I'm concerned

Discussion in 'RED DWARF: THE PROMISED LAND' started by Aractus, Nov 15, 2019.

  1. Aractus

    Aractus Third Technician

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    Where exactly did I claim to be "know more"? The sitcom formula isn't some secret known only to TV companies.

    That's my understanding too (it is after all a full 30 minute show not 22 minutes), but even if it was broadcast domestically commercial-free it still needs to be formatted for ad breaks for the export market. The shorter the third act the better. I might add it also makes it more infuriating as a viewer because often with 22 minute shows the third act is just a couple of scenes after the commercial break and then the credits (this is because the entire Third Act is often contained in the "Kicker" even starting part-way through the "Kicker" part of the episode).

    Red Dwarf most certainly is formatted for two ad breaks, it's just not formatted to fit into a 30 minute time slot with them. I suggest you read the links I gave in the OP (if you haven't) because once you understand the sitcom structure it's impossible not to notice it, as mentioned here: "But as for how to construct an episode, various bloggers, from the Wise Sloth to helpful folks at the BBC, noted a basic structure that I immediately recognized in every sitcom episode I tested. This structure is so formulaic that you’d think it would suck the fun out of writing and watching such shows, but it does nothing of the sort. While knowing the code it changes the way I watch TV, it only increases my admiration for the good writers who do so much within relatively strict confines."

    As for the ad breaks, that's addressed here: "The final scene in acts 1 and 2 should feature some sort of twist or added complication that will leave the audience engaged and make them want to wait through the commercial break to see what happens in the next act." This is exactly what happens in Cooking the Books. The final scene of Act 1 is Manny swallowing the Little Book of Calm and being rushed to the hospital. The final scene of Act 2 is Bernard being punched by the skinheads. Both serve the purpose to keep the audience engaged past the commercial break, assuming of course that there will be one. With scenes like these the studio produces two versions, one with a hard break ready for the commercials, and one with a more seamless transition as is the case with the DVD version. The broadcast version of 24 without commercials for example removed the count-down clock - it was intended to be removed for broadcasting without commercials (this is why there's never any action in the count-down clock, only in the count-up clock), this allowed broadcasters to remove any commercial breaks in the show they didn't want (i.e. take fewer commercial breaks) or to remove the commercials entirely. For some strange reason though the count-down scenes are included in the DVD version - but believe me those scenes flowed a lot better with the count-down removed, which is how I first saw the series (Season 5 broadcast ad-free on Foxtel)!

    Black Books S01E01 is very clearly three acts, and very clearly three stories. The best sitcom episodes, generally speaking, have three stories like this episode does. The main one that propels the story forward, and the two sub-plots that serve to introduce our characters. Fran's story is not a "gag". She first opens up the new product in her shop, then Bernard walks in. She asks him to buy one, he asks what it is, and she doesn't know, he leaves and Fran says "I do sell a lot of smeg don't I?" This happens in Act 1.

    In Act 2, Fran is minding Bernard's shop and is asking his customer what her product is. The following day she walks back into Black Books still holding the object, still trying to figure out what it is. Then she does that again. Then she goes to Black Books again to work out what it is, asks Bernard's customers, and this time she misses her friend's birth (but she doesn't know this yet so she panics and rushes out the door to get to the hospital). In other genres all this wheel-spinning can feel dissatisfying (its certainly harder to get right and keep the audience interested). Bernard being punched is the end of Act 2, this is where the second commercial break is intended to go.

    Act 3 is less than 2 minutes minus the credits. In Act 3 Fran comes back into Black Books to use Bernard's yellow pages. Even though she could just go to her own shop or walk into any shop along her way, this is not really possible in the real world because she would have backtracked quite a way (Bernard has already been knocked out, and after some time perhaps half an hour or more has woken up), but it's essential so that her story can be resolved as it is when Manny instinctively knows what her object is. Plus it happens so fast you're not meant to notice this problem. It's a structured story, for its conclusion to work Manny has to be absent in all the previous scenes with the object. This kind of linking sub-plots is very commonly used in sitcom as it can be very comedic, and for the audience it feels very satisfying because there's lots of fun in seeing the sub-plots link up in the final Act. Seinfeld for example uses this trope all the time.
     
  2. Aractus

    Aractus Third Technician

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    That's interesting you say that, I really like "Cassandra".

    Part of the problem with series 7 and 8 is that they weren't made as sitcom, they were made as comedy-drama. So was Back to Earth. Series 10 returned firmly to sitcom.

