Monday, July 01, 2013
As a TV writer, these things stick out for me. And some of them I’m guilty of doing myself. But there are bits of behavior or speech patterns that are frequently used that don’t feel real. And yet, they’re very acceptable on TV although not in real life. Some examples:
Did you ever notice that very few people on television say goodbye when they finish a phone conversation? They just hang up. How much longer would it take to say “Bye” or “See you” or “call me back when you steal the Hope Diamond, thanks?” Wouldn’t you find that rude if people never said goodbye to you? “Bring home the cleaning on your way home.” CLICK.
Characters also tell each other things that are obvious or things they already know. I loved 24 but this always drove me scooters. Jack Bauer calls Chloe to tap into some schematic that will help him find a bomb that will blow up the universe. He calls her four times and always says, “Chloe, hurry! If you don’t find that schematic the world is going to end.” Like if he didn’t remind her she might’ve just gone off and taken her break. I always wanted her to say, “Jack, I KNOW! I’m not a fucking idiot!” But that convention is to remind the viewers that there is a huge imperative involved here and some of them are fucking idiots.
Fellow blogger/writer Earl Pomerantz once pointed out that in every cop show, whenever someone is arrested and put into a police car, one of the cops will always put his hand on the perp's head as he gets in so it shouldn’t hit the door frame. When do people ever do that? When was the last time you grabbed your date’s head and said “get in there!” as you stuffed her into your car? (Okay, last Thursday doesn't count,)
In television, people call each other by name way more than in real life. “Thanks for the staple gun, Sara.” “No problem, Marvin.” If a spouse or parent calls you by name it’s usually means you're in trouble. The next time you’re hanging out with a buddy, make note of how many times you call each other by name during the course of say a five-minute conversation. Once? Maybe. (And “dude” doesn’t count.)
TV women all wear full make-up to bed.
TV women generally have sex with their tops on.
Apartment front doors are usually unlocked. Even in New York.
Whenever a potential suspect is questioned by the police he’s always abrasive and dismissive. Just once I’d like to see one worried. “You’re coming to me? You really think I did it? Why do you think that? Am I in big trouble?” I’d be scared shitless if two detectives from homicide showed up at my front door – even if I didn’t do anything. But on TV, ballet teachers and crossing guards say, “Unless you got an arrest warrant get the hell off my porch.” Or “Yeah, I knew her. I hated the bitch. She ruined my life and stole my money, but I didn’t kill her.” Who tells the cops that and is able to sleep at night?
And then there’s the scenic conversation. Two people discussing or arguing over something while walking around town. The camera cuts from location to location but the conversation continues uninterrupted. Example: Mike & Lisa are strolling through Manhattan. They’re at the Natural Museum. Mike says: “So would you like to go out Saturday Night?” Cut to Central Park. Lisa: “Sure. Wanna see a movie?” Cut to Times Square. Mike: “Great. What do you wanna see?” Cut to the Statue of Liberty. Lisa: “I hear VOLUNTEERS is good.” You get the… (cut to another blog) idea.
These all fall under the heading of creative license and I get that. There are always parking spaces right in front, people always get window tables in restaurants, etc. But it’s like spotting a piece of white lint on a dark suit. You know it’s there, it doesn’t ruin the suit, but it bugs you.
What are your creative license pet peeves?
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM