What Was the TV Movie?

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For a while now, we’ve been wanting to do an episode on the curious art form known as the TV movie. For a lot of people, the TV movie couldn’t be less of an art form, the term itself having become a byword for hokey or schlocky storytelling, even long after TV movies were being made in any great number. But why do so many remember these movies vividly for so many years afterward? And what might they have in common with other forms historically regarded as “less than serious,” like the melodrama? And what makes TV movies—including those directed by Steven Spielberg, Robert Altman, and George Cukor, to name a few—different from, just, a movie? Film Comment Editor-in-Chief Nicolas Rapold turns to Soraya Nadia McDonald, culture critic at The Undefeated, and FC contributor Shonni Enelow for help answering the vexing question: What was the TV movie?

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