Salman Rushdie announced last week that he is creating a reality-based sci-fi drama series for US cable Showtime, because he believes that “quality TV drama has taken over from film and the novel as the best way of widely communicating ideas and stories.” It is interesting to see someone of Rushdie’s stature take this position. The idea might seem blasphemous if so many critics hadn’t already been floating the idea of the “HBO drama” (whatever channel it’s on) as literature.
A quick review of TV drama of recent vintage, suggests we may be in the midst of a golden age of televised story telling.The Wire has been compared to Dickens; The Sopranos were compared to Shakespeare. David Simon’s Treme is celebrated “for showing how artists make art, and what it actually means to make a living from creative work.” Mad Men, Six Feet Under – the list goes on.
A recent surprise for me has been the dramatization of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy novel series A Song of Ice Fire, Game of Thrones. I have not read any of the novels in the series and have had my viewer’s expectations upended week after week. Last week’s episode, Baelor, took such a dramatic turn that it prompted a discussion between my wife and I titled What Happens when Every Accepted Fantasy Story-Telling Trope is Thrown out the Window. This piece in Grantland nicely sums it up:
Because that’s what a generation of underbaked trilogies had taught us fantasy was all about, right? The good guys winning?…When [giant spoiler] in the final moments of last night’s shocking episode, a lot of our television preconceptions dropped with it.
But back to Rushdie. Does his involvement in television signal yet another round of “death of the novel” conversations/blog posts? Probably. Story telling seems to be doing just fine though.