Motion Factory Blog
Industry insights, advice
and general musings
from the Motion Factory Team
Posted by Travis James Annabel
As a writer, TV (broadcast, streaming and cable) has always held a certain attraction for me. It’s a medium which allows you to develop characters and stories that are continually evolving and changing. It’s a medium that, perhaps even more than film, requires a writer to have a deep and emotional understanding of the material and the characters.
Television has historically never had the same kind of money that Film has had at its disposal. As a result, storytelling, character development and writing in general is such an important part in the creating of TV shows. Since The Sopranos changed the television landscape and has largely brought us into a golden age of TV, this has changed a bit. There’s loads more money in TV these days, just look at big budget affairs like Game of Thrones and Westworld. Technology has also reached a point where it’s cheaper and easier to develop realistic special effects, which is also apparent in modern TV.
In a few posts’ time, I’ll be talking about the TV shows that are still running, but for now these shows are all done and dusted. So without further ado, here’s my Top 5 TV Shows that are still running.
5. Sense8 (Netflix)
Even though it only lasted two seasons (with a Netflix film in the works to wrap things up), Sense8 is without a doubt in my mind the best Netflix Original Series so far, and with the calibre of shows that Netflix produces, that’s really saying something. It’s also a credit to the show that upon cancellation, Netflix stressed that it was show’s huge production costs that was the only reason it was cancelled, and then when the fans complained, they agreed to fund and produce a feature length film to finish out the story.
Does it surprise me that it got cancelled? Not at all. This show is filmed ON LOCATION all around the world – Iceland, England, Germany, the US, Korea, India, Africa and Mexico to name just some of the locations. It’s no wonder that production costs were massive.
The thing that makes this show so good can be summed up in one word: Diversity. The locations are diverse, the cast is diverse and the story is all about diversity. How many shows have a main cast that include a gay Mexican man, a transgender woman, an Hindi woman, a Korean woman, and a Kenyan man?
It’s a beautifully shot show, with great performances that is trying to impart a hugely important message – but manages to remain entertaining while doing so.
4. Deadwood (HBO)
Inexplicably, Deadwood only lasted 3 seasons. It was never officially cancelled, they just… stopped making it. It’s a shame too, because Deadwood was an absolutely brilliant show with some of the greatest dialogue in television history.
The incredible dialogue attracted a stellar cast, too. Those watching Deadwood today will find that almost every character that gets any amount of screen time is played by a recognisable actor (although the wild-west period nature of the show will render many of them unrecognisable).
Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane do brilliant jobs leading the cast, and the production values ensure it’s a very pretty show to look at. It’s a testament to the quality of the show that even still there is talk of a continuation in one form or another, over a decade on from when it finished.
3. The Sopranos (HBO)
The Sopranos is the show that turned television on its head. It proved that a television show could have film-like production values and performances, and still to this day is rightfully considered one of the best shows ever made.
It also proved that an anti-hero could be an engaging main character. James Gandolfini is nothing short of sublime in his defining role as Tony Soprano. He’s not the only one, either. The entire cast of The Sopranos is incredible.
The themes the show tackles are confronting, whether it’s drug addiction, mental illness, or the violence of organised crime, and it’s a credit to the writers that it is rarely anything but engaging. It’s the kind of show you could binge watch in an entire week because it keeps you that interested. Perhaps the best part about the writing, is that it is void of unnecessary exposition. There’s a lot that the writers simply refuse to explain, and this forces the audience to fill in the gaps with their own imagination. The series finale is the perfect example of this. There is no other show whose finale could smash cut to black mid-scene and still be considered one of the best finales of all time. The fact that to this very day, the significance of that smash cut to black is debated is a testament to the brilliance of the show.
2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
As soon as I heard the premise of Breaking Bad, I knew I would love it. A high-school chemistry teacher gets diagnosed with terminal cancer, and turns to cooking meth to make money for his family. It’s a brilliant concept supplemented by equally brilliant performances; Bryan Cranston’s intense performance as Walter White scored him Emmy Awards for four out of the show’s five years, while supporting actors Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn scored another three and two Emmys respectively between them.
But perhaps the thing that makes Breaking Bad so good is the stellar writing. The narrative never once takes a misstep, and while I personally think the series finale was perhaps the weakest part of the show, it was critically acclaimed by so many.
For me, the brilliance of the show is perfectly summed up in a single episode – the season 4 finale “Face Off” (Wait till you see the true meaning behind that title – it’s horrifically brutal), where Walter goes from being a redeemable man who made some bad choices to being revealed as a true anti-hero, and a man who will stop at nothing to win.
1. Six Feet Under (HBO)
The key theme of this show is death. After all, the main cast is populated by a family of undertakers. But for a show about death, Six Feet Under has so much life. Every episode features a cold open that shows the death of a one-off (usually) character. And somehow each death weaves in the primary theme to the episode – it’s brilliantly conceptualised and written.
The main characters are all flawed human beings, all very realistically written and portrayed. Standout performances come from Lauren Ambrose and Michael C. Hall (who would later go on to play the titular serial killer in Dexter). In fact, I personally think that Ambrose’s performance as the youngest member of the Fisher clan is perhaps one of the best performances in television, and hugely underrated.
Perhaps the pinnacle of the series is its breathtaking series finale. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but it features a montage at the end that is incredibly fitting, and equal parts beautiful and heartbreaking. It’s no wonder that it’s widely considered to be the best series finale in television history. Do yourself a favour, and check out Six Feet Under… it is nothing short of incredible.
Producer, videographer, editor - Motion Factory's Director of Photography has a huge passion for film making.
Travis james annabel
Filmmaking has been a passion of Trav's for as long as he can remember.