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24 September 2006 @ 06:45 am
A sign of bad TV writing in otherwise good shows ...  
You know, I used to be emotionally effected when an episode of a good TV show ended with a strong song that fit the mood. A good example is "Time" at the end of the S1 Joan of Arcadia episode "Jump." It enhanced the stellar episode, the strength and emotion of it and it didn't play under any dialogue, the show instead used the music to cap it all, enhancing the visuals onscreen. Now, this wasn't a thing they did often and so it had a power that still gets to me today. On the other hand, nowadays, show after show after show uses emo songs to bring emotion and resonance to their final scenes, more often than not playing the songs under dialogue.

This, to me, is a weakness of writing when it's used time and time again because it then becomes a crutch. A writer shouldn't need to rely on someone else's words, voice or music to relay the emotion of their scene. That's THEIR job! And yet, shows keep on doing it as if that's the only way they know how to wring emotion from their audience. Grey's Anatomy and Rescue Me are really big offenders -- of the shows I watch, the worst. Also, Nip/Tuck and House have begun to use it more than necessary. Of all the new shows I've watched so far (Studio60, Jericho, Men in Trees, Justice, Shark, Six Degrees, Standoff), I believe that Studio60 and Justice are the only ones who haven't used this device.

Frankly, because of the proliferation, such episode closers aren't really effecting me all that much anymore because I'm used to it, it's so same old, same old. (And it doesn't help that so many shows seem to regurgitate the same songs). I just am thankful that Veronica Mars rarely goes there. Yes, they use a lot of songs in the episodes, but they are mostly background music used to enhance, not create, the emotion in the scene. Even those episodes that have ended with songs, use it not as a crutch to wring emotion from viewers, ie. playing under what is meant to be deep and meaningful dialogue, but rather to enhance the visuals or a few lines of dialogue. It isn't used the way the above shows I referenced do. The music on VM is used in the right way to enhance the emotion in the scene, not create or overpower it so that you end the episode remembering the dialogue (if a song plays under dialogue -- which happens rarely), the scene and not just the song.

Anyhoo, after watching two new shows tonight and having both end on emo songs to sell their final, emotional moments, I just needed to vent.
Sally: record playermissmarch on September 24th, 2006 01:50 pm (UTC)
Great post. I swear, I was just thinking about this exact same thing the other day. So many shows use music as a shortcut to the emotion. Musical montages drive me crazy, because they're so overdone.

I think RT uses music as well as any showrunner to be honest. That's one thing that he almost never gets wrong and that I will praise him for with no reservations.
Arabian: Swayarabian on September 24th, 2006 07:35 pm (UTC)
That's it -- a shortcut to a emotion, that's the phrase I was looking for. It is soooooo overdone. And yeah, RT does use a LOT of music, but his musical background shows because he uses it effectively and not as a cheap shortcut to emotion.
beatlegirl59 on September 24th, 2006 03:36 pm (UTC)
The song VM used at the end of Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner gives me chills everytime I watch it. It's so perfect.
Arabianarabian on September 24th, 2006 07:36 pm (UTC)
I'm in the minority in not liking that episode, but again I agree that VM really effectively uses their music. It's very rare that the music doesn't enhance the moment ... without creating it. In the case you describe, it was the music WITH the scene that made it so powerful for many.
beatlegirl59 on September 24th, 2006 09:37 pm (UTC)
Haha, that was like the only episode Duncan was in season 2 that I can bear to watch! Just because I loved that they started to give Lamb more dimensions. I really hope they continue to develop his character season 3.
Arabian: Peace_VMarabian on September 24th, 2006 10:16 pm (UTC)
That was actually my problem. I don't think Lamb needs dimension -- not every asshole has some deep-seated reason for being an asshole, some people are just assholes. And everyone I know who watches the show but doesn't go online was really annoyed by the Lamb stuff. In fact, when I told them that he was a season regular next season, they were even more annoyed. I hope the online fandom for Muhney doesn't wind up biting RT in the ass because off-line (from my circle of non-online watchers), adding him is a big turn-off. They prefer him as just a side character who is an asshole to Veronica, Keith and Logan.

::Shrugs:: We'll see. I don't think it will really have any effect, it's just one more thing to add to the pile of things that could hurt an already hurting show. Sigh.
beatlegirl59 on September 25th, 2006 01:03 am (UTC)
While that may be true,(I've never known anyone to be born an asshole, but I'm sure it happens) the vast majority of people who are jerks, in my experience, have had shitty lives, or at least some bad experiences that have hardened them to the world. Evil is very rarely so black and white, so I think it makes the show and his character much more realistic to give him that background. It doesn't make me hate him any less, his past is no excuse for being a dick. I just think it's a nice subtext to add and complicate his character.
A Girl Called Shannon: Music - Sweet Tuneszimshan on September 24th, 2006 05:40 pm (UTC)
Such WORD. Such WORD.

