The Insider

Dec 30, 2002  •  Post A Comment

The Insider for years has tried to tell anyone who would listen-and more than a few who would not-that if they are not watching TV with the closed captioning on, they are not getting all the entertainment or “say what?!!?” potential out of their TV time. Since captioners, like courtroom stenographers, do not work letter-by-letter but with a sort of phonetic shorthand, there are often delightfully off renderings of the words that are spoken. Thus, if you were listening to a recent interview with “Antwone Fisher” newcomer Derek Luke you heard him speak highly of castmate “Miss Viola Davis.” But if you were reading the closed captioning, what you saw was “MISS I OLD DAVIS.”
The Insider has, on occasion, read in the closed captioning the words being bleeped on “Saturday Night Live” presumably because word about changes between dress rehearsal and air didn’t get to the captioner. Since captioning frequently gives at least the title, if not lyrics, of music playing during a scene, it’s easy to tell when producers have decided to change the music at the last minute. You hear one song and read another in the captions. Ditto dialogue that’s dropped out at the last minute.
Anyone who tuned in to the Dec. 5 episode of “Scrubs” heard perpetually beleaguered intern JD (played by Zach Braff) deliver a line of dialogue to the effect of, “That guy’s so cool.” But the closed captioning for that scene rendered the dialogue as: “I’m as fly as Jeff Zucker.” Hmmmmmmm.
According to an NBC spokeswoman, who checked with “Scrubs” producers at Touchstone Television, the “fly” reference to NBC Entertainment President Zucker was an ad lib that made it into the rough cut of the episode that was sent to the captioner but that was later edited.
Take the wait off, HBO
HBO has taught us to wait eons for the return of favorite series, but now we’re being forced to wait months for a second look at a promotional spot? Now, that’s definitely not TV as we know it. But it’s soooo HBO.
Leading into the season finale of “The Sopranos” Dec. 8 was an eye- and ear-catching spot in which HBO series stars-including the cast of the recently canceled “Arli$$”-seemed to be mingling at one whale of a cocktail party while Frank Sinatra warbled “Sunday” in the background. It was a spot The Insider was looking forward to seeing again. Alas, The Insider-along with all you folks who don’t refer to yourselves in the third person-will have to wait until the still-to-be-announced night of the third-season premiere of “Six Feet Under,” which is unofficially expected to return in March. Quelle retard! Quel horreur!
“We were a little bit precious about it,” concedes HBO creative services chief Chris Spencer. He attributed the Halley’s comet-like telecast schedule for the spot to the internal consensus that “This time we’re not going to flog the horse. This one we want to keep sweet.”
The inspiration for the spot was a “big shoot” done in 2001 for a big spread about HBO’s hit Sunday night in Entertainment Weekly. When it proved “logistically impossible” to replicate for an HBO spot, the HBO creative team spearheaded by marketing’s Marc Rosenberg decided to resort to a sort of rotoscoping, lifting characters from scenes in the various HBO series and projecting them onto a background created for the promo-Larry David talking through a mouthful of munchies as he sits between a very silent Paulie Walnuts and Tony Soprano. The effect, which had been employed in movie-centric promos for sister channel Cinemax, is that “The whole thing feels kind of false but in an interesting way,” Mr. Spencer said. “We sweated over it for months. It was unbelievably complicated.”
An Internet search for music turned up Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “Sunday,” written by Bennie Krueger and Jule Styne. “It fit right in there,” Mr. Spencer said. “It was just magic.” “I’m blue ev’ry Monday thinkin’ over Sunday/ That one day when I’m with you/ It seems that I sigh all day Tuesday and I cry all day Wednesday/ Oh, my, how I long for you/ And then comes Thursday / Gee, it’s long and never goes by Friday/ Makes me feel like I’m gonna die / But after payday is my fun day/ I shine all day Sunday/ That one day when I’m with you.”
Anyway, “Arli$$” is reflected in the spot, Mr. Spencer said, because, “Even though it seems that `Arli$$’ is not going to go on, `Arli$$’ is a huge part of HBO’s success on Sunday night. So he’s in. He`s part of the family.”
It’s a twin peak for Rebecca Marks
Trying to round up long-lost relatives or classmates? Forget extreme Web searches. Just get written up-and pictured-in The New York Times’ Sunday business section.
After a recent story about twins in the executive suites of American business included Rebecca Marks, the senior veep who speaks for NBC Entertainment, and her oh-so-identical twin, Massachusetts Film Office director Robin Dawson, Ms. Marks said, she heard from “people from high school and college and work and press. I have gotten so many calls and e-mails it’s funny.”