Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Who's in the mood for a good rant?

I’m glad to know it’s not just me.

At first I thought my hearing was going. More and more now I’m having trouble deciphering what actors are saying on TV dramas. To my ear they’re mumbling.

I find myself rewinding and listening to speeches two or three times trying to glean at least the gist of what they’re saying. I should not have to worry about getting a stiff neck from craning while watching a TV show. But like I said, I wondered if it meant hearing loss. Did that deafening Who concert in 1969 finally come back to bite me? Was it watching that YouTube video of Roseanne mangling the National Anthem that did it?  (That video might explain any eyesight loss as well.) 

But lately other people have mentioned in conversation that they too are struggling with mush mouth actors. A few say they now watch shows with the closed caption feature turned on. There’s something wrong when you need subtitles for shows in your own language.

One of the reasons I never got into THE WIRE (yes, I know it’s supposed to be great) is that, in addition to being told I need to sit through season long slumps, I need to activate the closed captions. Sorry. Not worth my time and effort. There will be other great shows… spoken in my native tongue.

And the really annoying thing is that this mumbling usually comes when explaining a key plot point. So without it I’m confused for the next ten minutes.

Do directors and actors think this makes their shows more realistic or layered? For INTERSTELLAR, director Christopher Nolan purposely drowned out some dialogue with music, saying it was an artistic choice to make the dialogue “impressionistic.” What the fuck? Stop trying to be a visionary and start being a storyteller.

In comedy, I am a stickler for actors clearly saying their lines. If the audience doesn’t hear the line they don’t get the joke. Why sacrifice good laughs because the actor thinks he’s Don Corleone?

When I direct theater pieces I always go to the back row and make sure I can plainly hear the dialogue. The actors have to project. Even when the script calls for them to whisper.

What I don’t understand is this: TV dramas today are lavish affairs. The production values are extraordinary. Even series on cable channels I’ve never heard of and most people can’t get. All that money is spent on scope and special effects and eye-popping cinematography and it doesn’t mean shit if the audience can’t make out the dialogue. Again, what’s the most important aspect of any dramatic endeavor – storytelling. Anything that enhances the storytelling is a good thing. Anything that detracts is bad.

So if I may use the written equivalent of shouting:

STOP MUMBLING!

70 comments :

Matt said...

Mumbling can sometimes be part of the joke. I don't think I understood a single thing Brad Pitt said in Snatch and it was hilarious.

Gary said...

Completely agree - and a companion rant is when the show plays background music over the dialogue making it difficult to understand.

littlejohn said...

Amen brother, amen

Jerod Butt said...

Or you know, provide closed captioning and/or subtitles on the DVDs. If Shout! can do it, Mill Creek can. I hate that the WINGS set was a wast of money because of a lack of CC/SDH.

I walked out (unintentionally) on a producrion of Noel Coward's HAY FEVER. I couldn't hear anything, except, "Mother, darling, do shut up." So the next play I went to, I got a script in order to read along. I was sitting in the first few rows of a smaller college theatre.

Duncan Randall said...

No, you're not alone: http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/speak-up-how-mumble-acting-is-ruining-tv-and-film-20170201-gu2u5j.html

"Well, directors can't have it both ways. If their creative vision includes characters in underlit rooms muttering unintelligible dialogue, with digitally-added car horns for "grittiness", that's fine. But are they cool with us blocking part the lower part of the screen with ugly text? And reading captions instead of the actors' expressions?"

Pat Reeder said...

Hear, hear! (Pun intended.)

My wife lost the hearing in one ear due to a medical procedure, and she often has trouble understanding conversations, especially when there are a lot of other noises or talking mixed in. I've had to get used to watching things with the captions on because of her. But my hearing is perfect, and I often finding myself rewinding something over and over before giving up and turning the CC on because it's impossible to understand otherwise.

