If there’s one phrase that has defined the conversation around TV’s evolution over the past 10 years, it’s this one: “It’s not a TV show, it’s a [BLANK]-hour movie.” It’s a line that’s been trotted out far too many times since the beginning of the 21st century — a line spoken most often by television creators who still see the label of television as a stigma.

This is why the new emerging trend we’re seeing in 2023 is at least the Alanis sort of ironic — the transformation of a previously existing movie into a limited series. Just this month, we’ve got two notable examples: AMC premiered a re-edit of this year’s Blackberry, stretching the invention of the communication device into a three-episode odyssey, while Baz Luhrmann re-edited his 2008 epic romance Australia into the six-episode Faraway Downs, streaming now on Hulu.

Both are very different projects created for different reasons. In the case of Blackberry, the true-life tale had been developed initially as a series, before the creative team decided to produce both versions this year, using the same footage. Faraway Downs, meanwhile, came about after Luhrmann began revisiting his Australia footage, while on a break from making 2022’s Elvis following Tom Hanks’ COVID diagnosis.


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Yet both are reflections of the ongoing blurring between film and television, a dilemma of the streaming age that gets more complicated with each new example. With the unlimited real estate that broadband offers, a show is no longer beholden to strict episode runtimes, while movies can stretch on well past the point of any human bladder’s capacity. Coming soon to Apple TV+: Ridley Scott’s Napoleon, all four hours of it. However, these re-edits feel predicated by the premise that because a story is longer, it by default will be better. And that is so rarely the case.

Examples of this trend don’t begin in 2023, but stretch back far longer: One under-the-radar “extended edition” released episodically was Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight — oddly, the most contained of Tarantino’s projects became the one targeted for a four-episode series, which first premiered on Netflix in 2019.

Not to mention Zack Snyder’s Justice League. While the famed #SnyderCut was presented as one single part, the film does feature title cards breaking it up into parts, meaning it’s possible to watch it as an episodic experience. And those chapter breaks are actually pretty effective, too, in terms of splitting up the narrative in consumable chunks; ranging from 28 to 43 minutes, at the very least they’re honestly more consistent in length than a lot of Disney+ series.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (HBO Max)


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