When I was in college I studied theater performance and one of my acting teachers, Doc Shelton, had a common, unflattering response to many of my early class performances.
When I first started my training I would “indicate” or be too obvious in showing what I was trying to do onstage. When I would get done, Doc Shelton would stand up, holding his side as if he’d been punched and say, “You’re being too obvious. It’s as if you were elbowing me in the side the entire scene yelling ‘see what I’m doing up here, I’m acting!'”
It was a great lesson and something I worked on from that time forward.
I certainly wish most television directors of mystery shows would have been a member of my class. The basic problem with all TV mysteries is that you only have about 40 minutes to relay the plot, add some twists and surprise you at the end. And, with so little time, you can only introduce so many characters which means that ONE of them has to be the bad guy/gal.
With such limitations, the LAST thing you want to do in relaying that story is to indicate ahead of time who is the bad guy. But TV directors do this ALL THE TIME. It drives me nuts.
Case and point, Rizzoli and Isles: Last week the story was about a bank robbery gone bad. The security footage shows two masked assailants robbing the bank and one of them shooting the bank manager. When the cops finally find who they think was the shooter, he’s dead in the back of a van and was dead before the robbery. Now, they have to look for two new suspects.
The next scene they go and interview the brother of the dead guy at a day care to get some background.
While the brother of dead guy gets interviewed by the police…
…the TV director chooses to spend an additional two seconds on a close-up of one of the other fathers at the day care.
Those two seconds showing, indicating, spending too much time on a guy in the background, tells you everything. Since there are two unknown suspects on the loose, because of those two seconds, I knew instantly that the brother and the guy in the background committed the crime and the murder. I only had to wait another 30 minutes for the show to prove me right.
This happens time and time again.
Stop it already, would you Hollywood? It is so frustrating.
Well written shows like Law & Order, Castle and Person of Interest do a great job of adding so many characters and twists that you will often lose track and still get surprised at the end.
But for most TV cop shows, it only takes two seconds to ruin an hour of television.