Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Soft Voice, the Cloth Bag and the Empty Cup

There are plenty of sites devoted to movie mistakes -- those unaccountable continuity errors and anachronisms and so forth -- but there are certain mistakes that are unique to TV. They're not very big, but they sure take me out of the scene when I'm watching. I'm sure you have more, but here are just three off the top of my head:

1. THE SOFT VOICE
Most recently seen in the premiere of Commander in Chief. President Geena Davis speaks to a joint session of Congress, the cabinet, the joint chiefs, the Supreme Court and a packed gallery. We've all seen that room and how many hundreds of people it takes to fill it. Yet Geena delivers her speech with the whispery tones of wind rustling through tall grass. Why? Because when she shot it, there weren't a thousand people there. There was just her and a camera a few feet from her face. (It's a mistake they never make on The West Wing.)

2. THE CLOTH BAG
When people on TV come home from the grocery store, they not only come home with the obligatory 2-foot loaf of French bread, they also come home with brown paper bags made of cloth. Why? Because the crinkling of real paper bags would be very distracting on film or tape. Still, nothing looks phonier than those brown cloth bags.

3. THE EMPTY CUP
My personal favorite, because it's so dumb and so easy to avoid... yet you see it all the time. I saw it most recently on the second episode of Boston Legal, a show I was otherwise enjoying very much. But there was Julie Bowen, waving her take-out coffee cup around for emphasis. You know, the Starbucks kind of cup? With the snap-on lid? The kind that hot coffee comes sloshing out of if you so much as quiver while you're holding it? Yet there was Julie, waving an obviously empty, completely weightless cup. Perhaps she, like so many other TV characters, simply orders an empty cup in an attempt to cut down. Like smoking an unlit cigarette.

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