I think this all started with Michael Cimino mixing in so many SFX in "Heaven's Gate" that they drowned out the dialogue, which he thought was "authentic." Why in the world anyone would want to emulate "Heaven's Gate" is a question for another blog post.

Joel Keller said...

When we have Netflix on, we always have to crank up the volume on the TV because *everyone* on *every* show mumbles or speaks in whispers. It's hard to maintain realism when you can't hear what anyone is saying.

Mark said...

It's supposed to be part of the acting craft that you speak loudly enough to be heard, and clearly enough to be understood, without making a noticeable effort to do either one. I'm thinking of somebody like Strother Martin, who could play a mushmouth cracker and still make his every word clearly intelligible.

Pidge said...

This takes me back to when I attended a viewing of "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" with my dad, a big fan of The Western genre. He claimed he couldn't understand a word anyone was saying! I'm pretty good at 'hearing' mumbles and decoding accents, having been a high school English teacher and Canadian, frequently exposed to many varieties of lingo and jargon in my day. I was able to decode "The Wire" and occasionally found myself talking like a Baltimore drug dealer. Lately, however, I do find myself rewinding G of T to catch major plot points mumbled by the actors.
In general, I find people don't make an effort to enunciate these days. It's not a 'thing'!

Ralph C. said...

Is your issue different than what was done in some of Hitchcock's movies, where the dialogue was muted or obscured?

Aaron Sheckley said...

You're not alone. I find that I have to turn on the captions on a lot of movies, and there's nothing wrong with my hearing. Part of it is mushmouthed actors (is this the new version of method acting, because "real people" don't enunciate clearly?), and part of it is incredibly bad sound mixing. It's fine to use imagery instead of dialog to further a plot, but if the dialog is critical to be able to make sense of what's going on, then for the love of Jeebus, make it intelligible!

This isn't a rant, Ken, it's a valid criticism. If I have to turn up the volume to 8 in order to hear what's being said, and then get blown out of my chair when the director decides that now is the time to emphasize his crappy choice for a rap soundtrack, then it's not inventive storytelling, it's just poor directing decisions.

Terry said...

Ken, I don't know who told you about a season-long slump or needing subtitles for The Wire, but they were dead wrong. I watched the whole series without experiencing either and it was amazing. The only issue I had was season 2 started off with some different characters and a different setting than season 1 and it took some time to see how those things tied into the characters from the first season so it was a little jarring at first. But season long slump? Whoever told you that doesn't know what they are talking about.

Steve Bailey said...

You might be surprised to know that this is not a new phenonemon. Back in the '70s, there was a lovely, quarterly film publication called Time Out. I cannot recall the author, but there was a particular essay at the end of one issue in which one critic complained about how much of the dialogue in late-'70s movies was similarly unintelligible. I think the author cited Freebie and the Bean as one example.

Ken Copper said...

Absolutely correct! I even reached the point where I made an appointment to have my ears checked as I too logged many years wearing "cans" as a radio reprobate. Imagine my surprise when my ears were deemed "just fine" by the audiologist. Actors need to help us out by SPEAKING UP. Who cares if you look good doing it, if we can't follow the story because of your mush mouth it won't be long before we start looking for Leave It to Beaver re-runs. By the way, the "Beav" is far more compelling than "I'm Dying Up Here".

blinky said...

I hear you!

Pete Grossman said...

Agreed Ken!

Recently heard from a sound editor that often the recording quality of a voice lately has been poor and because of time crunches is unable to tweak it because there are some many instances like this. There also appears to be no time for looping on a TV show, so this may be part of the problem as well. Which really sucks.

Roseann said...

