

“All the actors that I know are really excited about the types of characters and storylines that are happening on television,” Numrich said.
Actors Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts) and James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano), shoot a scene from the mafia drama, "The Sopranos," in Kearny, New Jersey, March 21, 2007.

Actors Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts) and James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano), shoot a scene from the mafia drama, "The Sopranos," in Kearny, New Jersey, March 21, 2007.


Paving the way

It all started with The Sopranos.

The 1990s gangster drama about the life of New Jersey Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano took risks by creating a gritty, violent show with complex anti-heroes. The Sopranos paved the way for unconventional storytelling and many still hail the show as the greatest TV series ever.

Others root for current favorites such as Frank Darabond’s The Walking Dead.

The Oscar-nominated filmmaker says, gore and zombies aside, the show became popular because of its depth and unique perspective about the struggle to stay human in a zombie-infested world. Darabond says the walking dead are not really the dead but the living.

Darabond also credits the studio for developing the series. Once AMC came on board, the pilot and script were revamped and the director was asked to run the series like one of his acclaimed films.
Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, and his wife Skyler White, played by Anna Gunn, during Walt's chemotherapy treatment during the first season of "Breaking Bad."

Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, and his wife Skyler White, played by Anna Gunn, during Walt's chemotherapy treatment during the first season of "Breaking Bad."


Breaking Bad is another powerful character drama that many consider one of television’s finest. The award-winning show features Walter White, a chemistry teacher with stage-three cancer who becomes a crystal meth kingpin to fund his treatment. Walter is a complex figure that viewers fall in love with.

Trumping film

These are just a few of the layered stories about the human condition on the small screen. Many series run for years, allowing viewers to bond with the characters, something a film cannot effectively do in 90 minutes.

After such huge TV hits, it is not surprising that the cast and crew of the historical series Turn are ebullient that AMC studios added them to its fold.

Executive Producer Barry Josephson, a fan of The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, is hopeful Turn can be added to AMC’s successful mix.

And as long as TV studios keep taking risks, experimenting with cutting edge stories, viewers will be watching at home, enjoying quality entertainment at a fraction of the cost of a movie ticket.
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