Our current era is often called 'TV's Golden Age.' This is said so often it's almost a cliché, and, like most clichés, it's true.
Still in their first run are Breaking Bad (barely), Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Homeland, and in the not-too-distant past we also had The Sopranos, and yes, I'll throw in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Great shows all, and feel free to include whatever you think I've unfairly overlooked.
In many cases, new episodes of such shows are anticipated by the viewing public more avidly than upcoming theatrical films. All too often, let's also state, the quality of the better breed of TV shows surpasses what's on the 'big screen.'
One could easily argue in fact - and I'm doing so right now- that this current age of TV represents most of what the Golden Age of Movies and Hollywood had: great writing, great acting, and an emphasis on fast production turnaround. Let's remember that Casablanca was shot in about three weeks, and lots of other classic films in a similar timeframe. That's how they did it old school.
But I would further argue something I don't think anyone else has, that the uncredited forefather of our Golden TV Age is...Alfred Hitchcock. (You probably guessed that from the picture, huh.)
The first TV stations appeared in the US in the early 1950s, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents was already on the airwaves by the fall of 1955. In other words, Hitchcock saw the potential of TV right off the bat. He was the only great filmmaker of his age to see this potential. Often dismissed in his heyday as a merely 'commercial' director and a shameless self-promoter, it's true he was not shy about boosting his career, so one might be tempted to consider his TV show as nothing more than a vehicle created to cash in on his reputation and fame. While no doubt it was to some extent, Hitchcock actually took a strong hand in the production of the show that bore his name. He directed over a dozen episodes, and he set the general tone of what the series would be about saying "...it will be crime as practiced by ordinary people, like the fellow next door."
This formula should sound awfully familiar to fans of Breaking Bad and Walter White. Indeed, dark story lines and macabre humour are a big part of many of our current Golden Age shows, just as they were on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Beyond the story and thematic aspects however, Hitchcock saw another huge potential upside to TV.
It was cheap.
Again, even as far back as the 1950s, Hitchcock deeply resented that stars like Cary Grant got paid more than he did. He felt the director (read central creative force) behind a film should be paid the most and have total control. Today, while there are a few big directors, the power in the movie industry has shifted almost wholly toward the stars and the megaconglomerate studios. In TV however, the central creative force or forces - namely the writers - are in charge. TV is just cheap enough for the money guys to let this happen, and the result is, well...TV can sometimes actually be good.
Except for an 'honorary' award, Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar, which tells you how much of a joke the Oscars have always been. But it just might be true that, thirty years after his death, he's owed an honorary Emmy too.
I was lucky enough to be able to shoot at this year's Queen's Plate, sort of like the Canadian version of the Kentucky Derby. This horse actually seemed to gleam. I think the camera caught that.