I too have had the problem of not hearing what the actor is saying (usually at a very important plot point). I've resorted to Closed Captioning. It's just easier than trying to fight the system. I started using subtitles for British TV shows because I just couldn't wrap my brain around the British accents. Now I use subtitles for EVERYTHING.
I guess what really bothers me is because I have been on Episodic TV sets and remember when the sound mixer could call a take good or ruined by a bus or some other errant noise. Then we would reshoot. Those days are long gone. One and done and no one really cares about the quality of the sound.
I'm also surprised that so many shows with noisy, clapping, cheering audiences make it so hard to hear the presenters. Presenters, crowds and others are all on separate mic channels. How hard is it to lower the crowd noises and make the presenters a bit louder? Not hard I would believe.
I have gone so far as to have a hearing test and yes, I do need assistance but the things I'm listing here really have no connection to my hearing problem.
And that's my rant.

Grae said...

I had a similar rant just the other day about music. Anymore, I can't understand most of what's being sung because it seems like enunciation has been thrown to the wayside.

My rant was prompted by thinking that Adele was singing "Water under the breech." I get that she wants to show off her voice, but switching vowels to ones that are easier to sing isn't the way to do it. Could you imagine Simon and Garfunkel crooning about a breedge over troubled water?

Or, my favorite story on this -- my husband came home one day saying that the music station they use at work kept playing an annoying song with the chorus "patio tuna fish." He knew that it wasn't what the singer was actually saying, but couldn't figure out what the real words were -- it simply sounded exactly like "patio tuna fish."

We researched the heck out of that song, desperately trying to figure out what it was, and eventually discovered that the song was "Right Through Me" by Nicki Minaj. And "patio tuna fish" was actually her slurring through "how do you do that sh**."

Yeah, I like "patio tuna fish" much better.

But in any case, if someone has a message to say, whether it's through song or through a TV show, it's a good idea to enunciate. Creativity is great, but not at the expense of making your audience think you're a breech over a patio tuna fish.

Kirk said...

The argument goes it's naturalistic, people talking just like they do in real life.

Except in real life, I can usually understand what people are saying.

Rory Wohl said...

Oh, Ken, what's next, you shouting at the neighbor kids, "Get off my lawn"?

Actually, I completely agree with you. What's worse is the mumbling in "Masterpiece Mystery" is in a British accent. I can now find my closed captioning button without even looking at the remote,

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

Truth be told, this is a recurring problem in HOUSE OF CARDS, for any scene that doesn't include its scenery-chewing protagonist. Everyone else is dialed down.

But as for THE WIRE, all I can say is whoever told you that show had season long slumps was outright lying. There's not one episode of that show that feels dragged out. We're not talking about Netflix here. Every single episode, every single scene moves the story in some shape or form, and every side character contributes in a meaningful fashion. It is still the best example of serialized storytelling there is on television.

If you haven't watched it yet, I can assure you will not regret a single minute of its 60 episode run.

Glenn said...

I'm with you, Ken. My pet peeve is whispering scenes, like when two characters are hiding in the closet from the axe-wielding psycho. There is a page of dialogue but you can't hear any of it, even with the volume maxed out.

Unknown said...

Mblshl fshiknda.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

There have been a lot of complaints about this in Britain, too. I forget which ones, but several highly regarded and high-profile series have been the subject of just this sort of rant. It would note that it also applies to younger singers - I know voice teachers who spend a lot of time on this. I have some theories:

1. Today's actors/singers do not grow up performing acoustically. They think the amplification will do all the work for them. I've seen this a lot on the folk scene, where it really gets me, given the number of singer-songwriters. Why bother writing lyrics if you're not going to communicate them?

2. They also don't grow up, by and large, performing classical music. I learned serious enunciation in college when the choral director for our Gilbert & Sullivan productions took the view that every person should be able to understand every single word of the *choruses* from the back of the 900-seat auditorium.

3. They copy the people they admire, who increasingly are mumblers.

wg

Stoney said...

I haven't really noticed anyone on series TV that mumbles badly but Rupert Grint in the Harry Potter films (after his voice changed) gets away with the worst mushing I've ever heard. Someday he should be cast as Keith Richards!

What do you think Boomhauer?

Jeff Maxwell said...

