Learning lighting from watching TV

I learn something new every week about lighting by watching the three best shows currently running on television ( although one has just been cancelled).

1.The best show on television right now, in regards to storytelling, acting and best of all production values, is Justified, on FX. Based on a character invented by Elmore Leonard, the best mystery writer I have ever read, it follow the exploits of a US Marshall in Harlan County, KY. Raylan Givins, played by Timothy Oliphant travels through the show each week, shooting bad guys and seducing, and getting seduced, by beautiful women. The bad guys are amazing, especially Margo Martindale, who won an Emmy last year, and the incomparable Walton Goggins (Shane from the Shield), playing an old high school buddy of Raylan, who is alternately good and evil (sometimes in the same scene). The show is so beautifully filmed and lit that I find myself taking notes about lighting techniques, sometime stopping the DVR and rewinding to make drawings of where the light is coming from and trying to figure out how they do it.

2. Boss, which just completed it’s season, stars the amazing Kelsey Grammer as a corrupt mayor of Chicago, who is also dying of an incurable ailment. The camera work is exceptional- almost every scene is shot from an unusual angle with more extreme close-ups than any other show on television. The tension that is built from a full frame half of a face is fabulous. The occasional gratuitous female nudity is kind of fun also!

3. Prime Suspect, on NBC, is so good that, of course it has already been cancelled! Maria Bello and Aiden Quinn star in this great NYC police drama. The lighting and photography are amazing, matching lighting to the vibe of the scene (harsh lighting for interrogation chambers, soft lighting for high end murder scenes) It is mostly shot in muted earth tones, and New York at night takes on an otherworldly look. The acting is great, with just the right amount of humor to break up the sadness. Maybe a cable network will pick it up and save it.

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