Television Drama Series’ Incorporation of Film Narrative Innovation: 24


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Talk presented at the International Conference Television, Aesthetics and Reality.
Aveiro, Portugal, 2005.

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Television Drama Series’ Incorporation of Film Narrative Innovation: 24

  1. 1. Television Drama Series’ Incorporation of Film Narrative Innovation: 24 Nelson Zagalo, Communication and Arts, U. of Aveiro Television, Aesthetics and Reality 2005 Zagalo, N., Barker, A., (2005), Dramatic Television Series as Film Narrative Innovation, in International Conference Television, Aesthetics and Reality, Jul. 2005, Aveiro, Portugal
  2. 2. Golden Age <ul><li>“ the amazing American series (…). There, we have knowledge, a sense of discourse, of linkage, of ellipse, one science of framing and editing , one dramaturgy and a game of actors, which have no equivalent anywhere else.” ( Chris Marker, 2003) </li></ul><ul><li>American TV series have “increased the cognitive work they demand form their audience, exercising the mind in ways that would have been unheard of thirty years ago” (Steven Johnson, 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Joel Surnow (2003) refers to the new television as a land of opportunity for creative and original artworks , a freedom promoted by cable television that allows artists to transcend the limitations of Hollywood dictated by economic globalization. </li></ul>American TV Drama Series
  3. 3. Golden Age <ul><li>. Series with, Complex Narrative Structure and C omplex Content </li></ul><ul><li>. A structure developed by Steven Bochco in 1981 with the “Hill Street Blues” series; successful structure but not enough at the time to become dominant. </li></ul><ul><li>. The format seems to be adopted by every new series in the XXI century. </li></ul>Drama Series
  4. 4. Chronology 1981 - 1987 - Hill Street Blues 1992 - 2002 - X-Files 1994 - ER 1999 - West Wing, The 1999 - Sopranos, The 2001 - 24 2001 - Six Feet Under 2004 - Lost 2004 - Desperate Housewives
  5. 5. The Concept Soap Opera open plot structure and complex continuity + Hollywood Film Style complex form (editing, cinematography and acting) = New Television Drama Series complex narrative structure and complex form, permits new and complex realism New TV drama
  6. 6. New Drama Forms Soap Operas – Storytelling extended through years CBS “The Guiding Light” is credited by the Guinness Book as being the longest soap opera ever told. Is in the air since 1952. Hollywood – Storytelling concentrated in 2 hours TV drama – runs between months and years Results: Narrative Structure is borrowed from Soap Operas and enhanced a) Multi-Threaded b) Multi-Episode Story Arcs c) Multi-Characters complex narrative structure
  7. 7. New Drama Forms a) multi-threaded Higher and interwoven information flow means more complexity and so a Higher Cognitive Workflow Various plots per episode and simultaneous Part of a “The Sopranos” episode (Steven Johnson, 2005)
  8. 8. New Drama Forms b) multi-episode story arcs Information Fragmentation Ep.1 Ep.2 Ep.3 Ep.4 Ep.5 Ep.6 Ep.7 Ep.8 Ep.9 Ep.10 Extended plots through series season Extended characters development
  9. 9. New Drama Forms c) Multi-Characters Ensemble Characters and Increased Social Networks Desperate Housewives (2004)
  10. 10. New Drama Forms Soap Operas – quick and serial produced with little resources Hollywood – big resources and time for each production New TV drama – more resources than soap operas but less than film Results: Style is borrowed from Hollywood a) Natural mimicry of light b) Shot seamless Interior and exteriors c) Framing not conditioned by camera predetermined positions d) Shot in film, not in video as soap operas. complex style form
  11. 11. New Drama Forms a) natural/artificial Lighting Six Feet Under the natural light mimicry 2001 The Guiding Light homogeneous unnatural shadowing 2005
  12. 12. New Drama Forms b) Interior-exterior sets The Guiding Light fake outside terrace episode from 2005 Lost In a real beach 2004
  13. 13. New Drama Forms c) complex framing Desperate Housewives 35 mm Film (2004) American Beauty 35 mm Film (1999)
  14. 14. New Drama Forms . Hospital Emergency Room day-by-day (ER) . Psychoanalysis of a Mafia Mob (Sopranos) . Funerary Family social living (Six Feet Under) . Plane Crash Survivors Tragedy (Lost) . Vicariously live in real-time a day of a fiction world (24) TV New Realism The use of soap opera narrative structure in conjunction with Hollywood film style, permits the development of a new TV realism
  15. 15. Case Study: 24 Analysis of the first season of the drama series, 24 It is named 24 because the action on the show occurs in &quot;real-time&quot;. One season covers the events of one day in the life of Jack Bauer. Every episode covers the events of one hour in that day. So 24 episodes for 24 hours.
  16. 16. Case Study: 24 Multi-Plot (A) Prevent the Assassination of a presidential candidate (B) Save kidnapped wife and daughter (C) Find the traitor within organization (D) Unveil the presidential candidate son of being a murderer multi-threaded and multi-episode story arcs
  17. 17. Case Study: 24 Uncertainty (a) Hero wife is raped by kidnappers (b) President candidate divorces is wife in the Election Day (c) Hero wife dies at the end Creative liberty, the use of Unpopular Content
  18. 18. Case Study: 24 Characters web 4 Families; 15 characters , each one of them plays at least for one episode a central role; This permits Hundreds of plot connections, and an infinite amount of information flow
  19. 19. Case Study: 24 Dramatic Artifices . Clock (mean of 10 displays per episode) - Emphasise strong sense of suspense, ticking on-screen from time to time. ( Hitchcock element ) - Shifts between diegetic and non-diegetic plans, augmenting the participative feeling of the viewer
  20. 20. Case Study: 24 Dramatic Artifices . Cell phone (mean of 20 calls per episode) - Transformation of text time into a new type of verbal space . - Helps maintaining the action flow for 24 hours - Conveys the feeling of simultaneity actions ongoing . Multi-screens - It picks the “verbal space” developed by the cell phone and creates a new visual space inexistent
  21. 21. Case Study: 24 Form as Reality Simulation . Digital video texture - Gives a familiar home video feel . Handheld camera - Imitates human visual perception
  22. 22. Case Study: 24 Concept as Reality Simulation . Synchronicity – moment for moment Each watching moment, corresponds to each hero moment - > establishes common touch point between viewer and hero that makes him feel as participative in the world. Viewer knows events are not true, they are fiction, but time is passing for real in his life during the viewing. Clock, makes the connection between fiction and reality. It works like a glue that unifies the suspension of disbelief and the simultaneous breaks - > puts the viewer in an alert state, a continuous shifting between passive and active roles.
  23. 23. Conclusions . TV Drama Series are increasing not only the cognitive demand on the viewer but also the emotional pace. . They are so demanding in terms of mental activity from the user that we should start thinking about it not only in terms of a viewing activity but as a participative interaction (videogames). . TV Drama series, are growing and stealing more and more audience from film. Series are becoming quickly the content most downloaded in the internet.