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Thursday, January 31, 2008

A friend o'mine wrote:
I saw something on TV that had me scratching my head. I've been studying HOUSE for a spec.

My TiVo recorded this week's episode twice. Once on Global and once again on a FOX affiliate on the west coast. As I was watching and re-watching this episode at different times - making note of things like the different sets used, how the new characters were being integrated into the A, B, and C stories, and how much screen time everyone seems to get - I happened to switch between the two recordings of this same show.

Now while the U.S. recording followed the show's scripted teaser and subsequent four-act structure with commercials inserted at the proper times, the airing on Global created it's own act break midway through the fourth act creating its own fifth act. I was actually able to pause just before the commercials started to see a FADE TO DIGITAL SNOW as if someone in the control room hit PAUSE.

1. Is it common practice in Canada to add commercials in the middle of an act where they do not belong?
God, I hope not.
2. Do you think this kind of thing breaks up the flow of a show?

TV writers spend a lot of time on their act outs. After a springboard is approved, the first document you might do would be a "breakdown" of the acts and their outs, before anybody writes an outline. That's how basic the act structure is.

An extra act-out where there's no cliffhanger or emotional moment is jarring. Coming near the climax, it derails the whole episode emotionally.

I've written elsewhere about the re-editing of THE TUDORS and what that did to the flow of the episode. It sounds like here again, no writer was involved in picking the moment to go out on -- and possibly no creative editor, either.

Re-editing for secondary markets (such as Canada) and syndication is a fact of life. That's why DVD sales, iTunes downloads, and even to a lesser extent free, ad-based streaming on the Internet, are a nice benefit of advancing technology: you see the episode the way it was planned, sometimes even in higher picture quality (with DVDs).

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Consider this: American shows broadcast on British Sky TV NEVER, EVER have the ads in the right place. You'll get a fade to black, followed by a fade-in where the ads were SUPPOSED to go... and then, two minutes later (or earlier) you'll get the ACTUAL ad break.

I think the idea is that all the ads happen at the same time on each of their channels, so zappers won't be so tempted to jump ship. But it does make for some appalling unintended act breaks.

Fortunately, you don't have to worry about ad breaks on the BBC... for now!

By Blogger Andy Diggle, at 1:53 PM  

This is a Global TV thing -- they've been doing it for years. Extra commercial break in the fourth act.

Used to completely ruin XFiles. Now that most shows are going to five act it will hopefully not be as noticeable.

By Blogger DMc, at 5:06 PM  

global does that (or at least used to) with saturday night live at least in this market. you sometimes miss a great last sketch (the will ferrell as elton john one after di's funeral was completely cut off by global). They also fuck up the masters on a regular basis sticking in more commercials (the masters in the states actually has less commercials than most event because augusta national works out a deal with cbs)

if you like the american show that ctv has after on idol then you're out of luck when idol runs long. you will miss the first part. it also screws up global's simulcast of house. i don't think this will change. the crtc is more likely to kill the ctf then tell ctv and global to stop screwing up the american broadcasts.

By Blogger Mef, at 9:49 AM  

I used to work in TV Presentation in the UK... I can remember occasions when the schedule was running late and we'd be ordered to spool forward during commercials and lose a scene or two at the beginning of the next act, in order to get us back on time!

By Blogger Stephen Gallagher, at 10:36 AM  

I call those "forced act breaks" and I've seen them executed so clumsily it makes me want to pull my hair out in frustration and disgust.

I've seen fade-to-blacks and whiplash-quick cuts to commercials at times when a character has just reached for a prop that will have a major impact later in the story, or opened a door and is about to speak to someone inside the room, or is right in the middle of speaking. I mean, they just flip the switch mid-sentence -- and then return from break at a later point in the scene, so I have no idea if what was said is supposed to have any significance later in the episode.

How the Hell would you like it if I yanked the remote out of your hands while you were watching Supernatural, House, or Heroes, and switched to the Shopping Channel for 3 minutes, then gave you back the remote so you could return to what you were watching?

By Blogger Kelly J. Crawford, at 11:43 AM  

If US shows know that on Canadian Networks we have need of an extra act out, maybe it would be better for everyone if the writers at least got to pick where the new act out would be, or what scene to rape, instead of some guy at a switcher.

Because if the idea of a strong act out is to make people come back to the fraking show after the commercial break, doesn't it hurt Global to screw around with that?

By Blogger Trevor Finn, at 11:33 AM  

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