Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Watching Ellie

I really enjoyed Watching Ellie, a new television series starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

The show started with a potentially weak gag (running late, Julia's character, Ellie, finds that water is overflowing from her toilet tank), but the show used this device to introduce some funny characters. The show also had a timer, set at the lower-left corner of the television picture, faint, but noticeable. The timer emphasized the 'real time' nature of the show, and it was somewhat disconcerting. The timer started at 21 minutes, and ticked down to 00:00, like watching some sporting event.

The last time I watched something in "real time" was the movie Timecode. And that movie featured four simultaneous screens, each quite watchable. When I saw the first edit in Watching Ellie, I thought "how could this be realtime if there's editing?" But by the end of the show, you really felt late when Ellie finally arrives on stage at the end of the episode, knowing all she went through in the past twenty minutes.

I'm trying to think of a 20 minute block out of my life that would be worthy of television dramatization. I thinking the moments before my wedding (I smoke a cigarette while my brother Ron and great friend (and usher) James try to get to the church in a car that's running out of gas; we eventually stop at a gas station). I'm thinking the ten minutes before and the ten minutes after Mia was born. I'm thinking the twenty minutes I interviewed with the president of the first company I worked for after college.

It will be a challenge for Watching Ellie to match the perfect pacing of their premiere episode. I think it will also be hard to figure out moments in Ellie's life that are suited for a real-time presentation. Good scripts and good editing can help, but for how long?

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