It’s been remarked on so many times that it’s practically a truism… but we’re living in a golden age of television.
For fifty years or more, the acknowledged best stories of two generations have been told in the cinema. Further back than that it was the novel, taking over from the theatre as the perfect storytelling exponent. Before then, epic poetry and the dying gasps of the oral tradition.
But this is the 21st century, the age of digital consumption. More and more, the grandiose, expensive display of cinema seems an extravagance, with new, more personal ways of consuming content seemingly popping up every other year. What people want isn’t empty spectacle, but a good story, well told - and preferably, easily streamed or downloaded to a tablet or a phone.
The wheel has spun 180 degrees: TV stars used to dream of graduating to the silver screen but now, having a fêted cable drama on your résumé is better than any number of mid level indie movies.
And increasingly, more and more movies are being made into TV shows when it used to be far more common the other way around. Recently, From Dusk Till Dawn, Fargo, The Evil Dead, and now Rush Hour and Lethal Weapon have all been recast and reborn as new takes on themselves on TV.
There are a plethora of movies past and present that would make better television shows than feature films. Let me show you what I mean - and here be spoilers...
10. Unbreakable (2000)
Over sixteen years ago, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan was hot off The Sixth Sense, the second highest grossing movie of 1999, a film that earned six Oscar nominations in 2000 - three personally, Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. He was only twenty-nine years old.
Unbreakable arrived seven months or so later: the eagerly anticipated new film from this young auteur everyone was raving about. Its low key, intense atmosphere - and a career best performance from Bruce Willis - gathered it plenty of fans, but the age of the superhero movie had only just begun, and people simply didn’t know what to make of it.
There was no flash, no panache… just dramatic, evocative storytelling. Unbreakable dealt with the origin tale of one David Dunn, the sole survivor of a horrendous train crash who slowly discovers that he possesses superhuman powers. There was little in the way of traditional heroics, no costume and no grandiose codename. No one really knew what to expect from a superhero movie in November 2000, but this certainly wasn’t it.
Today, the superhero movie is ubiquitous. Marvel and DC (and their fans online) have resumed their neverending battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of the public, while smaller superhero movies jostle for the change left in everyone’s pockets. Broadsheet film critics bemoan the stranglehold that the subgenre has on the blockbuster, while fans clamour for more.
There’s never been a better time for a return to Shyamalan’s sober, resonant take on the superhero… and with the rise of television as a the go-to medium for weighty, nuanced drama, and the measured pace that this story requires, TV is certainly the way to go.
Recasting would be necessary, of course: but with online streaming platforms and cable channels competing to see who can produce the highest quality programming, there are any number of avenues for Shyamalan to choose to expand Unbreakable’s narrative.
There’s another problem, of course: the notoriety of the property’s creator. In 2016, Shyamalan no longer the celebrated rookie auteur on the block, but a byword for schlocky hackery on a truly hateable scale. However, although his films have been panned for years, they’ve all made money. Hopefully his reputation wouldn’t prevent him from bringing a cable-standard Unbreakable to the small screen.