Only Two Minutes Left

I digress to the many nights of half hour westerns that I was forced to watch with my Dad. His favorite comment near the end of one of these oaters, “They’d better hurry up, they’ve got only two minutes left to catch the crook (bad guy, murderer, rustlers, etc.)” That comment still lives in me when I watch TV – I’m well aware of the clock and can pretty well gauge what actions will have to occur in the time left in my favorite shows. The discussion of the temporal structure of television seems to be the most significant framework in which narrative must operate. Whatever story is being told, whatever messages are being conveyed are subject to the tyranny of time. As we witnessed in the Homicide episodes, they got shorter as they went along to make way for commercial messages. Time rules the broadcast schedules and placement is everything, e.g., the moving around on the network schedule of Homicide to try to find its niche audience. If I don’t want to spend an hour watching an entire episode of Iron Chef, I’ll turn it on during the last 15 minutes so that I can see the presentation of dishes and the winner. Time regulates our lives — school, work, entertainment — and time regulates the ubiquitous panaroma of television viewing both within the particular show and its place on the weekly/daily air time slot.

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