Television schedules will become “obsolete” as viewers demand instant access to their favourite series through web downloads, the comedy actor Simon Pegg has warned.
The Star Trek and Mission Impossible star said that television dramas like Breaking Bad, which offer a greater depth of characterisation, are luring leading actors away from Hollywood movies.
But broadcasters must accept that viewers will no longer wait a week for the next episode of their favourite cliffhanger drama.
Pegg said: “Television is no longer film’s poorer cousin. I think it’s a place where a lot of the serious acting and great writing is taking place now.”
“But the way we watch TV is definitely changing. The networks have to keep up with that. We are definitely now in the age of (subscription television and film download service) Netflix.”
The British actor, 43, is enjoying the box office success of The World’s End, the conclusion of the “zombie comedy” trilogy which began with Shaun Of The Dead.
The co-creator of Channel 4’s ground-breaking Spaced comedy series is returning to television after filming a pilot for Mob City, a new US drama directed by Frank Darabont, the Shawshank Redemption writer.
“A lot of the serious acting is taking place on TV these days,” he said. “You only have to look at the kind of actors that are working in TV.
“If you’re an actor and you want to live with a character and develop it over the years, that’s definitely something TV offers you.”
Pegg backed Kevin Spacey who told the television executives that web-savvy viewers are demanding greater control over what they watch.
“The idea of serial TV is becoming more and more obsolete in terms of having to wait a whole week to see a drama again and then sit through it with multiple commercial breaks,” Pegg said.
“I watched Breaking Bad episodes on DVD one after the other. It’s only now I’m having to wait on a weekly basis to watch it and it’s the slowest way to way to watch TV.”
“So TV production has to have a rethink. The way we consume TV is changing. In order to keep audiences interested I think the networks have to keep up with how people watch TV.”
The Gloucestershire-born Pegg hopes to make a move into children’s television with Henri Le Worm, an animated cooking series, launched as an iPad app, which he helped devise with chef Raymond Blanc.
“The greatest thing you can do with any kind of art or entertainment is have a personal effect or encourage people to rethink the ideas they have – in this case food and nutrition,” said Pegg, who voices the insect characters.
“Having young children I thought it was a great idea. There is the potential to put behind us the era of processed food and actually start realising the importance of organic food and eating well.”
A sci-fi buff, firmly established as engineer Scotty in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek franchise reboot, Pegg doesn’t want a role in the director’s forthcoming Star Wars Episode VII.
“I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to be in it, to be honest,” he said. “I think J.J. should cast new faces with no stunt casting.”
“I wouldn’t want to be popped out of (enjoyment of) the film by a knowing cameo. I think it would be great to do it properly.”
“When we watched the first Star Wars I didn’t know anybody – even Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing, who were emissaries from a more classical acting world. For me as a kid it was all new faces. I believed every single one of them. I think, let’s not be post-modern about it.”
Disney and Lucasfilm have denied reports that Abrams was close to quitting the project because he didn’t want to relocate his family to Britain to shoot the film. But Pegg said: “J.J. is at the helm at the moment and they’ll be coming over here to start production next year. He understands it better than anybody else and I’m very excited that he’s the man for the job.”
Pegg is urging the Star Trek writers to boldly go and create some new alien life forms when the franchise returns. "We've addressed some of the classic characters and we're just about to start our five-year mission. I'd like to see some new stuff coming up. It would be good to come across some new adversaries and original characters. I think we've established ourselves enough to be able to do that so who knows?”
Pegg is attracted by another sci-fi revival, a third X Files film. Series creator Chris Carter has already indicated that the project is underway and there will be a role for Pegg. “I was a big fan of The X Files and I’ve become friends with Gillian Anderson since,” Pegg said.
“I’ve always loved that show, so, yes, it’s definitely something I’d consider. It’s a great story and it would be nice to see it continue.” The new film “has to be with David Duchovny and Gillian” however.
Pegg has signed up to reprise the role of Benji alongside Tom Cruise for a fifth Mission Impossible film, set for 2015. Is there ever a time to put a long-running franchise to bed?
“It all depends on what the audience want. If the audience wants more then it’s up to us to give them more. But it’s also up to us to give them originality and not just to try to rehash old ideas.”
But the team of Pegg, actor Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright, which produced the “Cornetto trilogy” of zombie films, will one day be reactivated.
“We’ll definitely work together again,” Pegg said. “Whether we link three films or do one-offs I don’t know. The world’s our oyster. We can do something different.”
After bigging up Cornettos, will they name their next enterprise after another member of the Wall’s food family? “I don’t know what company is going to end up being the recipient of such ardent free advertising,” the actor joked.