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Old 26-04-2008, 10:07 PM   #1
Dr Kane
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Default When can you call a series a 'classic'?

I've mentioned 'Life on Mars' a few times here, because I rate it very highly indeed. Is it a 'classic', though? How does a TV series become considered a 'classic' - not just 'LOM', but any show?

Obviously the series has to be of high quality, but to me the term also implies the passage of time.

I don't think 'classic' = 'cult': to me, 'cult' suggests a lack of broad appeal, but I'd argue 'classic' shows are/were enormously popular, e.g. 'Dad's Army'.

There's a story - probably apocryphal - of a judge presiding over an obscenity trial who was asked to define 'p0rnography'. He replied: 'I can't define it, but I know it when I see it'. Does that apply in this case?
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Old 27-04-2008, 01:45 AM   #2
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Hmmm, it's difficult to define, but, perhaps, a true classic film or series is one that contains so many ideas fundamental to it's basic theme, and that have been explored and depicted so well, that others of it's ilk pale in comparison of depth, maturity and overall vision.
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Old 27-04-2008, 01:54 AM   #3
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I think a classic is a film that most people know and most people like and/or is memorable as a result. I would suggest that multiple viewings doesn't lessen the affection people have for it.
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Old 27-04-2008, 02:19 AM   #4
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It is usually much greater than the sum of its parts, and often has a unquantifiable quality that simply is.
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Old 27-04-2008, 02:28 AM   #5
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Something that stands as an archetype of it's genre. Trek comes to mind for SF, of course. But in others, there is, say Perry Mason. Never to be equalled, and unmistakeable as anything else. The Avengers, or The Prisoner, in their own genrae. Unique, and impossible to truly "remake". They also continue to attract and delight, even decades after they were made, and TV/movies have changed radically, not always for the better.
These things go into what makes up a "classic".
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Old 27-04-2008, 04:04 AM   #6
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Thoughtful replies and sound arguments - thanks for mulling this over with me!
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Old 27-04-2008, 11:52 AM   #7
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Interestingly, classics often age and are forgotten as new generations emerge. The Fred Astaire, Ginger Rodgers movies are classics, but many people of my wife's generation (Y) haven't even heard of them. It will be interesting to see how many "classics" remain so. Star Wars (Ep4) will probably do so, but many others won't. Even 2001 is a closed book to many people. My brother, who is a scifi literature freak, found it to be one of the most boring and pretentious movies he'd ever seen. (I think he's nuts... but that's another story )
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Old 27-04-2008, 12:37 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony42 View Post
Interestingly, classics often age and are forgotten as new generations emerge. The Fred Astaire, Ginger Rodgers movies are classics, but many people of my wife's generation (Y) haven't even heard of them. It will be interesting to see how many "classics" remain so. Star Wars (Ep4) will probably do so, but many others won't. Even 2001 is a closed book to many people. My brother, who is a scifi literature freak, found it to be one of the most boring and pretentious movies he'd ever seen. (I think he's nuts... but that's another story )
I, Claudius is a classic series in my book. Not a cult though. As has already been mentioned, The Avengers and The Prisoner are definite cult series, which although products of their time have an appeal which will continue to last way into the future.

Also a series isn't a cult series just because the makers want it to be. The makers of a show do not determine whether something reaches cult status - viewers do. You can't say "I'm going to make a cult series" - you make a show and the cult bit happens later.

The movie of 2001 is exceptionally overrated IMHO. Listening to a reading of the book I found it much more approachable. Sure the look and feel of the hardware is good but that's about all it has going for it in my view. And with a classic rock soundtrack it would be better.

*ducks and runs for cover*
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Old 27-04-2008, 01:15 PM   #9
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You and my brother. I rather like it, though the long sequence at the end while we eat mushrooms before entering the hotel kinds of has me reaching for the fast forward. Otherwise, good stuff.
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Old 28-04-2008, 07:12 AM   #10
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I'd say a series is a classic when you can rewatch it without boredom or critisism. It survives because of its originality and character, with such high quality performances and storytelling that would be difficult to repeat or replicate again.Its also generally held in high regard by a majority of people, not the small fan base of a cult.
I, Claudius is a perfect example. I'd say BSG (the new series) will fall into that catagory. The cast, quality of effects and story lines are totally compelling.Series 4 so far is just astonishingly good.
Life on Mars (The first series ) is the same for the same reasons, though the current one is defenitely not.
Episodes within series fall into that bracket as well.I would not say "Lost " is classic TV but within the first series, the episode when John Locke is suddenly revealed to have been a cripple was stunning.
Space 1999 is similar. One or two episodes were just unforgetable. Dragons Domain gave me the shock of my life as a kid.I had nightmares for days after it.Doctor Who had standout progs that were also very strong and therefore classic Who.
A classic may therefore be something so stylish, so complete and outstanding it will be very hard to better again.
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Old 02-05-2008, 05:52 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony42 View Post
Interestingly, classics often age and are forgotten as new generations emerge. The Fred Astaire, Ginger Rodgers movies are classics, but many people of my wife's generation (Y) haven't even heard of them. It will be interesting to see how many "classics" remain so. Star Wars (Ep4) will probably do so, but many others won't. Even 2001 is a closed book to many people. My brother, who is a scifi literature freak, found it to be one of the most boring and pretentious movies he'd ever seen. (I think he's nuts... but that's another story )
He's quite right, re 2001.
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Old 02-05-2008, 07:26 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Known Space View Post
Life on Mars (The first series ) is the same for the same reasons, though the current one is defenitely not.
You're referring to 'Ashes to Ashes'? I ain't seen it, but my Spidey-sense tells me they should have left well alone.
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Old 04-05-2008, 12:55 AM   #13
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I always think of a cult show as something that everyone knows about but hasn't nessacirilly seen or was popular when made like the prisoner or kolchak or buckaroo banzai (am I the only one that likes this movie), where as I think of something as classic that is well known now and as something that was big when it was out and has not died off like star trek, star wars or the classic monster movies. but you do have some that fill both boxes like blakes 7 space 1999, thunderbirds etc
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