Insomnia TV Watching

I had a lot on my mind last night and found sleep to be eluding me.  I was going to watch my recording of ARROW, but at one point I went channel surfing and came across McCloud an old TV show from the 1970’s.  Dennis Weaver was the star and it was a show about a marshal from Taos New Mexico who ends up doing police work in New York City.  It was a classic “fish out of water” story that Hollywood loves so much.  It also had a hero who was from New Mexico so of course I watched it.  Because I’m always drawn to some supporting character I loved the irascible Chief of Detectives played by J.D. Cannon more then the star.

So there I was sleepless in Santa Fe watching an old TV show on Me TV and during the commercials shifting back over to the Arrow episode.  The differences were… striking.  I don’t know whether they filmed McCloud on film or tape, but it looked terrible.  Washed out, grainy.  Arrow looks like a feature film by comparison.  I’m not sure who directed or edited this episode of McCloud but in half the shots where one character was standing and another sitting the head of the standing character was cut off.  The acting seemed very broad, especially from the supporting cast as if they were stage actors who had suddenly found themselves on a sound stage.  And there was the smoking.  It was jarring after so many years of not seeing smokers on television.  I felt as removed from this era and this kind of story telling as I would watching a flickering black and white low budget film from the 1930’s.  The script also seemed very — I don’t want to say unsophisticated.  Let’s use innocent.  There were no surprises as we cut away to the bad guys so we knew their nefarious goings on while our good guys followed threads that were already apparent to the viewer.

I finally wandered off to bed at 1:30 wondering if it’s just the change in technology that makes entertainment so different or if there has been a fundamental shift in audience tastes, sophistication and expectations?  I think the latter.  Television has been with us since the late 1940’s.  Audiences are very savvy now.  When I was developing shows and writing television pilots I always had executives telling me to “explain things”, and I would try to argue that it wasn’t necessary for modern audiences.  They’ve grown up with this kind of visual storytelling.  They can fill in the gaps and you exasperate them if you are spoon feeding.

I think that lesson has bene learned judging by modern television.

Still it was an interesting walk through memories even if I might have to take a nap today.

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