    I don't hate it at all, I find Series 8 to be very much "Red Dwarf" despite its problems.

    A short 3 or 4 episode series would also have been fine. Going back to comedy-drama again, sorry Doug, is a fool's endeavour.

    Script or not he doesn't have the actors he needs for comedy drama. The only two that are qualified for that are Danny John-Jules, and Chris Barrie (plus Norman Lovett should they get him back). Case in point: Death in Paradise. Over the last two seasons they lost their two best actors, and their replacements just do not have the range required for comedy-drama. We saw this happen with RD Series 7 - their best actor (at the time) was replaced by someone less capable. Not someone "bad" by any measure, but certainly not as comedic as Barrie.

    Let's go over another solid episode shall we, Red Dwarf S10E06 - The Beginning. It has a simple clear structure, something essential for good sitcom. In the episode's prologue we're introduced to young Rimmer who has a confidence problem, this will be the major subplot. It's a very effective use of a prologue, another good example of a great prologue is "Dimension Jump". The main plot is that RD is under attack by a Simulant Death Ship.

    In Act 2 the simulants are introduced and they're completely insane. Meanwhile the dwarfers first try to hide, and then entrust Rimmer to come up with a battle plan. He plays his father's message, gaining self-confidence, and produces a battle plan all three of the other dwarfers think is crap. He overrules them telling them "apart from fear, pain, humiliation, failure, the unknown, and death we have nothing to fear but fear itself". Setting up the expectation to the audience that his plan is terrible. This is the end of the second act and where a commercial break would actually help with the anticipation for the final act.

    In the last Act the lines "Blow us up all you like but don't think for one second you're getting away with it. A letter worded in the strongest possible language is going off to Geneva." and "Right, that's it! Dear sir, I was scandalised earlier today by a simulant death ship which contravened treaty 5 of the Geneva Convention." Along with the line about fear, these may just be Barrie's funniest lines since "I've come to warn you, in three million years you'll be dead. Really? Yes unless you do something about it now." Rimmer's plan is completely ridiculous and would never actually work in the real world, of course, this is what makes the climax so comedic. It's based of course on that well-used trope from comedy westerns that have the enemies killing themselves in crossfire when the good guys duck. Like with Fran in Cooking the Books (described in the previous post), the story has to be on fast-forward so that the audience doesn't notice any problem or start to question it. This is where Rimmer's interaction with the simulants is absolutely essential as his distracts both the simulants and the audience.
     
  3. Ant E

    Ant E Science Officer

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    Doug’s script editor is @Andrew Ellard :lol:
     
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  4. talkie3000

    talkie3000 Deck Sergeant

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    Series 8 is certainly not comedy drama. more a sci-f spoof.

    I think the cast have shown they can pull off dramatic performances. mostly in the earlier series like 4,5,6 and 7.

    Now days though. they seem to struggle with whether to be dramatic or whether to turn their performance all the way up to funny and play to the audience.
     
  5. UltraDevotee

    UltraDevotee Supply Officer

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    Cassandra is one half hour episode is it not? What I meant was of the long form Red Dwarf, Back in the Red Parts 1, 2 and some scenes of 3 and Tikka to Ride Xtended are the only ones that are genuinely strong (I like the extra dialogue in the Starbug cockpit at the beginning of Tikka...true it is not as magnificently funny as series 6 but it has a feel of it).

    Regarding a smaller 4 half hour episode series? Well I suppose Peter Kay's Car Share series 2 did that so maybe that could have been an idea if 6 could not have been afforded. But I wonder would one 90 mins special still be cheaper to produce and film then even a 3 separate episode mini-series? Maybe they still did not have the finances to meet the costs even for that. To be honest, if only 3 half hour episodes were offered for a mini-series then surely I and other Dwarfers would still have been disappointed with that case anyway.

    We are getting more new Red Dwarf after a couple of years away finally and it is definitely going ahead so let's all be happy for now and be excited ahead of the audience recordings in December and let's see what Doug can imagine and create. Give it a chance and hopefully it might surprise you.
     
  6. UltraDevotee

    UltraDevotee Supply Officer

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    Just to clarify something...I suppose they were offered the money for 2 ninety mins each specials so maybe they could have afforded 3 thirty minutes episodes. But only 3 episodes would have been disappointing still especially after the 2016-17 bonanza of 12. So let's look forward to and give this new special a proper go next year.
     
