By Danny Tyree
"I can't HEEAARR you!" – Sgt. Vincent Carter on "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C."
You may recall that – in October of 2019 – I wrote a column denouncing the proliferation of confusing, dimly lit scenes in movies and TV shows.
Now it's time to unload on the audio aspect of the media.
Remember when Hollywood gave us effervescent heroes and scenery-chewing villains with crisp diction? Now many actors/characters are so low-pitched, understated and listless that their threats devolve into, "You'll get to watch your children die in front of you, but only if you don't drown in your Cap'n Crunch first. Please stop falling asleep in your cereal. I'm almost finished whispering my master pl–ZZZZZ."
I know these guttural thespians think smoking 20 cartons of Luckies a day was worth it because their voice is sexy enough to make great-grandmother start ovulating, but it's distracting for the rest of us.
Lack of energy isn't always the main factor in hard-to-understand dialogue. Some actors certainly have the pep to cram their mouths full of marbles before mumbling a soliloquy.
Admit it. Even if you and your significant other possess perfect hearing, you have doubtless squandered many an evening endlessly replaying the same 30-second clip and asking, "WHAT did he say???" These are the times that make "TV Guide" look less enticing that that hardcover copy of "The 1931 Statistical Analysis of Boll Weevils" propping up the wobbly table.
Do you ever wonder what sort of childhood these slovenly, low-volume characters endured? ("Son, always wear clean underwear, and always use your indoor voice when you're in a hailstorm at the Indianapolis 500.")
Let's not forget subtitles. I make no apologies for being a multitasker. While "watching" a TV show, I can usually imagine the action on the screen while devoting part of my attention to the newspaper, my notebook or the family cats. And then – out of the blue – the writer has a gaggle of characters switch to conversing in their native tongue, with the benefit of subtitles that I must play "catch-up" with.
Producers insist that these jarring rounds of subtitles are necessary for the "realism" of the show. Hey, if I'm watching a miniseries about an elf traveling to the dawn of time with an honest politician, the realism train has probably already left the station.
Even worse, some artsy directors insist on long stretches of non-English dialogue with nothing except facial expressions and gestures to give you the gist of what's going on. Scan your own groceries. Translate your own dialogue. Truly, we live in a wonderful age. Next, we'll perform our own autopsies.
Unfortunately, foreign actors speaking exclusively in English is not a cure-all. Casting directors love actors who have an accent so overpowering you can hear the sound of your ears bleeding. It's like Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" processed through Ye Olde Drive-Thru Speaker.
From Eddie Haskell to J.R. Ewing to today's scoundrels, I have always thought there were some characters who needed a "come to Jesus moment." Now I think there are characters who desperately need a "come to Henry Higgins" moment.
Let's do something about this situation.
I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not gonna...be able to be heard over the commercials!"
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at [email protected] and visits to his Facebook fan page "Tyree's Tyrades."