Friday, 29 May 2009

Hey hey USA

So I've been in the States for a bit, and here's a unordered list of What I've Noticed About Yank TV:-

The evening entertainment magazine shows, from veteran Entertainment Tonight (ET) to new guy TMZ (Tee-Em-Zee of course) by way of Inside Edition and countless others, are now so jump-cutty and frenzied they're impossible to watch.

Mary Hart on ET, bless, has been presenting the show forever.. well, since 1989, when Sky Movies started to show it here. She sat alongside John Tesh, a man with a face that looked like it had been hit with a pan - and with a nifty sideline in Richard Clayderman-stylee naff piano music. The two of them read out links and the show was nice to everyone.

Not now. John is long gone, some shouting man with no appreciable personality is there. Mary doesn't look any older than she did two decades ago, just tighter and... er, bigger. As in the Botox and surgery to her face, US-TV-Enormo-Hair and fixed grin makes her head look massive.

But now each shot lasts a second of two, even when a presenter is talking, the camera constantly cutting and zooming. The reports are even worse - the word 'soundbite' being too long for most clips. They did a 'summer movie preview' and I swear there wasn't a single entire line of dialogue in the whole thing. How are you supposed to judge a film if they cut so fast between clips you've no idea what it looks like?

(The answer, oh Blogateers, is - of course - da yung'uns like it, and you look things like that up on the web nowadays. But I don't care. It's like watching bits of broken crockery in a blender - bouncy and noisy and pointless)

TMZ has the novelty of (a) being based on a website; and (b) pretending to be a documentary, with 'journos' pitching ideas to the 'editor', then clips popping up. Very odd. But everything is still in. Tiny. Lit. Tle. Bits. 'n'. Pieces.

If you thought it wasn't possible to cram in more ads on the already saturated American airwaves, you'd be wrong. Branded segments of programs (that's how the US'ers spell it, without the extra 'me', spelling nerds) like a minty chewing gum sponsoring a bit of the somehow-better-when-in-the-US Soup featuring sweary bits of dialogue from reality shows, telling them to clean their dirty mouths... to even more blatant product placement (an ep of some useless drama thing set entirely in a Subway sarnie shop), it's all there.

Most new shows are on twice a week, an 'encore' showing in primetime some other day, usually low-rated weekends, to boost numbers and save money.

NBC's The Biggest Loser is two hours long now. The American Idol results show, which is basically 5 minutes of 'you've won! you haven't!' is an hour long, sometimes 90 minutes, in addition to the two hour main show. The 'season finale' of Celebrity Apprentice (Joan Rivers AND her daughter!) lasted THREE WHOLE HOURS.


Especially, but not exclusively, on cable stations, a box will pop up with clips, animations, teasers, graphics and captions in the corner of the screen after each break, trailing the next show, or the next episode of this show, or some other show altogether. Countdown clocks to new episodes or series also dominate the screen, especially on TLC which seems to specialise in shows about people who have lots of kids. Sextuplets, 14 kids in total, whatever - just screaming children and shouting parents.

The recession means the ads for Viagra, Cialis and other medication seem to dominate even more, with their comedy list of side effects. A pill to 'reduce gas' has a huge list of problems it could cause including 'anal leakage'. So you don't fart but you shit yourself. Champion.

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