When it comes to watching television, one of the types of programming I enjoy the most is larger-than-life international events and specials. Because I do not have a limitless supply of vacation days nor do I have the money to be on the road to attend all of the events, TV can be the next best thing to being there.
The opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics are a classic example of an iconic program that typically has me glued to the set, experiencing the sights, the sounds, the brilliant talent, the drama and the beauty of an international scale event where the participants come together as one. Add the fact that you can also see the faces of the participants beaming with high hopes and joie de vivre of the moment, it really is a joy to behold and source of incredible inspiration.
To me, where the joy of the experience sometimes goes south, is when the TV announcers talk throughout the show. I am not referring to a comment here and there, or even the goal of making programming accessible to people with visual impairments, but rather announcers who talk.. and talk… and talk. Don’t get me wrong, I think the announcers do a formidable job in keeping viewers on top of the action, but there is a tipping point where “announcing” crosses over from informative to a point of diminishing returns.
Where I think the industry seems to have lost its way is in a bit of mandate creep. Television coverage seems to have gone from announcing, to commenting, to explaining, to filling in any dead air with personal observations, to the point that viewers are now missing the true audio portion of the event: the cheering, the great music and the overall energy of the experience. The feast for the senses is now reduced to a light lunch drowned out by bad conversation.
In particular, what I do not seem able to grasp is the sudden and compelling need to explain all of the symbolic elements during the show, and not just in broad strokes but going into intricate detail about each and every one of them. I would not be on the receiving end of that if I was attending in person, so why should I have to sit through it at home? Then, when the scripts lead into fun facts that really aren’t that fun or anecdotes between the announcers, I believe we have passed the tipping point.
Let’s put things in perspective, shall we? When we go to the movies or to the theatre, they ask us to turn off cell phones, refrain from talking, and not take photos, right? Why? Because we do not want to disturb or distract other viewers who are enjoying the experience… or even to distract the talent. (Bravo, Patti Lupone!)
Then why do networks ask television announcers to steal from viewers the opportunity to be there and completely in the moment? If someone was in the room talking that much, they would have been shushed (…at least in my house). It is not like I can turn down the volume on the announcer, because then I would have no opportunity to hear any of the background festivities either.
Last year, OUT TV, here in Canada, started providing coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest. I do not understand the decision to go with a format that included very chatty hosts who even talk through the songs… during a musical competition. Either way, sorry OUT TV, I will continue to watch it live and on-line, without the commentary.
I feel bad for the announcers at these televised events, because they are just doing their job. But I cannot help but ask myself what exactly the networks and production teams are trying to accomplish with the endless commentary? Why not just convey the most important facts on a need-to-know basis, and take a breath for the viewers to stay fully engaged and in the moment to enjoy a world-class experience.
Dear networks, whether you are showing an Olympic event, the Super Bowl half time show, a music show, a parade, a coronation, a wedding or any world-class event, while I fully respect your need to entertain and inform, this is really not the time to impress your viewers with your knowledge of trivia. Please, let the event speak for itself. Thank you.
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