I have this problem with any music, songs or underscore that completely manipulate emotions. You're right, it's supposed to enhance a scene, not carry it. And it is SUCH a crutch on television today. Almost everyone not just uses it but overuses it. It's honestly one of the reasons I can't watch much other television shows these days. I always found it pretty bad but once I started watching VM, Rob uses all his music in a way so much more perfect than I've ever seen it done, that it just kills me to watch anything that massacres music. I've caught a couple of GAs over the summer and I'd agree it's got to be one of the worst offenders of the present. When I used to watch The WB, Smallville was another HORRIBLE offender. Gilmore Girls used to be one of the best music users and has since declined horribly.

In conclusion, you're not alone. Badly used music just really drives me nuts too...
Arabian: Bellsarabian on September 24th, 2006 07:39 pm (UTC)
Yeah, we all know that I give RT shit for anything I can, so when I unequivocably say that he's pretty much perfect in his music use, you know I mean it.

I think if I had a life, LOL!, I probably would watch less television and this reason would be one of them. It's just such a cheap, cheap crutch. And yes, Grey's Anatomy is REALLY bad with it. I swear every episode ends with music there to create the scene ... and not only that, the use of music doesn't always fit and actually DISRUPTS scenes.

I remember that Mike Doughty's "I Hear the Bells" was used on GA and I already knew the song from the VM soundtrack and loved it, so I mentioned it to my friend. She complained because she couldn't really hear the dialogue because the song was so loud, the lyrics were getting in the way of what they were saying.

That's one think VM does really well.
sowell: Hee! - by twtsowell on September 24th, 2006 07:50 pm (UTC)
Yeah, VM uses music so very well. I love when they use a song that's not-quite-right. It can push the scene to the next level. The most recent one I remember is Beaver's suicide song - that kind of mellow, rhythmic song starts up in the background, and it just makes the whole thing seem inevitable and haunting. No other show really matches it, and yes, Grey's is the worst with the schmoopy music choices.
Arabian: baby!arabian on September 24th, 2006 08:20 pm (UTC)
Ooh and the juxtaposition of "That's Amore" with the beating toned down the horrificness of it, which in retrospect helped in not seeing that it was Aaron. That was a brilliant move.
Sally: epicmissmarch on September 24th, 2006 11:59 pm (UTC)
I agree with everyone that GA is one of the worst offenders. Lost does it often too.

One of my favorite parts of the Epic scene and I Hear the Bells is how it's actually part of the scene. I love that moment of silence when she's listening to it, and smiling because she likes it, and he's drunkenly gazing at her, with that look of longing and regret. GAH. Perfect.

When this show gets it right, it really gets it right.
harper47harper47 on September 25th, 2006 02:51 pm (UTC)
Hey - I just saw that Grey's Anatomy episode this weekend (since I am watching Season 2) and I remember when the music started I was all - hey wait - that's the VM song, um . . . (cause I'm horrible with title) and then the lyrics cued me in.

Weird. I heard the Faders song on the first season too and it immediately took me to a VM place of mind.

And word to your post. Lost to me is by far the worse offender. I want to spork my ears when they start those idiotic mucis montages. Spork!
Arabianarabian on September 25th, 2006 03:16 pm (UTC)
Ah, I forgot about Lost. Totally right.
Katherine: W/V OTPmisskatherine on September 25th, 2006 12:42 am (UTC)
I have to disagree regarding Studio 60. Matt and Danny walk out on stage at the end of the show with the weight of a lagging series and the hopes of a network on their shoulders, and the song playing is 'Under Pressure'? That moment sprang immediately to mind while reading your post.

But as for the rest, I agree with you. The writers seem to be using music as a crutch.
Arabian: Matthew Perry_Signaturearabian on September 25th, 2006 03:15 pm (UTC)
You're right, you're right. Hopefully, Sorkin will stay true to form and not continue this trend.
Maloramalora on September 28th, 2006 05:43 am (UTC)
I wonder if this has become yet another product placement. I've only watched GA once or twice, but I have noticed the trend of a song being played on that show, and then immediately showing up on the radio the day or two after, which coincides with that artist releasing a new album.

I don't necessarily mind musicians using TV as a forum to make people aware of their music, but as you pointed out, it's so rarely done effectively. I just feel like I'm watching a music video. Maybe that's the next step—a dialogue-free, music video television episode. Welcome to the future of television. :)

Arabianarabian on October 1st, 2006 04:24 am (UTC)
I wonder. You may be right.