Attention Spans

Today, I was bored, so I decided to go down to the computer room and watch some TV. It was the first time I had watched TV in well over a year. Caught the tail end of Access Hollywood, then switched and watched a bit of the new Survivor.

The thing that I kept noticing, and that eventually drove me crazy enough to stop watching (after only about half an hour), was the number of cuts shows and commercials nowadays have. You’d think there’s a new FCC regulation that you can’t have a single shot longer than a second or something, for fear of offending someone.

Seriously, I think the only shots I saw that lasted longer than literally a second were commercials where the background was changing constantly (annoying), shots where a single person was talking to the camera (Survivor interviews, at least… the Access Hollywood interviews constantly cut between shots even while they were interviewing someone…), and the long scenic shots in Survivor like where they focus on a bug and then shift the focus out to the tribe banner or something. (The new Survivor intro is particularly guilty of this… even when showing the people, they show at least two shots of each competitor in the 1 second of screen time they give them.)

I noticed this a while back in music videos as well… the new (and old) music videos for Daughtry, for example, feature almost-constant cuts between scenes.

Has our society really gotten so ADD that we require constant changes in imagery to remain engrossed?
Or have shows always been like this, but I’m just now getting old and weird enough to notice?

3 thoughts on “Attention Spans

  1. It’s probably something of an editing fad.
    “Oh, this show does it? We want that kind of feel that I will call edgy.”

    Yeah, I don’t care for it much either. At least in these two examples.

  2. This sounds like a great excuse to watch some old TV shows!

    I think it will vary by show type. In sitcoms, you can show different angles of a scene, but cutting in the middle of dialogue will just be confusing. It’s rare to have completely different scenes quickly thrown together. Some shows have idiosyncrasies; for instance, The Office has “talking head” interviews that are probably similar to the Survivor interviews you mention, but the rest of the show has the faux-documentary style of various camera angles and strange shots to see “secret” meetings. Game shows, on the other hand, can have tons of cuts, depending on the style. Jeopardy has always had tons of cuts to the puzzle board to the contestants to Art Fleming/Alex Trebek by virtue of the show style (it would be difficult to do otherwise and maintain any sense of what’s going on). The Price is Right has a stage with action on every corner, but usually only one place is a focal point at any given moment so cuts are used more sparingly (although there have been several directors, each with their own style, during the show’s run). Still, cuts may bring a sense of excitement, which most game shows actively try to build up. A show in a news style will have even fewer cuts, because the newscasters aren’t going anywhere. There might be more cuts in a field report, but not as many as in a music video. Animated content will vary widely by budget and creative staff.

    Some lists for decade-by-decade viewing.

    Sitcoms: 60s – Dick Van Dyke Show, 70s – All in the Family, 80s – Cheers, 90s – Seinfeld, 2000s – The Office

    Game Shows: 60s – Password, 70s – The New Price is Right, 80s – The $100,000 Pyramid, 90s – Family Feud (Ray Combs), 2000s – Deal or No Deal (get ready for cut central, and for getting bored within 3 minutes)

  3. Oh my goodness– I just watched the trailer for an animae series (Blood) and it was exactly what you are talking about. So many flashing colors and half-second images. It might give someone a seizure.

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