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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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September 23rd, 2013
06:39 PM ET

Why more movie stars are taking their talent to television

If a big name is all it takes, then television networks have never been so well prepared.

This fall, CBS will add actor Robin Williams to the bountiful list of stars pilfered from the big screen for a return to television. Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey are also on that list, they leap onto the small screen this January in HBO's "True Detective."

McConaughey is also preparing to release three full length films, just in case the hugely profitable world of dramatic TV series doesn't work out.

"Good actors want to go where they can tell great stories, and right now, the greatest stories are on TV," said senior editor at Time Magazine Dan Macsai. "These are the kinds of meaty complex characters that you just don't find in a 90-minute blockbuster or sequel."

Whether they are returning to their roots or starting fresh, this year's television stars are creating a buzz as planned, but they are hardly breaking new ground. "House of Cards" and "House of Lies" both star mansion-dwelling former movie men. Meanwhile, actor Steve Buscemi and director Martin Scorscese expanded their talents to create "Boardwalk Empire" years ago.

"When TV executives pay the big money for these actors, these movie actors, what they're really paying for is a built-in fan base, and a proven track record, knowing they can deliver with high-profile performances," said Macsai.

Television is basking in the glow of its recent triumphs, and the networks aren't shy about letting viewers know why they should keep tuning in.

Actor Greg Kinnear is front and center to promote Fox's new series "Rake."

The competition is a bit less subtle about its fancy casting – "Rebel Wilson is coming to television and ABC's got her!" shouts one promo for "Super Fun Night."

So if TV has got all these movie stars, what do the sticky-floored theatres offer?

"Your Brad Pitts, your George Clooneys, your Angelina Jolies – they're still going to be in movies and not on television, because there's something just sort of big and spectacular about the movie-going experience," said Macsai.

"But what they lack is the fact that on TV you can sort of develop a relationship with these characters," said Macsai.

So if viewers want a night out with some jumbo popcorn go ahead, just don't forget to set the DVR to record the shows that will be missed at home.

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