THE OTHER THING ABOUT MIAMI VICE... - Complications Ensue
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Sunday, March 13, 2005

God damn but it's slow. We watched the opening titles at 1.5 speed and they still seemed slower -- and longer -- than titles today. There are shots in the title sequence that don't even have titles over them!

I could cut 5 minutes out of an ep, easy. Maybe 10 minutes. All those establishing shots. All that wasted air time. Crockett and Tubbs are in a car, talking. Then a shot of the car driving. Then a shot inside of the car, talking again. These days you'd run the dialog over the shot of the car driving without even thinking about it.

And the dialog! On a slow dialog show today, the dialog is 50% faster. On an ordinary cop show it's twice as fast. And then there's Gilmore Girls with its 77 page scripts for its 40 minute shows. Yow.

TV these days is much more demanding. I don't know if viewers are watching any more carefully, but there's a lot more for them to watch. More in the frame. More plot. More dialog. It's just a much more dense medium.

4 Comments:

Everything is more "info-dense" than ever before. Not only does one have to deal with the speed and imagery of TV shows as you mention, but also the graphic icons in the corner of the screen reminding us what's coming next, what channel we're on, and how we can log on to the website to get more info. Watching cable news can give you a headache: multi-tasking or "multi-downloading" at its finest.

IMO, (notice how I didn't spell that out - new language, new understanding) a lot of this can be traced both to computers and japanese manga. Both "dump" loads of info into each frame or webpage and computers and IM's have even given us a new "e-speak" directly related to text messaging. I'm not "straight", I'm "Str8" as an example. Or I'm :) [happy]. Next thing you know we'll have emoticons for TV...

The japanese manga storytellers are masters at compressing huge amounts of info onto a single panel or page. I believe this also directly relates to their written language which, isn't made of letters, but of graphic symbols that encompass whole words, phrases, and concepts.

And of course, they came up with haiku, which is a simple representation of complex, multi-leveled thought.

It's a weird wonderful world we live in, and as all of our cultures intermix with the net we may soon find ourselves with whole "work languages" for the computer and other digital media, and spoken local language.

By Blogger Bill Cunningham, at 2:36 PM  

Maybe shows cram more in today than in the eighties, but I was watching HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL on DVD. And that show crammed more into an episode than most shows today do in three. And it was a thirty-minute show. Add to that the fact that they did 39 episodes a year in those days, and I think there have been harder times in television.

By Blogger Robot Porter, at 4:54 PM  

I have a different take on it.

By omitting the "resolution" scene at the end (where the status quo ante was reaffirmed), "Miami Vice" picked up two or three minutes of screen time each episode. They often spent that time showing something that, in any other show, would have been a clear sign that something was going to happen--but then didn't have it happen.

My favorite example was a long scene of a private pilot (who had just been targeted by mobsters) walking around his plane and then taking off and flying for a while. In any other show, you would have known that the plane would blow up. In "Miama Vice," it didn't.

By frequently having a setup without a payoff, it was much easier to suprise the viewer.

I always thought it was one of the most cool things about the show.

By Blogger Bradipo, at 6:33 PM  

I hate to dredge up a post that's two years old but I think it is still relevant.

Alex said:
>> I could cut 5 minutes out of an ep, easy. Maybe 10 minutes. All those establishing shots. All that wasted air time. Crockett and Tubbs are in a car, talking. Then a shot of the car driving. Then a shot inside of the car, talking again. These days you'd run the dialog over the shot of the car driving without even thinking about it.

Then you wouldn't have a show like Miami Vice. Although the show had tons of ham-fisted dialog, the style set it apart and it was like bringing film to television. No one had seen anything like this for a long time and this clearly set the stage for more elaborate shows to come along like Twin Peaks and even the X-Files. Look at the mood that it set as the cars drive down the streets with the headlights reflecting on the hood. It doesn't need dialog. A lot of writers, presumably you included, believe the audience won't watch something
unless they're occupied every millisecond with dialog. Film is dialog. As Hitchcock said, paraphrased, once the screenplay is complete, then you add dialog.

>> And the dialog! On a slow dialog show today, the dialog is 50% faster. On an ordinary cop show it's twice as fast.

Keyword: Ordinary. Although Vice had a lot of cheesy dialog and storylines that weren't executed as we'd like today, it wasn't like any other cop show. Fast dialog doesn't mean quality cop show.

>> And then there's Gilmore Girls with its 77 page scripts for its 40 minute shows. Yow.

Film speaks too, especially with the soundtrack device Miami Vice employed.

>> TV these days is much more demanding. I don't know if viewers are watching any more carefully, but there's a lot more for them to watch. More in the frame. More plot. More dialog. It's just a much more dense medium.

And it was like this before Miami Vice as well. Are we seeing better quality because you believe writers are packing in more information? I think I can safely answer, no. The story is what sells and as long as the directors and writers don't get pretentious, the audience will go along with a story on film with little dialog just as much as a story with tons of dialog IF it is a story well-told.

By Blogger cgillespie, at 12:20 AM  

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