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Home » Culture and Criticism

In which I am gaslighted by my DVR remote

Submitted by on February 28, 2013 – 12:17 PM11 Comments


Nobody else in my Twitter feed enjoyed last night's "ripped from the Rihanna/Chris Brown headlines" episode of Law & Order: SVU either, which makes me feel a little better about the fact that nobody else in my Twitter feed could hear the monotone voice-over I could. At first, I thought that the episode had caused so much controversy that, not content to settle for the customary "this is fiction, swearsies" chyron, they'd commissioned an actor to say it aloud:

Nobody responds, but I figure, I'm watching it on delay, everyone's over it. My next tweet is non-specifically despairing:

But in the one after that, I implore Q specifically to join me in hating on the voice-over:

People, it was deplorable — somewhere, William Zinsser is writhing on the ground with a trickle of blood coming out of each ear thanks to a veritable barrage of adverbs (inaccurate ones, to boot — she did not nod "firmly"! she barely nodded at all! also, gah!). Deplorable…and, to everyone else in North America, inaudible, but at that point, I still didn't know that. Ergo the deploring:

…"Gapes." …"Strides"!

At that juncture, Q finally suggested that perhaps I'd accidentally turned on the voice-description feature for the sight impaired, which is exactly what had transpired, and since I didn't have the first damn idea how I'd done that (well, "I'd" — pretty sure a little grey cat is responsible), I didn't have the first idea how to un-do it. I finally got Captain Flatline to STFU, just in time for the last scene, and it was but a marginal improvement:

So, while I'd like to apologize to the SVU team for harshing on writing I wasn't really supposed to hear, 1) that was a clown episode, bros, regardless and 2) could you please call the set and tell them to throttle down the orange gels? The entire cast looks like they're lit with one of those countertop electric grills.

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  • Cait says:

    I think all of the networks are required to air a certain amount of programming per month or year with the audio descriptions available. I looked it up when the same kind of weird voiceover happened on a Modern Family or Happy Endings episode last fall. According to this site it looks like Parks & Rec is due for it tonight. I was not able to figure out how to turn it off on my TV settings- which button did you use?

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    You have to go into the Audio/SAP section of your Guide settings (cable, not TV itself). I do think that, in this case, one of the cats stood on the Guide button for a few seconds and managed to change the default.

  • Isabel C. says:

    Having watched a fair amount of SVU in my life, and provided my own voice-over during most of it, I have to say that I'm kind of intrigued by the possibility of watching it with Official VO, and maybe a case of Smirnoff. I wonder if Netflix has that feature.

  • Sandman says:

    I have to say, you handled it better than I did when I accidentally changed a cable setting and my TV started muttering at me in its secret-spilling voice. The contrast between Captain Flatline (hee!)'s deadened tone and the floridness of the text was odd to say the least. I guess when they say "descriptive video" they mean it in the most Harlequin Romance way possible.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    TN should have that feature. Heh.

  • Phyllis says:

    A William Zinsser fan. I'm sure you know he wrote a lovely book called Spring Training in the late 80's about the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, FL. He even came in to the B. Dalton where I was working at the time.

  • Candy says:

    One time after smoking up I hit some keys on my macbook that turned on the voice over and I FREAKED out. I thought someone had hacked into my laptop and was speaking to me through the camera (so I put a piece tape over it, naturally). As if I'm not paranoid enough while high suddenly I had some British guy talking to me through my computer? I'd shut my laptop, pace around for a while, open it back up tentatively… and so on for an embarrassingly long time before I figured out what I'd done.

  • Rachel says:

    Good lord, how on earth have they managed to get THAT [mostly] right when the closed-captioning (a 35+ year technology) is utterly, hilariously atrocious a good 85% of the time? Cute Deaf Ladies want to know. And, while I'm yelling, how hard is it for HBO or whoever the hell to go back after the fact and correct the captioning? And what's with the paraphrasing? I know Back To the Future front-to-back and I know when Marty isn't saying what the captions are telling me. The hellllll?

    But, oh! We've got the blind-people description service DOWN, y'all. Ugh.


  • Hellcat13 says:

    Been there done that, glad to finally be able to come clean. I was trying to find an early time-shifted viewing of the Being Erica series finale and ended up on a channel where they were describing every move the characters made. Identical WTF reaction. I realized eventually that it was voice description, but I futzed with my remote for another 10 minutes trying to turn it off before I finally clued in that I was on the DESCRIPTIVE TV channel on the dish. Sucked it up and watched my show at its regularly scheduled time. Sigh. So much for being all excited about subverting the system.

  • Kim says:

    Late to this, but hahahahaaaaaa. @Rachel, this year at a friend's annual Miss America watching/snarking party, we had the closed-captioning on. I give the live broadcast captioner full props for doing his or her damnedest…but during the talent portion, whoever it was also captioned the lyrics to songs. This wasn't so odd for the contestants who sang, but one woman (the eventual winner, I think) tap-danced, to James Brown's "Get Up Offa That Thing." And the captioner dutifully transcribed all of Brown's little grunts and squeals, so it read like:

    GET UP

    Anyway. @Sars, one of my cats once stepped on the "roaring waterfall" button on my soothing-spa-sounds alarm clock while I was at work. I came home and for a brief instant thought that some indescribable plumbing disaster had occurred.

  • Turbonium says:

    I think the issue is that lots of TVs, receivers, etcetera aren't really set up to handle whatever standard they're using for descriptive audio, and the result is that there's no easy way to turn it off.

    As for the emotion, it's almost worse when they *do* try to interject some life into things. "Hammerhead sharks circle above the words! SHARK TANK!" has become an inside joke between me and my wife.

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