Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Why millions are turning off their television sets...

I have developed a slight hearing loss, especially when it comes to sounds in the higher register. I have been tested. It is not yet serious. Millions of Americans are in the same category, I was told. Millions.

One of the problems is that it has become difficult to pick a voice out of the sounds of background noise in a bar, at a party, or from the god damned background music that movie and television film makers insist on piling onto their sound tracks simply because they can. I mean, music to accompany the so-called reality shows we see these days is certainly a far cry from reality. So there is no real reason to have any music accompany the action. There is a detective, for example, bending over a corpse in the desert, wondering to his partner how …how… Hell, I don’t know what. The symphony orchestra out there on the sand in the dark is drowning out his words!

I see the network is canceling “The West Wing.” I do not know why, but am reasonably sure that if viewers watched in high enough numbers, it would be renewed again. I do not know the reasons each of the viewers has left the show. But I know why I have. And dozens of others I have talked to about the problem say the same thing, perhaps with a milder vocabulary. The actors in that drama do not enunciate. They speed-speak without moving their mouths and mumble while background music there in the White House drowns out the words. Especially the women characters whose voices, typically, fall into a higher register than the male voices. When Allison Janney and that straight haired, straight faced, unsmiling blonde aide banter, it is impossible to adjust the volume so that one word in ten is understood through the loud music.

I have punched in the closed captioning feature a number of times. But it takes more work than I am often willing to expend to sit still and read what I cannot quite hear, though it is a relief to turn down that god damned symphony in the White House and just go with the story.

At a neighborhood party last week, the “West Wing” cancellation was discussed. No one in the group watches the show any more. And the reasons were all the same. “I cannot hear what the hell the characters are saying!”

Now before you chalk all this up to the title of my blog and decide I am more curmudgeon than anything else, let me say that I understand every word of nearly every commercial! In fact, I turn down the volume when they come on. So you see, it is possible for sound engineers in TV land to allow viewers to understand the words. I also understand every word of news broadcasts on both network and cable channels. Male or female, I understand their talk! It is not the speaker system of my television nor my ears! I can understand newsmen and commercial actors! I also understand every word Charlie Rose says, and everything those he interviews say as well. I hope his producer never decides to heap orchestrations onto the sound track, simply because he knows how.

When CNN shows the fighting in Iraq, there is no music. When ABC News shows the scene of a plane crash, no band drowns out the FAA investigators being interviewed. I, therefore, understand everything that is said.

So I channel surf looking for something to watch for an hour or so. Hey! A program on the Adventure, or was it the Discovery, channel called “The First Eve.” Great. And there are early humans wandering among the trees 35,000 years ago or so as a narrator describes how it all came about, and a god damned symphony orchestra tries desperately to drown him out. Did you know that a full orchestra accompanied the first humans out of Africa, playing loudly all the way?

Tonight the last straw fell and I shut the television off to vent right here. Public broadcasting showed a film called “The War That Made America.” All Right! And there were Indians, French, and Red Coated Englishmen fighting one another in a forest somewhere while a narrator tried in vain to tell me about it above the god damned noise of the symphony orchestra accompanying the fighting. I watched for three minutes and understood nothing I heard.

I would complain to whoever might make a difference if I knew who that was. All I know is that millions of Americans do not watch television as much as they would if they could understand what was being drowned out by that god damned background music that is anything but reality. Millions!


Blogger Marty said...

I think constant noise is bad for the soul and for the mind...background noise prevents actual thoughts from accidentally occuring.

1/25/2006 10:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hilarious! And so true. I don't know how old you are. Your photo says late fifties. I am almost that old and have the same complaints! There really are millions of us!

1/25/2006 10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about spending a fraction of the "god damned" energy on finding out who could do something about the worthy complaint?

1/26/2006 6:04 AM  
Blogger Joe Clark said...

Caption-reading becomes easier with experience. You also need to sit a sensible distance away from the screen (three to five times the screen height is a generally accepted optimum distance). If you only use captions once in a while, they will indeed seem like too much work.

1/26/2006 4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if "Dear Abby" would be interested in polling her readers about the TV music that is more than just background. It really is getting worse every year, and it isn't my hearing! I'm 30 and female and can hear the kitten walk across the carpet three rooms away at 2 in the morning. But I can't hear what most of the people on "Commander in Chief" are saying because of the loud music drowning out the words. I laughed at your post, but the problem isn't funny.

1/26/2006 10:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone in my office complained a couple of years ago about the background music drowning out the dialogue of NYPD BLUE. We all stopped watching, and the network cut the show the next year because viewer interest had waned. Is it possible that sound technicians are killing shows by increasing the decible level of the background music? Maybe the musicians' union is demanding more and louder music?

1/27/2006 9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Count me as one of the millions who has stopped watching most of commercial television because of overpowering sound tracks. Your account is hilarious, and so on the mark.

1/28/2006 1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I men tioned yout blog where I work and everyone agreed they watch less tv because of loud music.

1/28/2006 11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it's that generation that turned their music up so loud that they have hearing losses themselves. If they are in charge of sound track enhancement, they can't hear the music unless it is loud enough to cover the words. I laughed at your image of the orchestra playing in the dark desert and leading the first humans out of Africa. Let's hope the media technicians or corporate brass reads your blog.

1/29/2006 1:40 PM  
Anonymous tanya said...

Count me as one of the millions! Amusing take on a real situation.

1/29/2006 10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am in complete agreement!

1/30/2006 6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If everyone emailed the networks to complain, would anyone open the mail?

1/30/2006 8:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There really are millions of us. I also hear news broadcasts and interviewers. And Leno is easy to hear. So why aren't actors on the tv dramas? The networks don't realize the potential market that turns off their ads because we turn off their shows we can't hear.

1/31/2006 6:14 AM  
Anonymous Judy J said...

Yea Dana! Right on! I have been complaining about it too. It's good to know I'm not the only one.

How about sending your blog to the networks AND the sponsors of the programs?

1/31/2006 6:54 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

Thanks to all of you for your comments! I am such a non-techie that I do not know how to send the blog to the networks. But if any of you know how to give someone at those headquarters a heads up with the post, please do so. In fact, all of you do it! Or send me directions for forwarding it. Thanks again.

1/31/2006 10:22 PM  
Anonymous rumrunner said...

I agree. Sound tracks suck. I watch really old movies from the fifties or so because I can understand the voices. Good point about news people and Leno. Right on. I understand them fine. Can you imagine background music with news broadcasts? Next we'll have it with the goofy state of the union address.

2/01/2006 10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loud background music that becomes foreground music has driven me away from television, back to reading and to the Internet. There really are millions of us.

2/02/2006 3:53 PM  
Anonymous tomtomtommy said...

Amen to this post! Who can we yell at?

2/06/2006 1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I applaud your humor and statement of the situation. Last night there was so much background music in a tv courtroom scene (how real is that?) that I switched to CNN just to hear talk. Who cares who won the dramatic case?

2/08/2006 2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Millions and one!

2/09/2006 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post. I agree. Maybe Dear Abby would lead the charge against the sound engineers.

3/03/2006 2:35 PM  

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