Is it just me or is it sometimes hard to hear what characters are saying on one hour dramas? In an effort to have the dialogue sound more real and natural actors are now starting to mumble. Kiefer Sutherland is either screaming, “Get on your knees! NOW! … or whispering. It’s one thing to whisper during a tender moment or when you don’t want others to overhear but “I’ll drive” can be said in a normal tone.
And I’m not just singling out 24. MAD MEN drove me crazy last season. I could make out maybe 40% of what Peggy said. It’s less bothersome on HOUSE because with all the medical jargon I don’t understand what they’re saying half the time even when they do enunciate.
WEST WING’s signature rapid walk and talk dialogue was fine when Josh was whining about his love life but when the topic was foreign policy in Rwanda I was lost. Take a breath people! Just once.
When I’m watching one of these shows I usually have to pause and go back once or twice to decipher a line. And it really bugs me to rewind three or four times just to learn the actor was saying, “I hear it’s going to rain tonight”.
I blame David Janssen. He played THE FUGITIVE back in the 60s and you never understood what the hell he was saying. He whispered and mumbled and when the scene called for him to really act he stammered. When he saw the one-armed man about to kill his wife he probably could have saved her if the one-armed man could make out that he was yelling, “Stop!” No intruder is going to be scared away by “Shgmmetip!”
And since single-camera shows usually do five to ten takes of every scene, you wonder just how incomprehensible the takes they didn’t use were.
In comedy it is CRUCIAL that the audience hear the lines, both the set up and the punch line. The minute the listener strains to hear dialogue, you’re dead. The Indian guy on BIG BANG THEORY swallows half of his jokes because he says them too fast and has an accent.
My general rule of thumb is: Brando is dead. Say the lines! God knows how many of the laughs I’ve missed on 24.