So good to hear I'm not alone. I thought it was my speaker system or some clever base/treble adjustment I'm not clever enough to figure out. Although, I wonder how many here are over 39? My hearing test did reveal some "damage" to my hearing, making tones in certain ranges difficult for me to understand. Doc assured me I'm normal for being over 39, and nothing other than turning up the volume needed to be done.

In defense of mumbling actors and sloppy sound editors, I do think there is a television speaker quotient to the problem. If you're not an audiophile with customer tweeters and woofers all over your walls, the speakers on most flat screen televisions are the size of Kit Kat bars.

I never miss a tone on MASH.

littlejohn said...

Ken,

Not about this subject, but stumbled across this article on Kelsey Grammar and figured you had not seen it since it came from Fox ...:-)


http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2017/08/15/kelsey-grammer-reflects-on-last-tycoon-and-frasier-need-to-work.html

Peter said...

As John Travolta might say about today's post:

Kevin Levinson is right!

Unknown said...

Yeah. The same. It's closed captions all the way, although some shows I have no problem. Happy to hear others have the same problem. Used to be I only needed CC during Elementary where they do speak very, very softly, but now it's with many drama shows. Oddly, not with most comedies or news shows. But I did think it's a combo of mulling, low volume to make it "realistic" and a whole bunch of bad hearing, too.

suesea7 said...

Glad it's not just me! I didn't like Moonlight for this very reason, and Manchester by the Sea was much the same. As for The Wire, it is wonderful. I don't remember any problems with understanding dialog, and the only season with a slump is the one where the focus is on newspapers, which is the last season, I think - and which I enjoyed. If you haven't seen Treme, about New Orleans after Katrina, it is well worth watching too. David Simon focuses on characters - and one is a doozy of a DJ you might like.

Sue in Seattle

Anonymous said...

I second that.
Cheers
Dave

Max said...

"For INTERSTELLAR, director Christopher Nolan purposely drowned out some dialogue with music, saying it was an artistic choice to make the dialogue “impressionistic.”

Ohhh.... No No Ken. You can't question the "GENIUS" Nolan !!!!!!!!!!!


"What the fuck? Stop trying to be a visionary and start being a storyteller."

Superbly said :D :D :D

Nolan believes in his own greatness, created by his Fanboys on net. So he never hires a good screenwriter to writes some decent dialogues. He wants all credit to himself or sometimes shares it with his baby brother. And those dialogues are so crappy that studio executives ask Zimmer to drown them out with church organ and his other assorted crap.

Remember the same executives had complained to Nolan that none of Bane's dialogues could be heard and one mole had snitched this meeting info to the press. Soon Nolan was bawling threatening to leave WB and so the execs had the mole fired.

Waiting for your snarky rant on Nolan's crappy dialogues in Dunkirk, where Branagh keeps mumbling "home, home, home" throughout the movie. That actually constitutes half the dialogues of that crap fest.

A website on screen writing, has seriously suggested that Nolan set aside his ego and hire a good writer from now on.

Anonymous said...

Methinks you've touched a nerve today.

My wife is on a mission to make me crazy sometimes--she never reads but listens to a ton of audio books. Then, when she watches TV, she moots it and turns on the closed captioning. Just wrong to read TV and listen to books.

I took a more technological solution. I ditched the home theater system and replaced it with a Zvox sound base. Zvox has a dialog emphasis feature that I use all the time--it helps pull the dialog out of the background. Have no idea how it works--may be magic or voodoo or something--but I really like it and it really does help.

Buttermilk Sky said...

It's probably age, but I have trouble with high-pitched voices, like Melissa Rauch on THE BIG BANG THEORY. I know her Bernadette voice is not her natural voice, and I wish she would bring it down a couple of notes. I'd love to know what the studio audience/laugh track is convulsed by.

blinky said...

Totally chuffed about Peaky Blinders but I need the Closed-Captioning due to the fact they are apparently speaking English.

