So a reader named Britopia commented that if we were going to discuss the Golden Globes, we really should also mention TV, which at least deserves a seat "at the kids' table."
Deadwood was the best film I saw last year, with the best performance by an actor (Ian McShane). Can we talk about long (i.e., 12-hour) narratives as movies, even if they were made for the box? Kieslowski and Fassbinder did their best work for TV.
Suddenly, Britopia and Filmbrain are in the middle of this big auteur discussion, and as expected, cinetrix had to intervene to make sure nobody got hurt.
We weren't really going to discuss too much TV in this forum, but I'll take my seat with the kiddies in order to provide some insight. I did, however, create my own rankings of the best television series of 2004 on my web site. (And thanks Filmbrain for calling me the resident expert, but one of Liz's multiple personalities isn't too shabby herself.)
While many of the production elements may be the same, television and film are really different media. When discussing specific difference between a series and a film, the gap between the two widens. Britopia rightfully mentions that The Sopranos is thought of as David Chase's show rather than any episode belonging to its director. Of course, films are often given a possessive credit belonging to the director which can continuously ruffles the feathers of the Writer's Guild. The way I distinguish between the two may get me in some trouble, but it's quite simple and ultimately I believe due to a combination of creative and logistical necessity. Here we go:
Movies are a director's medium. Television is a writer's medium. Simple as that. Yes, they're both collaborative, but the primary creative force for each is different.
Do I consider Eternal Sunshine Michel Gondry's movie? Absolutely. Yes, the initial dream comes from Charlie Kaufman, but any other director would make a completely different movie. Even attempting to recreate a film word-for-word, shot-for-shot still results a different animal as Gus Vant Sant proved with his Psycho in 1998. If Spike Jonze had directed Eternal Sunshine, it might still have been a wonderful film, but I actually don't think it would have been as good. (And I love Jonze, definitely falling into the camp that considered Adaptation one of 2002's best.)
Television is simply different. From a logistical standpoint, it's impossible to have the same director helm every episode – at least on an hour long show. The traditional schedule for an hour-long drama is a week of prep followed by eight days of shooting and a week of post (or a some similar schedule). The director of an episode has to be involved throughout the entire process. If one person was to direct every episode, it would take over 40 weeks to produce a 13-episode season. Broadcast network shows generally run 22-23 episode seasons, and 40 weeks for a shorter seasons is a long, inefficient and expensive schedule for any production.
Additionally, I don't want to say the script is more important in television because that's not true, but there is a different style of storytelling because the dramatic arcs have to span a much longer period. The scripts must stay relatively consistent in tone, and even though different writers (usually parts of a team, however) will tackle individual episodes, they still have to write following the "bible" of that show, retaining the character voices and plot elements belonging to that specific series. Too, a director would be even more restricted, and controlled by many of the same limitations as to what he/she may be able to do with an individual episode. Unless you're dealing with an anthology series featuring a utterly new stand-alone stories each week, you only have so much leeway with such creative choices before you're making something other than that specific series.
I do agree, however, that there is a trend in television (a good one), primarily because of the cable networks and these shorter runs, towards greater emphasis on season-long story arcs and therefore more of that feeling of a series a long movie. HBO's The Wire is possibly the best example of this since each season has had a very distinctive focus, born out of the same world and characters but creating something akin to self-sufficient novels (as I like to call them) for television. The same is true with most of the HBO and Showtime series, but it can also be seen on FX series like Nip/Tuck and The Shield. The Sopranos is probably responsible for it all, and even the broadcast nets have dabbled in the area a bit with shows like 24
I know I criticized the Globes in my first post, but to give some credit where it's due, the HFPA often does a better job selecting its TV honorees than the movie ones, and its choices are often much better than the nominees and winners at the Emmys. Case-in-point, as Britopia rightfully mentioned, Deadwood and its lead actor Ian McShane. Both were snubbed by Emmy this year, and both arguably should have won their respective categories. They've got Globe nominations, and I wouldn't be surprised to see McShane and the show take home the stautette.
The only mystery to me is why anyone gives a shit anymore about Will & Grace. I can't watch this show (and haven't been able to for probably about two years) without suffering from a very painful migraine. It's just not funny anymore. As the years go by, the characters have become more one-dimensional and schtick-dependent rather than growing in any meaningful way, and I don't think any other series is as dependent on constant stunt casting. Why does everyone love it so? Why does it keep receiving nominations when there are plenty of better choices?
One last point: much as I think 2004 was a great year for movies, it was also one of the best years for television in recent memory. Along with great returning series on HBO and other noteworthy shows like Arrested Development, the new season has brought us creatively fresh, interesting and distinctive new shows like Lost, Desperate Housewives, and Veronica Mars. There is stronger writing across the TV spectrum than there has been in a long time, and even though we're saddled with multiple Law & Orders and CSIs (and they're all just fine), this season has in many ways been a breakthrough and hopefully a glimpse of better things to come.