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Monday, February 26, 2007

Q. Why do characters in television and film NEVER say "goodbye" or likewise when ending a phone conversation? It just seems unnatural.
It's a convention. It would take up, oh, 2-5 seconds that could be spent on story. What's the point? There's lots of things we don't show on TV that are part of real life, but it's a convention that, for example, no one ever has to go to the bathroom. (Except for Roger Avary.)

Characters on TV don't say "hi" on the phone either. And it wouldn't add any if they did. TV is a compressed reality. There are loads of conventions that take a small bit of verisimilitude away in exchange for avoiding a lot of shoe leather. For example, on TV, the news is always on when you need it -- and it only relates relevant news. Because no one wants to watch the character veg out for half an hour until the news he needs comes on. The audience understands it's a short cut. They probably don't love it. But they live with it because the alternative would be boring!

(Incidentally, this is why touch tone phones and caller ID were really invented: to speed scenes up!)

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5 Comments:

Right on all counts Alex (cut the boring bits) but lately, it seems there has been an abundance of two characters greeting each other with 'Hey' followed by 'Hey' back ...mostly in Degrassi or O.C.-type shows.

By Blogger wcdixon, at 2:24 PM  

After I read Alex's post I was going to say that exact same thing, Will. I first started noticing it with Felicity, and the trend continues through The O.C.

By Blogger Kelly J. Compeau, at 2:56 PM  

I think if you don't need it, you should leave it out. But a greeting can be a great character moment. The way two people say hello to each other says a lot about both people and their feelings about the another.

By Blogger JargonX, at 2:57 PM  

sorry but if saving 2.5 seconds is the real reason, then it's a self-perpetuated industry myth. it ALWAYS takes me out of a film, even if just for a second, when a character doesn't say goodbye when hanging up a phone - it's just so unnatural.

if i thought any show was so tight it needed to save a few seconds in phone etiquette i might buy this - but that's just ridiculous. especially since 90% of the stories are so retried or obvious i hardly need another 2.5 seconds to fully comprehend them.

i think it's just a convention that happened and we've been forced to accept ever since. and it's not a good or a very justified one.

i mean, let's be honest - if the argument is "cut the boring bits", most of what we call entertainment would be eliminated altogether.

By Blogger deepstructure, at 3:28 PM  

I'm a feature film producer and just closed a co-prod deal on an 3D animation series for a major broadcaster in France.

I'm not familiar with TV terminology. The French refer to the program format as "Le Conducteur" "The Conductor". What's that in TV talk? I heard a "Line-up". Maybe it's just "program format". We would call it a treatment. You know, visual style, character descriptions, then the format: main titles: 1 minute, intro 2 minutes, etc., outro 30 sec.

By Blogger Script Demon, at 7:39 PM  

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