Stephen Frug wrote in a comment last week, on the subject of the Wire (the comment pull quote does not necessarily have to be from this week):
It seems to me that this whole "watching people change" is one of the thing that well-done serial TV has going for it: showing convincing change because there is time and space and context to do it. It's our cultural equivalent of those long 19th-Century novels; and it fundamentally can show character change in a way extremely difficult to do in the more compressed space of a film, a shorter novel or a graphic novel.
(Comics, as a serial medium, ought to be good at this... but I can't think of any examples that have been; partly because the best comics tend to be shorter runs or unified graphic novels, and long runs just don't sustain their quality long enough. But I'd love counter-examples.)
To this I want to add an observation. There used to be this distinction between the "big screen" of cinema and the "small screen" of television, with "small screen" often being a pejorative. But TV went all wide-screen, and on a lot of high end shows the season or even the series rather than the episode became the main narrative arc. Northern Exposure is all about the episode, 24 about the season, and Lost about the full six-season series (though of course all of these have smaller acts inside them -- even a Northern Exposure episode is broken up into four acts).
As you all know I have a habit, sometimes a bad one, of talking about pop culture in terms of high culture and vice versa. Admittedly this whole analogy could be off. But I used to think of movies as the novels -- sometimes trilogies -- and TV as being like short stories. And like the novel and the short story, I though of movies as having more gravity. But now movies -- even the kind that come in trilogies -- feel small compared to Dickensian fare like The Wire. Movies have become the short story while, as Stephen Frug points out, quality TV has become the 19th century novel.
Pricing is similar, though of course there are exceptions (a 12 dollar movie will be between 76 minutes and two hours and forty minutes). But there still seems to be a formal dissonance: you have to GO OUT to a HUGE SCREEN to see a small story, and you stay in and watch a small screen to see a HUGE story. But then again, maybe that makes perfect sense. You used to go out to see plays which often required unity of time and space, and then could go home and read War and Peace by the fire.
I do not really know what my point is here, except I think it would be an interesting experiment to see a movie theater play a TV show on a big screen in, say, two hour units over 12 days. Especially since we all go the other direction and watch movies meant for the big screen at home, on DVD.