Damn'dest Thing!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Damn'dest Thing!

It's no secret that I'm such a Law & Order aficionado that I regularly record and watch the week-daily three-hour block of reruns on Cable TNT.

It's a great time in the day for me... I open and peruse mail, work on a sudoku problem and, invariably, have a nap.

(Not to worry... I've seen every episode in the series' 20-year run at least twice.)

This week, however, I inadvertently stumbled across something I'd never seen, or more accurately, heard before.

It was a voice... male in the first show, female in the second and third in the block... provid­ing basic stage directions.

Where did that come from?

After some poking around the menu of the Cablevision-provided DVR, and experimenting with the language option, I found it.

In viewing an L&O episode with the "Spanish" option enabled, one gets (in English) character actions and scene titles narrated, i.e.:

"Briscoe and Green show their badges."


"New York Ledger, 548 West 29th Street, February 25."

It seems to be an aid for the sight-impaired, and is formally known as "Audio Description."

(Formerly "Secondary Audio Program.")

But after fooling around with different shows and cable channels for the past two days, it only seems to work with L&O on TNT.

Elsewhere either nothing out of the ordinary happens, or, as with The Closer, also on TNT, the "Spanish" setting actually provides the dialogue in Spanish!

(And having Kyra Sedgwick open her Julia Roberts-sized mouth to have rapid-fire Spanish emerge is a little odd.)

And furthermore...

Jeanne and I always enable the closed cap­tioning, so poor has our hearing become.

Over the years I've notice some significant discrepancies between the spoken word and that of the captions, usually due to the trans­cribing captioner understandably "short­handing" some of the lines.

On occasion, though, can be spotted a major diction gaffe such as occurred in the L&O epi­sode entitled "Bailout" when ADA Mike Cutter delivers a line containing the phrase "flouting the system."

The captioning, however, read "flaunting the system," an offense which drives a language pedant up a wall.


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