Too cheap to make it look real: television in the dark

Have you noticed the same disturbing trend on your favorite television shows that I have? I’m not talking about the nearly pornographic amount of raunchy sex jokes in sitcoms (I’m not complaining!), just to be clear. I’m talking about dramas and action shows where everything important (i.e. murders, fight scenes, chases, investigations, strategy sessions, etc.) seems to happen at night or, if nighttime just doesn’t work, in a house with no lights on. You’ve noticed this, haven’t you?

I get that it’s expensive to make a television show, especially one that really does utilize all of what would seem to be more common in a movie. But there has to be a better way. Someone in Hollywood really should have the brains to figure out how to keep me hooked on a show because of what’s actually happening on it rather than keeping me hooked because I’m tilting my head every which way and wondering “who said that? I can’t see anything!”

I first noticed the propensity toward darkness when I watched the original CSI. The series started out in a brightly lit lab, the kind you might see on any true crime show. But then, perhaps since the crew was the graveyard shift, the lab got dark … as dark as the houses where people were murdered and the crime scene investigators got by with only flashlights. Criminal Minds followed suit quickly enough although, apparently for dramatic effect their flashlights were even smaller – and mounted on their guns.

I don’t watch either of those shows with any regularity anymore and it has a lot do with the darkness fact. Sadly, I’ve noticed it invading other shows that I love too (NCISHell on Wheels, and The Walking Dead, for example).

On Sunday, I watched the season finale of Hell on Wheels. For an hour and forty-five minutes, they built up to this massively spectacular and bloody battle between the railroad men and the Sioux Indians. The battle happened in five minutes and it was all in the dark, lit only occasionally by someone (you were never quite sure who) lighting something (you were never quite sure what) on fire. It was irritating in the extreme to not know who was fighting who and who was living or dying.

On Monday, I watched the newest episode of Revolution. There was a chase scene where someone got bit by a dog and someone shot a dog. I missed half the scene before I figured out who did what and where. Then there was what was obviously a key strategy discussion (you could tell by the ominous music) but it was so dark it was hard to tell who was saying what. I’m not good enough to have the actor’s voices memorized, not in a show with such a big cast. I suppose, though, that those are the pitfalls of making a show about the lack of power. However, the powers that be are not off the hook … the chase and the strategy – they could have happened in DAYLIGHT!

I’m not old and I’m not blind so I feel sort of silly ranting about this but it bugs me and rants are what blogs are for.


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