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The exodus began with the freest of them all. Those who can genuinely escape themselves via their craft and ability to convince through unmediated levels of humanity: actors... The days of thespians gravitating towards the small screen being a sign of dwindling careers are long gone. For some time now, intelligent silver screen actors have been seeking better scripted and more challenging roles in made-for-TV content. I have raved before about character-driven series like Mad Men and Lost on these pages. Now I feel compelled to add two European titles which, in my view, excel for the same reason: Denmark’s Borgen and France’s Engrenages (Spiral). My argument back then was mostly defined by the core notion that Cinema and TV are two very different mediums; that TV drama is at its best when it aspires to cinematic flare and discernment, and that Cinema falters as an art-form when it doesn’t distinguish itself from a small screen approach. But I would now argue that we’ve reached a crucial crossroads in these migrations for a completely different reason. TV has become the prime repository of originality - plain and simple. You only have to tune into, for instance, Les Revenants (The Returned – produced by France’s Canal Plus) to see that the seeds sown by David Lynch’s outstanding Twin Peaks series have resulted in robust drama with a clearly defined identity. Its premise (of unthreatening dead people coming back to life in an isolated small town), pace (slow-burning as hell) and atmosphere (rich in ambiguity) are a wonderful sign of trust in an increasingly sophisticated audience. What makes me smile most is the fact that Twin Peaks continues to be mentioned after so long. Whether correctly or not - favourably or otherwise - comparisons between new groundbreaking drama and that now mythical masterpiece of a series always emerge. The key to all this can be summed up in one word: authenticity. And authenticity in art is directly connected with how personal the work is. Enter Jane Campion’s mighty mini-series Top of The Lake. Mentions of Twin Peaks have been swiftly dismissed by the writer-director, who also goes as far as to say that she wanted to work “in chapters” and therefore made a film-novel and not a TV drama as one would expect it to be. Made with unprecedented support from the BBC’s head of drama Ben Stephenson, I would say that Top of The Lake is Campion at her most authentic and truthful to herself. Key aspects that defined her previous big screen output can all be found here, be it in the shape of aggressive, truculent males (amidst which a kind-hearted one surfaces) or of troubled females on a mission (whose judgements get clouded by the fog of their sexuality). Ultimately, it comes down to vision, which is primarily defined by an understanding of the cinematic potential of a place, character or story. Something which could be amply found in Mildred Pierce – the mini-series Todd Haynes directed in 2011 for American channel HBO. This one was a case of the right director coming together with the right actress (Kate Winslet) to explore content that both could only but excel in, all with the unconditional support of a network that prides itself in offering absolute creative freedom. HBO’s complete disregard for what is perceived to be fashionable can only be seen as another of its major strengths. For example, popular interest in vampires comes and goes, but a seventh consecutive season of their True Blood has just been commissioned. One of their latest forays into the feature-length drama also addresses a far from obvious subject - Phil Spector - with the inspired casting of Al Pacino in the titular role and Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet taking charge of writing and directing it. Coming full-circle in our dissection of this migration phenomenon, it’s also been HBO which rescued Steven Soderbergh’s long-nurtured Liberace biopic Behind The Candelabra. No big studio would touch it, prompting the director to announce that he was through with the industry. But despite its TV broadcast in the US, the film was to find its way to cinemas overseas, becoming an unexpected box-office success. Not unusual, but an interesting inversion at this particular time. This is where we are now: everything we’ve known to be the norm has been turned inside out and seems bound to never be the same again. Successful and prolific filmmakers have been recently announcing the end of the film business - from Steven Spielberg revealing publicly that his Oscar-winning Lincoln nearly went the cable TV channel way to Joss Whedon, who has always benefitted from the ‘franchise approach’, be it on the small screen (Buffy, The Vampire Slayer) or the mega-budget blockbuster (The Avengers), but now feels compelled to state that big screen originality is dying out. To add a twist to everything, a platform like Netflix has been creating its own original content with both critical and popular acclaim. House of Cards is up for an unprecedented amount of Emmy Awards, joining the ranks with all those favourites by over-confident broadcasters (Mad Men, Homeland, Game of Thrones) and signalling the way for further creative freedom. Rumour has it they are also ‘threatening’ to bring back Twin Peaks... Could this be an accurate reflection of the variety of means by which we now view fictional content? Tune in for the next season to find out. )

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