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Further proof that TV is the new film

Steve Buscemi on HBO's Boardwalk Empire
It’s old news that the increased presence of high-profile film stars in TV land is just another not-so-subtle sign of the recession in action: Those usually used to a fat paycheck from the film studios have had to think out of the box — or rather, right into it, as have 2012 Emmy nominees Glenn Close of Damages, Kathy Bates of Harry’s Law and Steve Buscemi of Boardwalk Empire, to name just a few. But their presence is also a sign of another larger shift in the entertainment media landscape, one that has also been in development for a while now: The boundaries between the kind of content on TV and in film may be disappearing altogether.

Just take a look at virtually any of the films made by HBO in the past few years, from the fearless and breathtaking ANGELS IN AMERICA miniseries starring Meryl Streep in 2003 to last year’s equally breathtaking TEMPLE GRANDIN, which would surely have garnered Claire Danes an Oscar nomination had it been released in theaters. These films and many more (on many other channels as well) would have stood up spectacularly well in theaters, both critically and commercially, thanks in no small part to their casts.

The “TV Movies and Miniseries” nominated for Emmys this year are no different: Everyone from Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman and Emma Thompson to Kevin Costner and Clive Owen are nominated for their work in acclaimed films that are every bit as “cinematic” as, well, their cinematic counterparts. And series such as Game of Thrones have the same grand cinematic scale as any major release (Thrones also features celebrated film actor Peter Dinklage, whose breakout role was the indie favorite THE STATION AGENT).

For film actors on TV, the logic behind the move isn’t always financial (although admittedly, a gig on a TV series does allow for a lot more stability over time as opposed to a one-off for a film role). In a recent interview on Fresh Air, Jeff Daniels discussed why he took the starring role in the Aaron Sorkin-circus broadcast news HBO drama The Newsroom (and presumably, why he initially said no to DUMB AND DUMBER TO); on TV, there’s more time and room to explore a character in-depth. It’s also a great way for Daniels, a stage actor, to stay limber, since a new 90-page episode amounts to receiving a new “play” every two weeks.

The lines are shifting behind the scenes as well, since projects quite frequently change their medium many times over before shooting even begins (case in point: BEHIND THE CANDELABRA, Steven Soderbergh‘s hotly anticipated biopic of Liberace starring Michael Douglas, now looks like it will be shown on HBO as opposed to being released theatrically).

And then of course the term “theatrical release” means something entirely different nowadays as well. On-demand releasing is becoming increasingly popular — whether for a limited time or as a full-throttle strategy in parallel of a wider theatrical release, it’s now quite commonplace to be able to see a brand new Hollywood movie on the small screen. Not to mention the fact that online streaming video (whether legal or not) is about to make TV and film equally obsolete.

It all points in one direction: It’s getting harder and harder to differentiate, and envelope-pushing TV movies and series are taking the place of (or at the very least, becoming as important as) many of the movies being made today.

Photo credit: HBO