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Television movie


Television movie

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A television movie (also known as a TV film, TV movie, TV-movie, feature-length drama, made-for-TV movie, movie of the week (MOTW or MOW), single drama, telemovie, telefilm, or two-hour-long drama) is a film that is produced for and originally distributed by a television network.


Origins and history

The term "made-for-TV movie" was coined in the United States in the early 1960s as an advertising gimmick to encourage even larger numbers of the cinema-going audience to stay home and watch television, on the premise that they were going to see the equivalent of a major, first-run theatrical motion picture in the comfort of their own homes. The first of these made-for-TV movies is generally acknowledged to be See How They Run, which debuted on NBC on 7 October 1964. The Killers, starring Lee Marvin, was filmed as a made for TV movie, although it was decided to be too violent and switched to cinema release instead.

These events originally filled a 90-minute time slot (including commercials), later expanded to two hours, and were usually broadcast as a weekly anthology series (for example, the ABC Movie of the Week). Most TV movies featured major stars, and some were accorded even higher budgets than standard series television programs of the same length, including the major dramatic anthology programs which they came to replace.

Today the advent of cable television has served to increase the number of venues for the broadcast of TV movies as well as their form. Budgets may be higher and the constraints of writing to fill fixed-time slots while accounting for commercials have been eliminated on the subscription-based cable stations. Conversely, the dispersal of the audience for TV-movies among numerous cable channels with a penchant for "original programming" has resulted in lower budgets, lesser-known performers, and even cheaper effects and settings, along with formulaic writing, on commercial-driven channels. Some networks have also recently streched the definition of a "TV movie" as counting what would normally be a hour long special, as a movie.

Notable examples

One very popular and critically acclaimed TV movie was 1971's Duel directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Dennis Weaver. Such were the quality and popularity of Duel that it was released to cinemas in Europe and later the US. Another was Brian's Song, which also saw theatrical release. However, many 1970s TV movies were a source of controversy, such as Linda Blair's movies Born Innocent and Sarah T. - Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic, as well as Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway and Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn, which were vehicles for former Brady Bunch actress Eve Plumb.

Often a successful series may spawn a TV movie sequel after ending its run, and TV movies may also be used as the first episode of a series, otherwise known as a pilot. For example, the 4-hour miniseries Battlestar Galactica, orginally aired on the SciFi channel in December 2003 became a television series beginning in 2005. With high ratings, executives for the SciFi channel greenlighted the weekly series for full production and is currently in its 3rd season.

TV movies are often broadcast on major networks during sweeps season or on cable networks that specialize in producing them such as Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, and HBO.

There are also TV movies known as "reunion movies," which bring back the cast of TV series. These include:

Return to Mayberry
Dynasty: The Reunion
Mary and Rhoda
A Very Brady Christmas
The Growing Pains Movie
Growing Pains: Return of the Seavers

Production and quality

Despite their promise to compete with theatrical films, network-made TV movies in the USA have tended to be inexpensively-produced and low quality. The stories are written to reach periodic semi-cliffhangers coinciding with the network-scheduled times for the insertion of commercials; they are further managed to fill, but not exceed, the fixed running times allotted by the network to each movie "series". The movies tend to rely on small casts and a limited range of settings and camera setups. Even Spielberg's Duel, while a well-crafted film, features a very small cast (apart from Weaver, all other acting roles are bit-parts) and mostly outdoors shooting locations in the desert. The movies are typically made by smaller crews, and they rarely feature expensive special effects. Some TV movies are notoriously melodramatic, with soap opera style plots; typical plots associated with the genre include "disease of the week" movies or films about domestic violence. The series of Moment of Truth Movies that run on the Lifetime cable network exemplify these melodramatic tendencies. Certain actresses, such as Valerie Bertinelli, Michele Lee and Nancy McKeon, have been stereotyped as TV actresses due to the number of TV-movies in which they have appeared.

TV movies often follow specific naming conventions. For example, the title of many biographical films consist of a dramatic phrase, followed by "The [Firstname] [Surname] Story". Examples of this naming format include Love and Betrayal: The Mia Farrow Story, and Fight for Justice: The Nancy Conn Story.

See also

Home | Up | Movies genres | Buddy film | Disaster movie | Exploitation film | Fictional documentaries | Heist film | Jidaigeki film | Pornographic film | Propaganda film | Road movie | Romantic comedy film | Teen film | Television movie | Tokusatsu | Zen movies | Film clichés

Movies, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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