Monday, June 16, 2008

Translating TV Teases and Promos

You know how annoying those promo clips and teases for TV shows can be. The networks want you to watch, so they use all kinds of special words and phrases to catch your attention and hopefully tune in. Television advertising thrives on exaggeration.

After seeing probably thousands of teases and promos over the years, I decided to prepare a definitive translation guide for what those promo words and phrases REALLY mean. So in case you haven’t already figured these out on your own, here is my Translation Guide for TV Teases and Promos:

“A very special…” Somebody will set sick, die, or have some sort of accident that is an attempt to make viewers cry. Expect a sob story.

“A show that everyone is talking about.” This is a show that hardly anybody is talking about, they are just trying to drum up some buzz of their own. Or, it can also mean that everybody is talking about the show…about how BAD it is.

“An unforgettable….” This is an episode that will contain a role for one of the lead actors that is hoped will garner an Emmy nomination. This can often be paired with “A very special...” One most often thinks of Law & Order SVU and Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay).

“A groundbreaking….” This means that a show is going to capitalize on a theme or story that the rest of the world has already caught on to, but now television wants to get in on the action.

“A special edition of…” These are usually used for news-type shows, and it means that they will spend the next hour or two boring you to tears on one subject.

“With limited commercial interruptions.” You will have some commercials front-loaded and maybe a brief one in the middle. This only means that the advertiser had to pay a lot more for the ads. Usually this is the one tease or promo that is relatively truthful. Of course, since people don’t normally count the number of commercials in a given show, it’s hard to define how many commercials make up a “limited” number of interruptions.

“Don’t miss the last five minutes….” Their main advertiser is paying big money for the ad showing right before that last five minutes of the show. It also means that something happens in the last minutes of the show that you already figured out was going to happen anyway. Sometimes it can mean that something unexpected happens, but it just raises more questions, as for shows like “Lost.” Also see “A revealing…”

“A revealing…” The only thing that gets revealed are more questions. You almost never get any big answers revealed when they tease a show this way. Shows like “Lost” and “Battlestar Galactica” are examples.

“A shocking…” Most of the times, nobody is really shocked.

“An explosive…” This doesn’t mean a literal explosion. Often it means one of the stars of the show gets enraged and has an emotional blow up or breakdown.

“Emmy nominated…” It didn’t WIN an Emmy, but was nominated with probably about 50 other shows for one category or another.

“Emmy winner…” The show will milk this for all they can. If someone wins an Emmy for the show, or the show itself wins an Emmy, you’ll never hear the end of it, even when the show has long lost its luster.

“Starring Oscar winner..” They are hoping that someone who won an Oscar and who can’t get hired for another movie will draw you into seeing a dog of a show. Example: Holly Hunter in “Saving Grace.”

“At a special day and time…” It’s usually a rerun, or it’s a new show where they just can't figure out where to put it so someone will actually watch it.

“ A thrilling…” This episode will be filled with lots of dark, scary background music and dark scenes to try to make it look more intense.

“A special appearance by…” or “guest starring” : This can vary by show. For medical shows, the special guest usually is the one to get sick or die in fashion to hopefully get an Emmy nomination. For crime shows, the guest star usually is the criminal, but in the case of the Law & Order franchise, it means different things: for women, it means some aging actor has been brought out of the mothballs to serve as a lawyer; for men, they are usually either the criminal or the cagey defense attorney. Regardless of the type of show, sometimes, albeit rarely, the guest star really can add to the story. Many times the star only makes a brief cameo appearance. This tease can be a real toss-up. Watch at your own risk!

"The out of context scene" Be wary of the promotional tease that shows one of the main characters doing something or saying something that seems shocking or risqué. Usually these are taken completely out of context and when you see the actual episode the scene doesn’t look as it did in the promo.

Well, this is just a start. I know there are more out there, and I am sure you know them too. If you have some you’d like to share, add them to the comments below so everyone can be forewarned and prepared. Just take TV teases and promos with a grain of salt, watch at your own risk and …stay tuned!

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