Tuesday, May 9, 2017

"A Sigh Is Just A Sigh... Unless You're An In-sigh-der"

You see what I did there?  I made you groan.  No easily dismissible accomplishment.  Eliciting specific reactions is very tricky to pull off with reliable certainty.  But well, sir and madam, I has me talents. 

So I am watching… no, I will not start a sentence with with “So.”

I am watching Blue Bloods reruns on cable – having abandoned all efforts at trying to understand why – and I see the show’s lead character, Tom Selleck playing the New York police commissioner, express, in Blue Blood, a commonly dramatized emotion:

He sighs.

No indicator of great weakness.  Who wouldn’t sigh if they were New York’s police commissioner?  And Blue Bloods is nothing if not documentariy accurate.  (or so, having spent countless hours watching it, I would somewhat desperately like to believe.)

On our home televisions, there is a focusing accentuation of that sigh, as we have invoked the visual augmentation of “Closed Captioning.”  We installed “Closed Captioning” for the many English murder mysteries we watch, where we are unable to decipher the regional accents and need transcribed subtitles to tell us what they are saying. 

Since there is no “app” – or is it “ap” – called “Closed Captioning For English Murder Mysteries Only”, we leave it activated all the time.  (Full Disclosure:  We actually forgot how to work it.  We’re like those people who, when they first got electricity, were unwilling to turn off the lights, fearing they’d be unable to turn them back on.) 

To the non-cognoscenti, “Closed Captioning” covers not just dialogue but every sound included in the broadcast.  If a dog’s barking in the distance, it says, in parentheses,

(dog barking in the distance)

Even if that barking dog has, in fact, nothing to do with the storyline.  Which is as it should be, I think.  Why should the hearing impaired miss out on “ambient audio”?

It is because of “Closed Captioning’s” providing me a “double-whammy” of that behavior – I experience it directly , followed by a written description of what I have recently witnessed – that the “Selleck Sigh” so penetratingly sinks in.

(Note:  Dissertations, I am sure, have been written and if they haven’t they immediately should be – concerning the qualitative distinction between a recognizable “Nose Sigh” and a “Mouth Sigh.”  Although no expert in this regard, I have suspicions that the “Nose Sigh” would be considered more demonstrably  “manly”.  Not surprisingly, Tom Selleck’s sighs are invariably proboscularly expelled, expressing “manly frustration” rather than “helpless surrender.”  But I could be way off in that assessment.)

When my attention is drawn to this auditory signifier, followed immediately by the visual accessory

(he sighs)

Or sometimes, alternatively, just

(sighs)

resulting from my having watched countless shows being made over the decades, I realize – and do not really want to realize, as that realization impedes my necessary “suspension of disbelief” – that the scene I am witnessing has gone through numerous “takes”, the director shooting the scene from various angles and “focal lengths”, from distant “Establishing Shots” to individualized “Close-Ups.”

What that means is – among other things, but I am focusing on this one – is that, getting the action successfully “in the can” required actor Tom Selleck to have sighed multiple times.

Making the one the audience gets to see not necessarily, the best sigh in the collection.

I mean, how would we know for sure?  All those “takes”?  Numerous sighs to choose from?  Not all of them equal because

How many times can you sigh with unvarying persuasiveness?

The behavior is hardly automatic.  Even the best actors would find it challenging to satisfactorily “Sigh on demand.”  And it’s “your call” where you rank Tom Selleck as an actor.

An actor can “fake” an emotion.  Who knows if the best available “take” includes a sub-par fabricated sigh?

Of course, being the biggest “name” in the series, Tom Selleck, if he wanted to throw his “Mr. Big Shot” weight around, could request yet another “take” because “I wasn’t feeling the sigh.” 

In deference to his clout and stature, there might follow a private conversation with the director and the producer, wherein Selleck confides, “I just think I could sigh better”, explaining that rather than reflecting the dramatized “story point” at that moment, his sigh was instead a product of how long it was taking to complete particular scene – which, as everyone knows, is an entirely different kind of a sigh. 

It might then be explained to him that, at that juncture in the production, they were precariously behind schedule.  A compromise offer could then be proposed, allowing that if Selleck believed he had “sighed better” in an otherwise inferior “take”, they could electronically “lift” that preferred sigh in editing and insert it into his nose – or more accurately exiting his nose – in the “take” they all concede was the overall “keeper.”

That argument generally carries the day.  And, more often than not, they later don’t even bother to do that.  I mean, what are the chances of the show’s “muscle” barging into the producer’s office having watched the televised broadcast, sputtering,

“What happened to my sigh?”     

Normally, they simply forget about it.

The trouble is,

I don’t.

As a consequence, while Tom Selleck “buttons” the scene via a nasalized expulsion signaling that New York’s law enforcement apparatus is suffering serious difficulties, instead of identifying with the character’s troubling concerns,

I am sitting in front of my television,

Wondering, distractedly, about the sigh.

(he sighs)

I just sighed, signifying that at that particular moment, my background and training undermined my enjoyment of a dramatic interlude in Blue Bloods. 


(Demonstrating how it would look if it were “Closed Captioned” on television.)

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