Film is full of some pretty impressive single-take, long tracking shots. Touch of Evil, Oldboy, Goodfellas— these are shots we remember. They’re insanely rewarding for an audience, putting us right in the heart of the action, but are usually incredibly difficult to pull off. Television, with its generally lower budget and faster turnaround, tends not to attempt such crazy feats quite as often. But when it does, boy does it (usually, sometimes, maybe, if they’re lucky) pay off. Here are eight crazy impressive times TV took a shot at the long shot.
8. How I Met Your Mother, “Ten Sessions”
This isn’t a particularly impressive shot technically, but Ted’s two minute date is impressive as hell.
7. Basically everything Aaron Sorkin has ever done.
He may be a Douche Master of the Supreme Order, but the man knows his way around a walk and talk. In lieu of posting every episode of The West Wing, here’s some ping pong dialogue.
6. The Office, “Nepotism”
5. Band of Brothers, “Why We Fight”
For the episode that ends with the liberation of a concentration camp, it’s fitting to begin with a two-minute tracking shot, showing us the aftermath of war, the destruction of this town, never allowing us to look away. All set to Beethoven, of course. I couldn’t find an embeddable clip, but you can watch it here.
4. Scrubs, “My Student”
It reportedly took Donald Faison more than 20 takes to sink the basket in this opening scene. Worth it.
3. X-Files, “Triangle”
This episode follows Mulder, who is trapped on an ocean liner in 1939 after a Bermuda Triangle mishap, and Scully, working in the present to get him back. Each part is shot to look like two long takes: one in the past and one in the present, with a wholly satisfying split screen in the third act.
The X-Files Season 06 Episode 03 - Triangle by mutterz
2. True Detective, “Who Goes There”
One of the greatest scenes in television history. Cary Fukunaga elevated an already impressive series to pure art with this one scene.
1. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, “Charlie Work”
Was this entire post just an excuse to talk about last week’s episode of It’s Always Sunny? Yes, yes it was. Did you SEE that episode? The entire thing was one long tracking shot (with some tricksy edits), with Charlie driving a manic farce with a skill that deserves all the Emmys. Every single one. Like, even for sound editing and costume design. Just give him all the awards.