Tim Walker’s Theory XXVII

Acting, as seen on TV, is generally a poor depiction of reality; add to that the ‘better’ the acting, the less realistic it becomes.

This week’s Theory therefore, pertains to a belief that I am certain many or indeed, most of you out there have never even considered.

To be clear, this belief does not refer to the realism of the stories or premises behind the shows (because I think we all accept the majority of those are not at all lifelike – particularly reality shows), but the acting – the human representation of humans acting naturally.

Who has ever spoken for a prolonged length without at least having to pause for thought for a second or two? Of course they can’t do that on TV, viewers would become bored. On that note, aside from prepared speeches, people just don’t tend to rattle off meaningful content for up to a minute without coughing, stuttering, stumbling over words, or having to go back and amend, or correct a point; additionally, who ever speaks with perfect clarity or without ever having to clear their throat? Unless it’s part of the story, nobody on TV ever has to ask another to repeat themselves, or tend to a rogue bodily function or in fact, deal with any of life’s genuine foibles.

That’s basically my point there but get a load of this next bit, it might just blow your mind: what we as people consider ‘good acting’ on the basis that we believe it to be ‘realistic’, generally, is not realism at all – it’s more like the depiction of what we would like, or what we wish our lives could could be.

Who, on hearing a hilarious comment, stands by impassively before delivering immediate and clever repartee? I’m not referring to those cheesy American sitcoms either; no, the acting there fails to be good or realistic. I refer to any show where ‘normal’ people leading ‘normal’ lives seem to possess a decidedly abnormal level of suaveness, wit, capability and likeability, and whose acting has such an endearing affect on the rest of the world that we simply cannot help but commend them on their ‘fine acting ability’.

Who, while in a high pressure situation, speaks calmly or clearly? ‘Good acting’ in that case would likely be incoherent rambling; most people are also rather difficult to understand when they’re breathless. Not on TV though, because that’s not what the viewer expects, is it? We award Oscars to actors who are most efficient at managing that elusive blend between acting falsely, but without appearing farcical.

Why do Kiwi actors usually sound as though they’re ‘bad actors’? It’s because as viewers we’re so accustomed to hearing a svelte American tongue that to mix in a sloppy Kiwi accent sounds ghastly; of course watch it for long enough to realise that is in fact how we speak, and Kiwi acting begins to sound alright.

To conclude: my theory is that if television accurately depicted the audio of reality, if TV looked and more importantly, sounded like life, it would be utterly horrendous.



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Chi Sia

Photography by Rom Com




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