Andy Rose said...

Okay, I guess I'll be the one person here to defend Ken about The Wire. It was very hard for me to understand, both because of the way people talked, and the way David Simon would toss in new characters and terminology without any effort to explain what was going on. I understand trying to get away with the minimum amount of exposition possible, but really, I need *something* to go on.

I was lucky because I didn't watch The Wire until a couple of years ago, and these days each episode is thoroughly curated online. After watching each program, I would read the synopsis and analysis on the internet and say, "Oh, THAT'S what happened!" Had I tried to watch when it first came out, I don't know that I could have made it through the first season.

RF Burns said...

When I watch TV I leave CC turned on out of habit.

I have noticed on scripted shows, there are occasionally differences between what the actors say and what is shown on CC. Some years ago I was watching a show on Fox and a character made a reference to a Jewish person, and the CC dialog included what arguably could be called a slur. I'm guessing someone at the network had them change the word in the script and the "offending" word was not spoken, but the update didn't make it to the captioning agency.

Todd Everett said...

Closed captioning isn't that hot, a lot of the time. I watched two shows last night where large chunks of dialog were missing, for whatever reason. And of course (evidently they don't work from shooting scripts), the captioners get words wrong. It's better than nothing, but frequently just barely -- I'm glad that some of my hearing is left. Well, none of my hearing is left; only my right ear is (somewhat) operational.

Rod said...

Hi Ken--Friday Question--
How much input did the showrunners or creative team of "Kevin Can Wait" have over the decision to change the entire premise of the show by letting Erinn Hayes go and replacing her with Leah Remini? Is that strictly a network thing? Is that what happened with "Almost Perfect?"
Is the the morale of the show, from writers to actors to producers affected by this?

Loosehead said...

Many years ago I was taught that communication is not about what is sent, but what is received. No matter how "in character" you are while mumbling the lines some poor writer has sweated over, if your audience can't decipher it, you are wasting your time.
I've noticed I look at people's mouths rather than eyes while talking face-to-face, so I guess I have started combining lipreading with listening.

John Nixon said...

I believe that as modern productions have become 'lavish affairs', audio quality has sort of been forgotten about and video is what has become most important. The audio on many TV programs is not clear and in movies everybody whispers and mumbles. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing if there's an engineer with a 'good ear' attending to the audio by adding any necessary equalization and compression to bring the sound up to a high level of quality. What we see, or hear, instead is the result of a sound guy holding a fur-covered boom microphone about 2 feet over the head of the person speaking. There is most likely no additional work done on the sound to enhance it. People say that the commercials are so much louder than the show they're watching. But if you run the the show and the commercials through a VU meter you'd see that they are the same volume. The difference is in the processing of the sound. The commercials have been put together in a studio where good sound is part of what they attend to when they produce it.

Susan said...


Lots of comments today Ken.

Here's a suggestion for a post Ken - Why not an entire post dedicated to your blog ????

You have been entertaining us for years now, so why not have a blog about your blog.

It may seems somewhat like self-appreciation.... but hey !!! you can put out some real numbers for people to appreciate, how selflessly you have been posting about everything under the sun to entertain us.


It can be like this:

No. of blogs till date.
No. of Friday questions answered, either on Friday or other days.
Blog with the highest no. of comments (I bet its the Roseanne post :D)
No. of unique visitors to your site per day.
No. of hits per day.
Highest hits per day (I bet its your Oscar post - every year, its the most popular of all your blogs).

And finally......

1. Something about subjects or people you have and will never comment on your blog. I am sure there are some things you have not posted about... like about your wife (when someone asked previously).

2. Subjects or people who you have abstained from posting any more... You have not posted or commented anything on Zach Braff or Politics lately.

So how about it? Probably prior to the anniversary in November.

VincentS said...

