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December 9, 2003

Hush Children... It's Time for the Blipvert

Posted by Mike on December 9, 2003 10:40 AM

More on this later, but DirecTV made its way into our home, finally. Had I held out a day or two more, I would have learned that I'm about to start forking over dough to Rupert Murdoch, which is fairly galling. But I'm not here to complain about that, or the wonders of TiVo. What's shocking to me, having spent the last decade not living in homes with cable or satellite television, is the way television looks.

I tuned into a History Channel presentation about the Samurai in Japan. (I can't find a link to the specific show, but it's part of the History Channel's "History vs. Hollywood" series.) For starters, Tom Cruise seemed to know more about the subject matter than the producers, who condensed events like "Commodore Perry opening the ports with cannon fire" down to not mentioning the cannons and framing the eventual Japanese capitulation as a good business decision. It got all of three seconds.

Beyond the content, though, is the form. The hideous, numbing form. It's a history show for chrissakes. Why does it need jumpcuts when the only thing in the camera is the host? Why the jarring shift from "camera eye view of the host" to "desaturated camera eye view of the camera recording the host?" A National Geographic doco I caught was the same way, with the annoying habit of simulating vertical hold problems to transition from one shot to another. It made me queasy and agitated, which are things I don't want to be when I sit down to watch a documentary.