Watching Olive Kitteridge starring the magnificent Frances McDormand (most famous for her Oscar winning performance in Fargo but don’t forget her in Almost Famous) and the even more lovely Richard Jenkins (unfortunately totally overlooked for what should have been an Oscar winning performance in The Visitor – Netflix it today!) is a testament to television to bring back the mini-series, but further proves that network television will never go that route.
The 4-part movie on HBO covers the full breadth and scope of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Elizabeth Strout. There is no doubt about it that it is brilliantly done. And it’s not the first time HBO has successfully adapted a notably work to the small screen (Angels in America, Mildred Pierce). With this fantastic proven theory of success, it is not enough for network television to follow suit.
Why, the four people that follow this blog, including my mother ask?
Network and cable TV is too damn greedy to only offer a short 4-part series. TV needs to sell advertising. Needs to have a true money-making machine. That attitude is what has blown it for other channels. AMC’s The Killing is a perfect example of taking a marvelous story and then instead of letting it come down to a nice ending, they stick a hugely implausible ending to ensure a second season because viewership is up.
Even the British, who are exceptional at serial TV, is falling for the greedy continuation of a story – Downton Abbey and Sherlock are good examples of this. Both are enormously popular abroad and that popularity has a very heavy and profitable pull. That profit, that greed, it what drives the car and is why network TV will never follow the route of stopping a story when it reaches a true end. The end will keep going to some insane jump the shark moment that will keep going and going on life-support until it finally dies a terrible death.
I’m not saying that HBO is perfect (don’t get me started on The Leftovers – ugh!). I’ll continue to watch the pay channels for smart story telling. But I’ll still count on reading the book and if there is no book – I’ll watch the British or foreign version of whatever material is adapted to American TV – but that’s another post.