Although, to the people screaming “sellout!” across social media Tuesday night (Feb. 11), the two seem pretty much the same.
The gist of the plaintive, anguished tweets about Gerwig’s casting boils down to a classic case of film-over-TV snobbery: How dare Gerwig abandon her burgeoning indie-film career — she was a Golden Globe nominee this year for “Frances Ha” and received glowing notices for past work in “Greenberg” and “Lola Versus” — and sully herself in that most commoditized form of entertainment, the network sitcom?
Here’s how: Maybe she, you know, liked the script and wanted to give it a try, with the added bonus of serving as a producer and writer on the show if it goes to series (she co-wrote “Frances Ha” and has several other script credits to her name). Gerwig is free to make her own decisions, and presumably she looked at the creative possibilities, the chance to be part of building the show and yes, the pay, and decided it was a good fit.
The counter-backlash was quick to follow, with thoughtful pieces on Gerwig’s casting at Vulture, at NPR’s Monkey See and elsewhere. What was most revealing, though, about the whole brief firestorm is that the conventional wisdom that the lines between TV and movies are pretty much gone now maybe isn’t so conventional for some.
For starters, “TV” in that context usually means high-end cable shows. Premium channels like HBO and Showtime, ambitious ad-supported channels like FX and AMC and next-gen outlets like Netflix are seen as the gold standard — rightfully so, in most cases — and reap the benefits of that status in terms of both attracting talent and public perception. Broadcast networks, meanwhile, are still the objects of upturned noses and disdainful commentary even among those of us whose job is to watch all of TV.
Again, that’s not without cause in a lot of cases: The business model of network TV demands more product designed to appeal to the widest possible audiences, and that can lead to a flattening of the sharp edges that make the best cable shows so exciting. But the reductive, “all network TV is junk” argument just doesn’t hold anymore, and hasn’t for years.
Some of the backlash is also undoubtedly bound up in feelings for the way “How I Met Your Mother” is ending, with the past few seasons having alienated a number of former fans. “How I Met Your Dad” comes from “HIMYM” creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, yes, but they’ve said more than once that the new show will be largely co-creator Emily Spivey‘s to run.
Here’s the thing, too, about multi-camera comedies: They’re a great gig for an actor in terms of time commitment and ability to pursue other projects. Whatever else you think about “How I Met Your Mother,” you can’t say the cast’s careers have suffered for being on the show. Should “How I Met Your Dad” get picked up, and should it succeed and run on CBS for a few seasons, Gerwig will still have ample opportunity to continue making quirky mumblecore films, or big studio movies, or something in between.
And look on the bright side, indie-film snobs: If “How I Met Your Dad” gets a series order and doesn’t find success, you’ll get to complain anew about how the show wasted Gerwig’s special gifts in about eight or nine months.