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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

What is It with Local TV Dramas?

The plot of our local sinetrons are jam-packed with conflicting characters. Almost everyone has something to fix, as if the more complex the dilemma is, the more interesting the story will be (and the longer the episodes should be made). I hardly find one in which the leading roles gets the real focus. Not to mention that many unnecessary characters take part.

Predictably, I got bored even before reaching half of the plot. Most sinetrons are at least 30-something-chapter long. Some even have 2-3 sequels with more than 30 episodes each. Compare that to other Asian dramas. And sequels are hardly any, unless the drama was a sensational hit.

Well-prepared dialogue makes today’s Asian dramas turn out finer as well (I don’t speak Japanese, Mandarin, or Korean, so maybe thumbs up to the translators). They can say things more gracefully, not straight-out yet knocks you deep inside. Seems like every single word the characters should say has been thought of very carefully. Now I can clearly appreciate what my lecturer labeled “high-level of communication”. Our sinetrons doesn’t do that effectively. Possibly we deviate the so-called Eastern norms with the need to say everything out loud.

Asian dramas don’t really do much of talking (I hate it when local sinetrons show rambling characters on those nonsense unimportant trivial stuff. Hello? It’s supposed to be a TV drama, not a weblog!). This can be seen especially on Taiwanese or Korean dramas. Instead, we can find a lot of scenes with close-up angles. The character’s body language and facial gestures are used to depict the emotions going on. Again, a law of communication applies here: 80% of the meaning of communication lays on the nonverbal messages.

Just as a picture paints a thousand words, what you do and how you do it matters more than what you say. This is the second failure of our sinetrons.

Nonverbal messages can only be successfully transmitted if the actors/actresses get hold of the character they’re playing as. Although it was said that Barbie Xu (a.k.a. Da S, female leading role in Meteor Garden & Mars) was not really likeable in her own country, I’m always fascinated at how natural it was whenever she cried. I mean, THAT is the way girls shed tears! While most of Asian performers are able to do this (or at least that what I think), Indonesians appear to act artificially.

The combination of two things above—dialogue efficiency & close-up angles—results in scenes portraying long silence where the characters seem to be lost deep in their own thoughts. It is up to the viewers to interpret things going through their mind. Thus, they force us to think and, inevitably, get carried away with the storyline.

Those scenes of long silence and contemplation would be nothing without—this is the most important—THE SOUNDTRACK! I recently noticed that our sinetrons put full-band scores, which only fits colossal movies (it’s funny to see parents-child arguments with music that makes you think an evil war between two gigantic kingdom is happening at the background). You won’t find this in Asian dramas. A solo piano, with guitar plus few strings at most, is their lethal weapon. And they don’t put music in unless it’s needed.

So there you go. Not-wasteful dialogues & roles, close-up angles, proficient performers, perfect music scores, all well blended, create stunning dramas going regionally. Think again, just how many local dramas can be sold to Southeast Asian countries anyway?

[By the way, I’m adding this relating to Indonesian teen sinetrons. They exhibit nothing but shallow, fake, illogical manners of living.
The actors/actresses go to school not only with full make-up & hairdo, but also a shoulder bag that’s too small to pack anything in, way-too-stylish attire and trimmings (unless they’re going to a fashion school), plus a bunch of gang having nothing to do other than menacing their peers.
Even the supposedly most inhibited, nobody-and-lonely character still stands out among others. And by the way, I wonder why they never talk about homework, lessons, or exams...]

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