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BREAKING BAD: NEW MEXICO Probably the most visually stunning piece of television in history, the widescreen expanse of New Mexico gave an otherworldly quality to Vince Gilligan’s story of a chemistry teacher turned meth cook. Shot in 35mm film, the desert scenes are in stark contrast to the claustrophobic indoor shots and give the series an aptly hallucinogenic quality. BLOODLINE: THE FLORIDA KEYS This Netflix sleeper hit won plaudits for its tense depiction of a very dysfunctional Florida Keys family. As impressive as the performance by Ben Mendelsohn were the Keys themselves; the countless inlets and thick swamps holding as many secrets as the Rayburn family does. TRUE DETECTIVE: LOUISIANA The primeval swampland of Louisiana merged with the post-industrial landscape to create an almost fantastic backdrop to this unconventional whodunnit. While Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson won deserved plaudits for their performances, the success of TrueDetective was as much due to its twisted Southern Gothic backdrop. Equally important in this new era of creativity is the rise of the show runner – the one man (or woman) who creates and writes the show. Their insistence on total control has seen them hire Hollywood cinematographers, who have created some of the visually stunning pieces of work ever to see the screen, big or small.
From BreakingBad to Bloodline,MadMen to TrueDetective, television cinematography has never been better, or more important. To illustrate, let’s look at two shows that have bookended the television renaissance. TheWestWing, rst shown in 1999, heralded a new era of smart TV writing (and one of the rst times an A-List movie actor – Martin Sheen – moved from lm to television), but compared to