I can't believe that Christopher Nolan quote. I admire his work and can't believe he would do something so self-indulgent and amateurish. EVEN Brando challenged his reputation as a mumbler. Whereas he conceded he mumbled when he felt the character called for it (and I can understand every word he says) he pointed out that he played roles where he, "didn't mumble a single syllable." And I had an identical expericne with THE WIRE. My friends kept telling my I'd love it and I tried to watch a couple of episodes and couldn't make heads or tales out of who was who and why I should be interested. And what is it with all that dark lighting?

Mark said...

I once heard Lawrence Block (who ought to know) say that the Wire was the best thing on television, but he only appreciated it after he started using the closed captions.

Johnny Hy said...

Cannot agree with your more!! We have to have the sound turned up so loud to hear what they are saying that some music or action/car crash or chase comes on and the neighbors two houses down call and ask you to turn the tv down

Gary West said...

It doesn't help that the center channel (voice) on any surround sound has no compression. You really need it for voice. It should. I put it on my center channel, using something I bought from a guitar shop - and, no problem! The low levels get pumped nicely. I've had this issue with lots of movies, TV shows and such.

powers said...

You're singing my song,Ken.

I usually have to have the cc on for current television shows.Whether they are doing the mumble mush mouth affectation,or talking a mile-a-minute,it all takes away from following the dialogue.

I would also add that the shows today do 2 more irritating things:(1.)Music is played too loudly even if its supposed to be in the background of a scene,(2.)Music is constant & unrelenting.

Funny how I can watch the classic TV shows like Daniel Boone,Hawaii Five-O,Leave It To Beaver & I never miss one word & don't need the cc option.

Roger Owen Green said...

It's worse at the cinema, when someone asks her companion, "WHAT DID HE SAY?" and I miss the NEXT piece of dialogue.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I hate cc, as I find I am constantly reading instead of looking at action, but need it more and more. Was watching the da Vinci code the other night and it really helped with some terminology I wasn't familiar with. So sometimes it's actually helpful even if you can hear it ok. Really wish TiVo would put on cc for 30 seconds automatically when you skip back...

Andy Rose said...

@John Nixon: Modern audio engineers are very talented and aware of how to augment and process things. I think the problem is that they are focused on mixing to a best-case-scenario audio setup... a 5.1 Stereo Surround (or better) that few people have in their homes, and even fewer have set up properly.

Years ago I worked in a recording studio that made radio commercials. We had a very nice setup, but my mentor also bought a crappy pair of Radio Shack cube speakers that he set next to his console. He wired a switch that let him go back and forth between our professional monitor speakers and the cubes. He made sure each spot sounded as good as possible on *both* because he knew most of them would be heard in low fidelity by people listening in their cars. TV re-recording mixers ought to do the same.

Cory said...

My complaint is visual: WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE FILMED AT NIGHT WITH A BLUE FILTER!!??!! There are certain TV shows I can't watch when the sun is out no matter hwo much I cover the windows and brighten the screen. I know that for some things it looks cool, but if it's an action sequence, I know people put a lot of work into it and I'd like to see it.

Cap'n Bob said...

Agree 100%, but as some people said the problem is not a recent one. And worse than whispering and mumbling (a la Anthony Quinn) are the actors who move their mouths and don't say anything. They just let the dialogue fade off into eternity.

I saw DUNKIRK today and was badly disappointed. Of course the English accents were correct, but I missed about 75% of the dialogue and by the time I got home I had a headache--rare for me.

Pat Reeder said...

The comments about singers who mumble, slur and change vowels to ones that are easier to sing also hit home. My wife is a retro jazz singer whose dad was a renowned big band musician and leader of a group of radio jingle singers. He had perfect pitch (like her) and was a perfectionist about precise harmonies and enunciation. She grew up with that and listening to singers such as Dinah Shore, Jo Stafford and Eydie Gorme. We just released her third album, and it's getting rave reviews, with critics remarking about how her style hasn't been heard in 50 years, and it's so unusual and refreshing to hear a modern singer enunciate clearly and hit every note perfectly without slurs or "runs" or dropouts to cover a weak range. It really annoys us both that that's what a whole generation now thinks "singing" sounds like.

