Monday, February 14, 2011

Another Installment Of "What Betty's Watching"

Most recently acquired from Netflix: Max Headroom, a show I vaguely remember watching an episode or two of back when it aired, but which somehow didn't seem especially appealing to me at the time, I think because I thought the digitized talking head looked silly. I've just watched the first episode, and I feel like I ought to talk about the social satire (which was decent, though not quite as sharp as I expected), or the rather charmingly simple 80s computer effects. Or even my reluctant admission that while I deplore the steady increase in commercial lengths and the resulting shrinking of actual storytelling time -- a particularly appropriate complaint when discussing this show -- I have to admit that watching stuff like this from a couple of decades ago does make me realize how much better paced most shows are now. But, honestly, my main thought while watching this was just, "Wow, Matt Frewer looks so young!"

8 comments:

  1. You've watched and re-watched old-school Doctor Who and only now you're realizing how much better paced most shows are nowadays? ;)

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  2. Heh. Well, Doctor Who is an extraordinary case when it comes to pacing, what with the half-hour-installment format. But, OK, I'm not just now realizing it. But I am just now finding myself willing to say out loud that the damned commercials may have done us some favors. :)

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  3. I think television storytelling is much more sophisticated overall nowadays. I don't know if I'd attribute all of that to added commercials, but I think it's generally understood there's less room for padding -- or at least it's much more noticeable to the viewer when it happens.

    And yeah, Doctor Who probably is a special case, just given the way British television worked at the time. The format and pacing are actually more difficult to get past, I think, than the cheap (even for the day) sets and effects. And I say that as someone who has grown to genuinely enjoy the show.

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  4. Oh, it's definitely more sophisticated overall, and there's no way I'd attribute all of that to shrinking runtimes. The invention of home recording is probably by far the biggest factor when it comes to the complexity of storytelling and so on. But it does sometimes amaze me, watching shows from the 80s or earlier how much stuff gets left in that doesn't actually contribute to the story at all. I don't mean dialog or anything like that, either. Just, things like long establishing shots, or watching characters walking to get to where the action happens, instead of just showing them arriving or even cutting in when they're already there. It's amazing how much difference than sort of very small thing can make to the feel of the pacing.

    Personally, I think I have less problem with the format and pacing of Classic Who than most people who come to it as new viewers today, just because I was fairly young and TV was still fairly unsophisticated when I first started watching it, but even I sometimes get very tired of the endless running-down-corridors shots.

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  5. Have you read Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter? It touches on some of these ideas, how even annoying fluff like American Idol is significantly more sophisticated than similar shows of yesteryear, how intricate and fast-paced shows like Lost could never have been made ten or twenty years ago, much less be big hits. I think you'd find the book interesting.

    And I can look past the pacing of Who, even though I didn't really discover it when I was younger. I find that, often, it has charms and some great storytelling underneath the effects and weird pacing.

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  6. I have. In fact as I was typing that last comment, I almost asked if you'd read it! It is, indeed, a fascinating and enjoyable book, and I think Johnson makes some really good points.

    And, yes, that is the thing about Who. It definitely has charms, many of them, even under all the product-of-its-time flaws. There are reasons why it's still beloved and relevant and very much a going concern today.

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  7. I think that TV shows nowadays often overdo the fast pacing, though, and at times are so frenetic that it becomes almost impossible to follow what's going on. Though a factor could be my increasing senility!

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  8. I am positive that I've seen examples of the kind of thing you mean, but I find that I can't actually think of any at the moment. Whereas I can think of lots and lots of examples of shows that have been annoyingly slow and padded. So I think, for me, at least, that's usually less of an issue.

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