gabby TV dramas

Anne McKnight amck
Tue Dec 1 09:55:03 EST 1998

Michael Badzik's comment about NHK dramas having narration so that you
could rummage around the kitchen & not lose track sounded right on to
me.  Good god, you turn around to make a cup of coffee, at 8:15-8:30
when the show is on, and you've missed half of it -- somebody's gotten
divorced, or eloped, the heroine junked her lifelong dream to become a
veterenarian and cut her hair, or somebody's gone bankrupt and and
disappointed everyone.  You can fade away from looking at the TV and
keep an ear cocked, and not totally lose track.  In a similar vein, you
can miss a day or to of the 100+ episodes and not totally lose track. 
Since each day has a cliff-hanger ending, if you played hokey one day
it'd be hard to guess what cropped up in the meantime.  The typically
bossy narration helps ease you back into whatever stream of narrative is
going on.  Given all the practical difficulties of getting moving in the
morning, it seems a strategy of continuity which allows for all sorts of
discontinuity in the life of the viewer.

Just thinking in terms of gut reaction, the other thing about narration
-- either commentary or the really gaudy subtitles you see on wide shows
& variety shows -- I wonder about is the rather refreshing effect of the
kind of stagey shomin-teki outbursts.  The guys with 400 decibel voices
that go up and down like crazy, or the headlines with a whole string of
exclamation points.  Maybe it's just that I live on 2 major commuter
train lines & people are always well-groomed and/or sleeping on the
train, which is to say the most on-display public place.  But it's a
relief to see regular slobs on TV, which is a rhetoric that as far as I
can tell translates into the baffled, or fake-baffled, print that runs
across a lot of wide & variety shows.  To give one example, the show
where the 2 slobby manzai guys in 'fashion' camouflage visit the rooms
of young women who want to end either a love affair or a kind of
melancholy about a love affair.  They put all the related person's
effects in a big box & blow it to smithereens, in a park or someplace,
but not before they've extracted every titillating (or boring) detail
out of the girl in question, and doused it liberally with subtitled
commentary, kind of Alfred E. Neuman Mad magazine style.  The interior
monologue of the gag is really absurd, and really funny.  I think the
uses to which subtitling is put for the sake of a gag is nothing to
laugh at.


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