MIKE BOTULA said...

Thank you, Ken. It's a timely rant! At first I thought my hearing was being plagued by my advancing old age. But, I've noticed this mumbling phenomenon extends far beyond the TV screen. It's rampant in society! No wonder everyone is texting. No one can understand the spoken language.

Johnny W said...

Oh no! I feel it was my advice for watching the THE WIRE that may have put you off :( That's a huge shame. You have to remember I'm English and am not familiar with the Baltimore accent. I didn't always use subtitles, but it definitely helped when I started watching the show! Don't blame the actors!

As for "slumps"? No way! Again (for me, at least), I just wasn't used to a slow moving drama. THE WIRE predated most of the great TV we've enjoyed of late, so it stuck out. Now everyone's watched MAD MEN and the like, it's no longer a jolt to the system. We're steeped in slow moving, intelligent drama these days, and it sits alongside the best of them (or slightly above).

Its episodes don't end on cliff-hangers, but otherwise a MAD MEN fan should have no problem delving in.

Johnny W said...

Side note: You can tell when a screenwriter has moved into directing... the dialogue will be absolutely crystal clear! Presumably after feeling other directors have mangled their words, they adjust things accordingly.

Andrew said...

Since everyone is using Nolan as an example...

One of the funniest parodies I've ever seen is this one, where the Joker can't understand Batman while he's being interrogated.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uw-DeSPhZUc

estiv said...

I'll agree with Andy Rose about how mixing for 5.1 sound causes problems for those who don't have it. I first realized this several years ago at a friend's house listening to an NFL game. On that person's 5.1 sound system, the announcers were in the front channels and the crowd sound was in the back channels. It was pretty easy to tell what the announcers were saying. Listening to the end of that same game at my house, the announcers were sometimes muffled by the crowd sounds. It definitely made for a less enjoyable experience.

Grae said...

@Pat Reeder: I've been listening to your wife's albums on Spotify all morning. Her voice is so beautiful, clear, and strong! She definitely has a new fan now. I also know what CDs I'll be getting my mom for her birthday -- she introduced me to jazz when I was a kid and misses good jazz singers. Thank you, Ken, for the rant that will end up making my mom very happy.

ADmin said...

I think there's something going on with surround sound on the new TVs, too. Have you ever been watching a show... and you can't hear what the people are saying, so you turn the volume way up... then BANG!! It's a gunshot or explosion or dramatic music sting and you look like Claude the Cat clinging to the ceiling in a Looney Tune?

Kevin Johnston said...

To Pat Reeder: What is the name of your wife's album?

To Ken: I agree 100% with what you've written. I'm glad you shared the rant.

suek2001 said...

I totally agree with you on this Ken..I have to have the volume up and closed captioning on most times...part of why I don't watch TV or movies live, you can't go back and catch up.

I did notice that sound effects seem really loud on MASH. I often wonder how anyone could sleep with all those crickets chirping almost as loud as the actors are talking. It's one of the few things that annoy me about MASH...

D. McEwan said...

Yes! Yes! Yes! I am so sick of the mumbling and the whispering. I sometimes shout at the TV, "STOP MUMBLING!" If I have to rewind twice, with the volume jacked way up (And I'm listening to TV on a nice surround system that provides terrific sound) and I still don't get it, I'll use the subtitles. Worst regular offender to me? CBS's Elementary. Jonny Lee Miller seems to whisper his entire performance.

Now I use the subtitles sometimes on Doctor Who, but that's because really complex, reference-and-joke-heavy dialogue is rattled off at top speed, in Capaldi's case, in a thick Scottish accent.

