Walking and Talking, Inventing and Crediting
Recently this video started going around the internet. It’s fantastic. It also mentions Gilmore Girls.
Someone I do not know took to my friend’s link and started smacktalking Gilmore Girls. This person said quote, “Gilmore Girls has dialogue, but it’s also only snappy because of the editing.” [emphasis mine.]
If one is going to argue The Newsroom is a good show (let alone one of the best on TV, as this person proceeded to do), the argument should stand on its own merits and not feel the need to drag another show down. One has absolutely no need to trash talk Gilmore Girls, But if one feels that need, and one is going to talk about editing, perhaps one should know of what one speaks.
First, Gilmore Girls has plenty of uncut walk-and-talks. See below.
Second, on TV, the fact the camera often cuts to a closeup from a wide or cuts to a person listening, is a visual break for the viewers, not necessarily to cover editing. Several articles on Gilmore Girls – including one linked to below – discuss the myriad of takes needed to get a perfect delivery, not just for all the words, but for the timing. The longer and faster the dialogue, the less editors want to switch between actual takes, as it will be hard to match pitch, sound, speed, accompanying motions, etc. Most traditional TV shows are multi-cam, covering the same scene from multiple angles at once, so on the same take and the same audio different views can be toggled between, resulting in optimal continuity and a smooth, perfectly delivered rant.
I won’t argue Gilmore Girls‘ dialog is more difficult to deliver, because that gets subjective. I won’t argue Gilmore Girls is more adept at pop culture, because that’s indisputable.
I do believe the main reasons Sorkin alone, and not also Amy Sherman Palladino, is associated with the walk-and-talk is 1) he’s a man 2) his shows are about politics and ‘important things’ and hers about women: in Gilmore Girls a single mother, in Bunheads a female dance studio instructor, in other projects two sisters, etc. Sure, her shows deal with issues of class and divorce and sexism and familial resentment and ambition and social politics and small-town gossip and religion, but society sees them as a ‘women stories,’ thus inconsequential, and its creator and techniques the same.
All this though – during 22-episode seasons on a smaller budget, a decade earlier than The Newsroom – most of the characters went on walk-and-talks, not to mention gasp-inducing diatribes.
Here are a couple of results from the first two pages of a youtube search. While I know longer examples exist, these should suffice for my purposes, especially since they involve multiple actors and the first includes exactly the kind of high-ish-cultural jabber Sorkin writes.
(start at 1:05)
Here is an article about rapid-fire dialogue and walking and talking, with 7.5 paragraphs on how important walk-and-talk shots and delivery are to Gilmore Girls.
The ultimate point here isn’t that one is better, nor is it that only two show creators have ever done this. Other shows use this technique, especially those set in the medical field (wheeling patients around provides plenty of time). But Gilmore Girls and Sorkin vehicles use the technique as a lynchpin, and both focus on machine-gun dialogue, witty banter, and pop culture references. They’re easily the closest comparisons, except one gets you scoffs, and one is widely recognized and respected.
The latter just happens to be a dude.
– I also realize the technique was used somewhat on the short-run Sorkin-penned Sports Night, though it wasn’t popularized until The West Wing. According to Wikipedia, it was the idea of EP/director Thomas Schlamme.
– I liked The West Wing, and I liked what I saw of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Those together with The Newsroom support the fact most actors who are cast in Sorkin’s pieces are incredibly good at delivery: Mary Louise Parker, Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney, Peter Krause, Stockyard Channing, these people have gifted tongues. But that doesn’t mean you get to dismiss Lauren Graham or Alexis Bledel or Keiko Agena by suggesting they can’t deliver the same sort of thing.
– Related: Emily Nussbaum talks about why Sex and the City [which, disclaimer, I’ve seen two whole episodes of] gets overlooked for male genre deconstructive shows.