12 April 2000 | sora-2
Less Is More
What I liked best about the live version of Fail Safe was that the restrictions of live TV forced the filmmakers to concentrate on those two old-fashioned values: acting and writing. Without the opportunity to edit or use fancy visuals, director Stephen Frears was forced to keep his camerawork and pacing crisp, simple, and efficient. As a result, the actors were really allowed an opportunity to shine. Every line of dialogue had to be well-delivered, and every gesture and facial expression had to be meaningful. The absence of music, black and white photography, and slow pacing allowed time to steadily absorb what was going on and churn it about in my mind; and I loved every minute of it.
Admittedly, the story of Fail Safe seems a bit dated in the post Cold War period, and the originally film itself paled in comparison to the similar Dr. Strangelove. But as an experiment in the art of storytelling, it was a triumph. The best qualities of watching a live play married with the television's ability to reach mass audiences.
I'm hoping that this does signal a resurgence in live TV, because it opens up real possibilities for what the medium could be used for. For one, it forces both directors and actors to all be just a little smarter and more alert - no opportunity to fix mistakes. It makes them more self-consciously aware that the folks at home better be entertained or at least interested in what goes on onscreen.
I'm hoping that next CBS or some other network experiments with some original live fare. After all, back in the 50's, live TV produced some great scripts, some of which were re-made into movies (Marty, Requiem for a Heavyweight) and made the careers of people like writer/producer Rod Serling and actors like Paul Newman.