Monday, October 6, 2008

Television: it's a visual medium

I don't know about you, but I often forget that. Maybe I'm just a product of my generation with the constant multi-tasking, but I feel better if I'm on the computer or reading TV Guide while I'm "watching" tv. I know episodes of Arrested Development so well that I can play them online and keep them in the background, just listening to it. When there's a ball game on, I usually just go straight to the radio since I just end up listening to it on tv anyway (and don't even get me started on tv commentators, who make me want to throw shoes at my television set because of the inane comments they make just to say something...argh).

Anyway, it's Mad Men that has reminded me of this fact. Besides being visually interesting, the story is told with minimal dialogue. In last night's episode, Betty Draper says that she has no time for small talk and that "conversation is an art." Well, this show certainly takes that to heart. Gilmore Girls (which I was a fan of in the early years) used to pride itself on how many pages there were in an episode's script due to the vast amount of dialogue due to the rapid fire conversations between characters. On Mad Men, there are no wasted words. I would actually love to count the number of words in an episode and compare it to both a show like Gilmore Girls and a show with, say, a "normal" amount of dialogue for an hour-long. The point is, Mad Men doesn't need the extra words to tell the story. And in general, television shouldn't need the words - as they always say, show, don't tell, and they say that for written media, so it stands to reason that it be even more appropriate for a visual medium like television.

On a side note, I find it an interesting topic because for my senior thesis on television as art, one of the arguments *against* television being considered art was that there were too many "channels" at work - visual, dialogue, music, etc. and I said that using that argument, a television episode (or show) that cut down on or cut out one or more of those channels would be a more likely candidate to be considered art. I used the Buffy episode "Hush" as my example, because it was dialogue free for half the episode, but I think Mad Men, if it had been on the air, would for just as good an example, if not better, as the whole series features minimal dialogue. I can't surf the net while Mad Men is on. I'm actually forced to "watch" television when it's on. And boy, is it worth it.

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