  7. Seb

    Seb Captain Staff Member

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    I disagree with you pretty fundamentally on this "sitcom should only ever be up to 30 minutes" idea and the rationale behind it. But that's a point of opinion. What's not a point of opinion is this:

    This is straight up untrue for UK sitcoms, which will only ever have been designed for airing on BBC (no ad breaks) or commercial channels (only one break, roughly halfway through the programme). Writing/shooting for two breaks will never, ever have been on the minds of the makers of any UK sitcom.
     
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  8. Aractus

    Aractus Third Technician

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    You can't tell me that a show like Black Books, which is 22 minutes, is formatted for only one ad break. Ad breaks were meant to be 3 minutes, until they started pushing 4 minute ad breaks with shorter between-programme breaks. In short a 22 minute programme is designed to fit in a 30 minute time-slot. They can do what the BBC did, and the ABC here in Australia, and broadcast commercial-free, or they can stick in 1 or 2 commercial breaks. A programme designed for both 1 ad-break and a 30 minute timeslot should be 25 minutes.

    Red Dwarf as it was being broadcast on UKTV on Foxtel before I cancelled my subscription, was being broadcast with two ad breaks, between each of the acts in each episode. UKTV is owned by BBC. So I must respectfully differ that they're "not formatted" for it. The UK's most lucrative export market for TV is the US, and 2x ad-breaks in 30 minute programmes was standard there since the 80's.
     
  9. Asclepius

    Asclepius Console Officer

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    I don't think this makes any change. Here in the Czech Republic, Red dwarf was broadcast on Czech TV without commercials and now it's broadcast on Prima Comedy Central with commercials, but the commercials are put absolutely randomly in the show.

    If show like Red Dwarf should be written with attention to ad breaks, it would be a way to hell. Again, this maybe works with American sitcoms, but definitely not with Red Dwarf.
     
  10. Titanbeing

    Titanbeing Third Technician

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    The BBC has never had an ad break. Shows are created as such. For example Red Dwarf started at 2100, came on at 2101 after an intro by presenter. Finished at 2125(6) to allow short previews for other BBC shows. What UKTV and other companies show is an edited edition so it fits in the 4-5 minute commercial breaks. Black Books was created by Channel 4, a commercial channel so will have been created for 22 minutes to allow for commercials.
    Pre 2000 I cannot see BBC writing shows in 3 acts just in case they one day may decide to stream them in the future or allow to be sold for commercial channels.
     
  11. Ant E

    Ant E Science Officer

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    This is ridiculous
     
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  12. Pembers

    Pembers Console Officer

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    About quarter to 11
     
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  13. dvd3500

    dvd3500 Supply Officer

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    Personally when the Dave shows started I felt them rushed sometimes and wished they had been 1 hour....
     
  14. Ant E

    Ant E Science Officer

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    Correct

    1 hour down 1 to go...
     
  15. Seb

    Seb Captain Staff Member

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    I mean, I can tell you that, because it is. I can promise you that no British television channel has more than one ad break in a 30-minute programme.
     
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  16. dvd3500

    dvd3500 Supply Officer

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    Maybe Brexited UK will be able to change that...
     
  17. Ant E

    Ant E Science Officer

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    @neilold
     
  18. neilold

    neilold Science Officer

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    Don't ask me
     
  19. Nikki the Great

    Nikki the Great Flight Co-Ordinator

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    Agreed. Ask someone with an IQ over 50.
     
  20. Aractus

    Aractus Third Technician

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    But that's just the domestic broadcasting you're thinking about.

    If Dylan Moran came on and said "Black books was only ever have been designed for airing on BBC or for 1 ad break" I'd still reserve my right to scepticism when I see just how clearly it is formatted for the US-style 2x ad breaks. It conforms perfectly to the sitcom genre which requires it. If it didn't there would have to be a US edit of it ready for export.

    Anyway we'll agree to disagree, it's not completely relevant to my main point which is sitcom only works as a genre up to ~30 minutes, and that Red Dwarf works best when it's firmly grounded in the sitcom genre. I am concerned because I'd rather we just get good episodes, even if that's less of them. Filming two series back-to-back was too ambitious in my opinion, there's nothing wrong in filming one sitcom series at a time. With respect to the actors, the main cast is just not capable of carrying the series as comedy drama - unless you switch to Rimmer as the main character, with the Cat as the main supporting character. But that opportunity came and went with Back to Earth, that's when Doug had the opportunity to have Rimmer survive at the end of series 8 and be the last human in the universe instead of Lister, and bring Lister back as the hologram; in that scenario you might be able to make comedy-drama work.
     

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