Why do TV movies have that cheap "TV Movie" feel to them?

I was watching the bluray of “Christopher Columbus the discovery”, it looks like a TV movie or miniseries (i looked it up and it looks like it isn’t actually a TV movie, but it looks like every TV movie I’ve seen)

But why do TV movies have that ‘cheap’ look to them? I can just tell the fakeness of the Christopher Columbus “bizarre”, but why?

They use video cameras instead of film.

I’m pretty sure it’s the type of film. I’m not sure of the details, but made for tv movies (and even most shows) use a cheaper film to keep costs down. Some tv shows do use movie-quality film, but it’s rare. The only example I’ve seen was ER.

They have less money, and less time to spend on lighting things creatively, on building elaborate sets, or on fancy camera moves, so they tend to fall back on ordinary TV style everything.

Yep. Definitely the lighting design.

But if it’s money (and not skill), why dont they limit the number of locations and spend more money on fewer sets? For the Columbus movie, considered a disaster and Marlon Brando’s worst performance ever, it is very ambitious with scenes in Turkey, (supposedly that is), portugal, spain, blah, blah. Why not cut out part of the movie start out in Spain? It would actually look good then.

I still dont get it.

I don’t much to share on the why but this was my same thought when I saw the X-Files movie from a few years back. It physically looked like a long television episode projected on a movie screen.

Dr. Strangelove’s comments about “frame rate” inthis recent thread seem to be relevant. The thread is ostensibly about 3D, but Dr. Strangelove seems to be talking more about the topic of this thread. I do not know if what he says is right, and it seems a bit weird, but he appears to know what he is talking about.

Because the Christopher Columbus story starts out in Spain.

When directors, especially utilitarian ones who don’t command much salary above scale, first get a hold of a script, they’re determined to do certain parts of the script as much justice as they can with the budget they have, which may compromise other factors, and they have to make decisions on what they think is important to keep and what isn’t.

Every director and producer will make different decisions for different reasons. Some may want great lighting at the expense of great locations, others may want great actors at the expense of fancy camera moves, and still more can be constantly crippled by reductions in budget that what starts out in the first weeks of shooting as going to be a sweeping epic, ends up by week four to be a desperate scramble to get the second half of the film finished before the crew gives up in disgust at not being paid overtime.

This director insisted on including Spain, perhaps because the Government of Spain provided some funds or tax breaks, and also to serve the story he envisioned, but apparently didn’t have enough money for every trick a feature film can employ so had to compromise on things he felt weren’t important.

Kind of an inane question considering the example you use of a TV movie is actually a feature film (…that looks like a TV movie). Ahem…

For a couple of reasons.
The first and most important is that movies are traditionally shoot in 35 mm which gives them that “quality” look. If the movie is less expensive it is shoot in another format but then it is converted into 35 mm because its the most common format available in theaters. Granted, nowadays movies are migrating to digital and I believe in the USA its more common than 35 mm.
Lights, makeup, etc are other reasons.