Now, what do I turn on to make the Twin Peaks revival make sense? For the most part, I can clearly hear what they're saying, when there is the occasional line of dialogue (Three spoken words per minute, with whole minute pauses between lines, seems standard on it), but what the fuck is supposed to be going on? I just, as in half an hour ago, watched the two most recent episodes, back-to-back. (Game of Thrones episodes don't pile up on the DVR like Twin Peaks does because I can't wait to see each new episode. Watching them does not seem like a chore. TP episodes have become a chore to watch.)I feel like I just spent two hours swimming through molasses. The story and the images do not make sense, it's incredibly self-indulgent, and snail races are faster-paced. Harold Pinter would tell them to have fewer and shorter pauses. I loved the original series with all my heart, and have watched every episode 7 or 8 times over the years. The revival is one of the biggest TV disappointments I've ever seen. (I have this fantasy of David Lynch directing the Will & Grace revival. Five minutes of story in hour-long episodes.)

You know, I often stop, rewind, and watch Game of Thrones scenes once or twice before going on to the next scene also, but that's because they're awesome! And I never have to use the subtitles.

JoeyH said...

I tell my (radio-tv) students that audiences will tolerate a little camera shake or soft focus, but bad audio will cause them to hit that remote for another channel right away.

Pat Reeder said...

To Grae and Kevin Johnston: My wife is Laura Ainsworth, and her new album is "New Vintage." Her first two are "Keep It To Yourself" and "Necessary Evil," there's a new audiophile vinyl best-of called "Top Shelf." There are links to them at http://www.lauraainsworth.com. And Grae, Laura was very happy that you liked her music. If you want to contact me privately via comedywire@gmail.com, she'd be happy to autograph a CD for your mom. And if you're in the NYC area, she'll be performing next Thursday at the Metropolitan Room.

Daniel said...

I've been watching the new DuckTales series, and I can hardly make out anything Donald Duck says.

You think I'm kidding, but they put Donald in charge of a lot of the plot exposition.

Johnny Walker said...

Sad to hear you're not enjoying TP, Douglas, although I have to admit that I've struggled at times, too. It's straddling a weird chasm where it's tying up loose ends that only the most die hard fans are aware of (Phillip Jeffries, The Convenience Store, presumably "Judy" at some point, etc.) while also introducing a new mystery that incredibly obtuse.

There's been moments I've loved (Part 8 was a piece of art!), and other moments I've found self-indulgent, but my biggest problem has been coming to terms with how different it is. It reminds me of a show I love with, as you say, all my heart, while being completely different -- and I still miss that old show.

However it's starting to come together now, and the last few episodes are drawing the stories toward one another. Let's see if it was all worth when we get to the end!

cshel said...

Thanks for venting, Ken. Great topic. Why is this happening so often now?! I have not been bothered by this so much with TV, but movies drive me crazy when I can't make out what they're saying. And I have good hearing. It's one thing if I'm at home where I can go back and crank up the volume, sometimes over and over, and still not get it without CC, but in the theatre it's beyond frustrating. And it also drives me crazy when the music drowns out the singer's vocals in a performance. Arrgghh, mumble, mumble.

MikeN said...

It was funny when Bill Cosby said it to Wanda Sykes, but saying it about The Wire could cause some snowflakes to get you blacklisted.

Though I do think the show is racist, getting lots of critical acclaim by having blacks put on a show of criminality for the white audience. The so-called greatest season of all time, has 3 out of 4 black boys are drug dealers, if the cops want to send a message to drug dealers they should just round up all the junior high kids in an assembly, and the best you can hope for with some misbehaving black kids (Weebay's boy) is these special classes where they are not as bad as before.

MikeN said...

TV speakers are not as powerful now as they used to be. They assume you will have your own speakers. Also, the newer TVs can actually degrade the quality and make scenes look like a soap opera or filmed on a green screen(I've even seen this at a movie theater). This can usually be fixed by going to settings and fixing the dynamic refresh. Something about the software is processing the humans faster and making them jump out.