Television movie

A television movie (also TV movie, TV-movie, made-for-TV movie, telefilm, etc.) is a Film that does not appear in movie theaters but is produced for, and released to, television directly. It is commonly considered a type of movie, but some people restrict the latter term to those that do play in cinemas.

The term "made-for-TV movie" was coined in the USA in the early 1960s as an advertising gimmick to encourage even larger numbers of the cinema-going audience to stay home and watch even more television, on the premise that they were going to see the equivalent of a major, first-run theatrical motion picture in the comfort of their own homes. These events originally filled a 90-minute time slot (including commercials), and later expanded to two hours, and were usually broadcast as a weekly anthology series (ABC Movie of the Week, e.g.). Most TV movies featured big stars, and some even were accorded higher budgets than standard series television programs of the same running time, including major dramatic anthology programs which they came to replace. One very popular and critically aclaimed TV movie was 1971's Duel directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Dennis Weaver. Such was the quality and popularity of Duel it was released to cinemas in Europe, and later the US. However many 1970s TV movies were a source of controversy, like Linda Blair's movies Born Innocent and Sarah T. - Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic, as well as Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway and Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn which were vehicles for former Brady Bunch actress Eve Plumb.

Conversely, many foreign-made entertainment films were imported, dubbed, to the United States for direct syndication as "TV movies", thus adding to the catalogue of titles in this category..

Despite their promise to compete with theatrical films, network-made TV movies in the USA have tended to be inexpensively produced. The stories were written to reach periodic semi-cliffhangers coinciding with the network-scheduled times for the insertion of commercials, and were further managed to fill, but not exceed, the fixed running times allotted by the network to each movie "series". They tended to rely on small casts (vis-a-vis their theatrical counterparts) and a limited range of settings and camera setups. Even Spielberg's Duel, while a well-crafted film, features a very small cast (apart from Weaver, all other acting roles are bit-parts), and mostly outdoors location shooting in the desert. They are typically made by smaller crews and they rarely feature expensive special effects. Some TV movies are notoriously melodramatic, with soap opera style plots; typical plots associated with the genre include "disease of the week" movies, or films about domestic violence. The series of Moment of Truth Movies that run on the Lifetime cable network exemplify these melodramatic tendencies. Certain actresses, such as Valerie Bertinelli and Michele Lee, have been stereotyped as TV actresses due to the number of TV-movies in which they have appeared.

Today the advent of cable television has served to increase the avenues for broadcast of TV movies, as well as their form. Budgets may be higher and the constraints of writing to fill fixed time slots while accounting for commercials have been eliminated on the subscription-based cable stations. Conversely, the spread of the audience for TV-movies among numerous cable channels with a penchant for "original programming", has resulted in lower budgets, lesser-known performers, even cheaper effects and settings, along with the formulaic writing, on commercial-driven channels.

Often a successful series may spawn a TV movie sequel after ending its run, and TV movies may also be used as the first episode of a series, otherwise known as a pilot.

TV movies are often broadcast on major networks during sweeps season, or on cable networks that specialize in producing them such as HBO.

Other countries

The phrase TV movie is not generally used unless the item in question originates in the USA. In British broadcasting it is more common to use phrases such as "single drama", "two-hour-long drama", "feature length drama" or "extended episode" if it is part of a regular series.

See also

TV Specials Direct-to-video fr:téléfilm nl:Televisiefilm


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools