Star power on TV

Many award-winning film actors and directors are moving over to the small screen.

Star power on TV (photo credit: Courtesy)
Star power on TV
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Kevin Spacey is the latest movie star to brighten the small screen, in the drama series House of Cards, which airs on YES OH on Sunday – Thursday at 11:45 p.m. (it’s also available on YES VOD) and on HOT 3 on Mondays at 10:15 p.m. and on HOT VOD.
Spacey plays a powerful congressman, and it’s a riveting, behind-the-scenes look at Washington, a la The West Wing, but with more malice and less idealism. It shouldn’t surprise anyone by now that Spacey, a Hollywood star with two Oscars to his credit (Best Supporting Actor for The Usual Suspects and Best Actor in American Beauty), has chosen to appear in this TV drama. This new golden age of television has drawn so many movie actors, that it’s more than a trend. There has been a fundamental change in the entertainment business. This new reality is reflected in the fact that not only do stars like Spacey turn to television, but so does a director such as David Fincher, who created and directed House of Cards.
Fincher had never worked in television before but was nominated for an Oscar for The Social Network. He’s not the first director to make the jump to the small screen: Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) is the executive producer of Boardwalk Empire, the HBO series about Atlantic City gangsters in the early 20th century. Steven Spielberg may win another Oscar for the movie Lincoln, but he has also produced several television series recently, among them the musical show Smash, the sci-fi dramas Falling Skies and Terra Nova, and the comedy-drama, The United States of Tara. Later this year, we’ll get to see the latest series Spielberg has produced, Under the Dome, an adaptation of a Steven King novel.
Many other directors, not quite as well known as Fincher, Scorsese and Spielberg, have also moved into television. Polish director Agnieszka Holland (In Darkness, Europa Europa) has directed episodes of HBO’s Treme and The Wire, as has actor Tim Robbins (who also directed the film Dead Man Walking). Juan Jose Campanella, who won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film The Secret in Their Eyes in 2010, has directed episodes of 30 Rock, House and Law & Order: SVU.
Television has been particularly hospitable to two groups of Hollywood players – actresses over 30 and older character actors. The result is that you are as likely to see an Oscar winner on a TV show as you are on one of the classic movie channels. Two-time Oscar winner Sally Field starred in the series Brothers & Sisters. Six-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close won two Emmys playing a lawyer on the series Damages. Kate Winslet, Best Actress Oscar winner for The Reader, won a Golden Globe and an Emmy in 2012 for the television miniseries Mildred Pierce. Four-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore won an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a SAG award for her performance as Sarah Palin in the miniseries Game Change. Threetime Oscar nominee Sigourney Weaver recently starred as a character obviously based on Hillary Clinton in Political Animals. Dustin Hoffman, two-time Oscar winner (for Kramer vs. Kramer and Rain Man) appeared, alongside Oscar nominee Nick Nolte in the ill-fated horse racing miniseries Luck, which was canceled after a single season. The polygamy drama Big Love gave some of the most talented actors of the 1970s a new place to do good work: Ellen Burstyn, Bruce Dern, Harry Dean Stanton and Sissy Spacek all had roles on the show. And Richard Dreyfuss appeared on Parenthood and Weeds.
Another trend that House of Cards represents is a new way of producing and distributing series TV. The show was created by Netflix, the DVD distribution company that streams films. Netflix released the entire first season of House of Cards – 13 episodes – on one day. Viewers could watch them one a week or download them all at once. Networks are now finding ways to market television to compete with the ease and flexibility of the many illegal sites that stream movies. Whether you use these streaming sites or not, they are on many people’s minds and are changing the way television networks do business – in this case, for the better.