Tuesday, October 09, 2007

American TV - DECEIVING THE PUBLIC

I was watching the American version of Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares tonight. I love kitchen nightmares, it's great! But the american version is just like all American reality TV - complete shlock. I just do not understand how the American style of programme has persisted. First there's the sound track - not one second of silence or wild track, constant music, and dappy sound effects.

Next there's the editing - it's cut to ribbons! It flits forward and backward in time all over the place, things from days before are put in the wrong time frame, and it's really obvious! They're wearing different clothes! There are no people in the background anymore! What do you take me for? No "crowngate" in the states, no sirree bob. I noticed these two sentences at the end of the programme in a kind of "how that's alright then" nod to their sly production techniques.

OK. Then there's the very expensive and therefore used again-and-again jib shots. In Kitchen Nightmares, it's the front of the restaurant. They had the crane for one day, so they shot the restaurant from every angle in every light - with the blinds down so you can't see the people inside. They speed it up, slow it down, reverse it... whatever, they've got to get their money's worth.

After that, there's the constant re-capping. Now there are a lot more ad-breaks in American TV, probably about 7 per hour I think. They're each about 3 minutes long, which is why an American hour is actually 44 minutes. Now, before each ad break they have to trail ahead to what's coming up in the next part, and after each ad break they have to recap what's previously happened. Assuming they take 1 minute to trail ahead and 1 minute to recap, that's another 14 minutes-per-hour wasted. Add that to the ad breaks, and you get a programme that's really only 30 minutes long. And watch that programme without the ads (like I do, cause I download it) and it's really.effing.irritating.

The other things they do, which is actually really offensive, they put subtitles on people that are completely audible! Often this is for accents that they think people won't understand, or where there's half a decibel of background noise. They need to credit the audience with a bit more intelligence.

And finally (this one's particularly relevant to Kitchen Nightmares) they do not like swearing at all. The word "fuck" is clearly forbidden by the FCC, which is a problem with Gordon, but I reckon they add a few more beeps there for words like crap or bloody. It reminds me of watching Jerry Springer, where they just used to put a beep on for about 30 seconds because it was too much like hard work to pick out usable words.

I'd love someone in the American TV industry to explain to me why all these programmes are made in the same way. The Apprentice, Supernanny, Hell's Kitchen, Big Brother ... they are all the same! Americans make drama like nobody else - British TV drama is almost universally crud - but their documentaries are laughable.

3 comments:

Adrian said...

"British TV drama is almost universally crud"
Oh Sam. What a damning generalisation.
There is bad, indifferent, good, and very good.

Anonymous said...

The word "fuck" is clearly forbidden by the FCC...

As in the phrase "it's really.effing.irritating" perhaps?

Please.

How does the US edition differentiate from the UK edition? It's not clear. What is "deceiving"? No point in getting all smug about British TV if you don't actually justify it.

Sam Bailey said...

'Anonymous', I think you miss my point re the swearing. I have no problem with swearing. The British version features the word 'fuck' unbleeped, as it's not a banned word after 9pm on British TV. Conversely, it's the constant bleeping I find irritating (and my suspicion there's a lot of beeping to imply swearing where none actually happened).

Here's a clip from British Kitchen Nightmares, which I hope shows some of the stylistic differences - http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_72astF3rTU No music, no bleeping, no repetition, no shots out of sequence, minimal trailing ahead, no subtitles... a general acceptance that the audience watching the programe are grown ups.

If you're an American reader you may also not be familiar with some of the context I refer to - 'crowngate' etc. Following an incident last year with a documentary about the Queen, there is now a strong expectation on British broadcasters not to distort the truth and the sequence of events. It's a long story, but this post was written in the context of that furore.

So who are you, and how did you come across my blog post? Sam