Thursday, April 4, 2019

Love in the Afternoon: Say Don’t Show

Despite being on television five days a week, daytime dramas typically have to establish a lot of exposition in a limited amount of time. On the long running daytime show General Hospital, producers took advantage of the hospital setting to establish a gossipy nurses station that would provide a realistic reason to supply and re-supply exposition about what’s going on in the show to the audience.

The gossipy nurses were always filling in other characters (and the audience) about the latest happenings in town. Network executives knew that many viewers would not be able to watch every episode. Before VCRs and DVRs, viewers might stop watching the show altogether if they couldn’t keep up with the action. So the gossip sessions were mostly provided for the occasional viewer’s benefit; they could easily get up to date with the various affairs and scheming with a quick rundown given by a nosy nurse.

Now that there are multiple ways to keep up with the dramas- DVRs, streaming, on mobile devices, etc. the nurses station doesn’t have to provide as much exposition as before. Nowadays, the shows are more likely to use exposition to quickly establish new and recurring characters. For example, other characters can talk about how smart and successful a district attorney might be, even though the lawyer in question always seems to accuse the wrong person and can’t ever get a successful conviction. We are assured, however, that they are amazing just because the other characters keep saying that they are.