Looking at previews of the fall cultural season, says A.O. Scott in The New York Times, you have to wonder whether television — once seen as a frivolous, empty medium — has now surpassed film in terms of cultural and popular significance. Although cinema still holds "an Olympian position in the pop culture landscape," the public isn't that involved in it anymore. This summer saw the lowest number of ticket sales since 1997, whereas TV is now intelligent and accomplished enough to "inspire loyal devotion among viewers." Now, many people are looking forward to HBO's line-up more than they are the fall's movie slate. Here's an excerpt:

How many films have approached the moral complexity and sociological density of “The Sopranos” or “The Wire”? Engaged recent American history with the verve and insight of “Mad Men”? Turned indeterminacy and ambiguity into high entertainment with the conviction of “Lost”? Addressed modern families with the sharp humor and sly warmth of “Modern Family”? ...

The traditional relationship between film and television has reversed, as American movies have become conservative and cautious, while scripted series, on both broadcast networks and cable, are often more daring, topical and willing to risk giving offense.

Read the entire article at The New York Times.