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Sunday, April 8, 2012
Out With a Bang
The Tub of Damocles before...
Broadcast network television shows traditionally wrap up their seasonal run in early Spring, just as pilot season kicks off, while the smaller and more nimble cable networks take advantage of the programming gaps left by those lumbering broadcast dinosaurs to shoot and air their much cheaper (and often better) shows. Given that the season finale of every show -- broadcast or cable -- will be the last memory fans hold on to until the following season's premier, the writer/producers strive hard to go out with a bang; something splashy that will stick in the minds of viewers through a long hot summer littered with trash TV.*
There are many ways of doing this: a dramatic cliff-hanger, the consummation of a long-simmering relationship, or some kind of physical or emotional pratfall that resonates with the ongoing theme of the show. The latter path was chosen by the writer/producers of a show I'm familiar with, who employed a leaking tub on the second floor that -- like Chekov's famous gun -- was established in the first act of that final episode. Two very experienced special effects men were brought in to rig the tub high over the living room set, complete with a big chunk of flooring, insulation, and leaking pipes. At the precise moment, explosive bolts would release the entire rig to drop through the supposedly water-logged second floor and land atop a brand new living room couch that had just been delivered.
Such special-effects shots are seldom done in front of a live audience -- too much can go wrong, and even if everything works out exactly as planned, rigging these shots is very time-consuming, which is why we did this one during the blocking/pre-shoot day, with all four cameras running and the entire crew (including the office staff) gathered around to watch.
It was absolutely perfect. With a crack like a rifle shot, the bolts blew, the tub dropped, and the couch was crushed. Once the applause died, the director conferred with the producers, then ordered the special effects crew to do it again. The second time was just as good, and that was that. Once the mess was cleaned up, we resumed the blocking and pre-shoots.
When the audience saw the playback at the end of the live show, they went wild. The producers were giddy with the response. It was a hell of a way to bring the curtain down on Season One.
That's what can happen when you find a good way to send a show -- and the season -- out with a bang.
* To my mind, this includes all so-called Reality Shows and most especially anything featuring the odious Douchebagian Family.