Steven Spielberg has established himself as one of the biggest filmmakers in the history of the medium, known for making widely beloved blockbusters such as Jaws and Jurassic Park among others. Recently, Spielberg received widespread critical acclaim for his remake of West Side Story which nabbed multiple nominations at the Oscars.
Like many iconic directors, Spielberg actually started out by directing episodes for a variety of TV shows. He was initially an unpaid editing intern at Universal Studios but his work impressed the Vice President who hired him to direct one of the segments for the pilot of Night Gallery. While his first directorial assignment wasn’t exactly smooth, he went on to work on other popular shows such as Columbo.
Although Spielberg eventually graduated to bigger projects which gave him the liberty to explore his own artistic concerns, he still maintains that television is a great place to start for aspiring directors. “TV is a good training ground,” he said in an interview. “I think the best writing today is being done for television, with some exceptions in the motion picture side of things.”
During the same session, Spielberg was asked about some of the television shows and artists working on the medium who have influenced him over the course of his career. Responding to that query, the director cited a wide variety of projects ranging from Mad Men to the works of Aaron Sorkin whom he compared to Paddy Chayefsky.
Spielberg revealed: “Anything David Kelley (LAW’83) touches. Aaron Sorkin’s years on The West Wing. This was Paddy Chayefsky–level writing. I love watching cable movies. I love watching network series that are well written. I always watch Mad Men. I watch the new show Southland that John Wells does, which I think is genius.”
After naming these works, Spielberg also spoke about one particular reality show which represents his love for the genre. In fact, he named it as his favourite show among the ones he mentioned because it captured his imagination unlike any other show that he has had the pleasure of watching during his lifetime.
“The other thing is I watch a lot of reality television,” Spielberg admitted. “It’s a guilty pleasure. My favourite show on the air right now is Deadliest Catch.” The Discovery Channel series documents the hardships of crab fishermen who endure extremely hostile environmental conditions in order to do their job.
Upon hearing his answer, Spielberg was also asked about the things he learnt from Deadliest Catch as well as the elements of reality television which he wanted to incorporate into his own work. “The only thought process I have when I’m watching Deadliest Catch is I hope I’m never caught at sea in a storm,” the director responded.