Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Columnists

March 4, 2014

Dwain Walden: The art of orchestrating conflict

Moultrie — I think I’m becoming too much of a television critic. But it’s fun.

It seems I can hardly watch television anymore without pointing out the flaws of the programming. And then I realize that without those flaws, the show would only last five minutes.

Just last night my wife and I were watching “Justified.” It’s a series about a deputy U.S. Marshal, Raylan Givens, who is stationed in Kentucky. Since the series began about three years ago, he’s probably killed 50 people. Most U.S. marshals will spend an entire career and never draw their weapon.

Not only that, Givens is always in the midst of breaking up drug trafficking rings, solving murders and fighting corruption from Lexington to Harlan.

Well, that’s not what U.S. marshals typically do. They protect federal courthouses, transport federal prisoners, chase escaped federal prisoners and operate the Witness Protection Program.

But then who would watch a TV series about maintaining a safe courthouse?

Now let’s move on to reality television. Take the series about the loggers (Axe Men). Whenever I see one of these shows, I try to anticipate what the conflict will be. There must be conflict or else all you have are a dozen guys with chainsaws who go to work, cut down some trees, and then go home to watch TV and drink beer.

Something has to go wrong or there is no show. And we must suspect that much of what goes wrong is orchestrated. The track comes off the crane. A tree falls the wrong way and crushes a pickup truck. A cable slips, and it bangs one of the workers on the head. He must be life-flighted out.

Then I’m watching some people dig for gem stones up in the hills of Wyoming or Montana — one of those states where survivalists hole up in log cabins and shoot at federal agents.

I asked myself, what kind of conflict can one possibly have in this programming? It’s just a couple of guys and gals, some shovels and lots of dirt.

Well, first there’s a rock slide. Then there’s a claim jumper. Then a severe storm moves in and forces the diggers to curl up in a cave. Why they did that I don’t know. They could see the storm coming 50 miles away, and there was a pickup truck at the bottom of the hill.  

Once I wrote a column about such comedy and suggested that viewers should always consider where the camera crew must be standing. Well in this case, the camera crew is outside the cave in the downpour showing the diggers all huddled together in the little cave. One fellow told me after I wrote that column that I had ruined “reality” television for him. I’m sorry.

I’ve also noticed that some of this filming appears to be spliced footage. One night I watched two guys digging for artifacts supposedly somewhere in Southern Louisiana. To convince us that they were in Southern Louisiana, they kept showing footage of alligators. But never were the diggers and the alligators in the same shot. Then all of a sudden the camera swings up and in the background are mountains. I’ve driven through Southern Louisiana, and there are no mountains. There aren’t even any terraces.

When you see someone squeezing through a tight crevice to get inside a cave, you have to realize that  the camera crew is already inside shooting back at the entrance. How tight could that crevice actually have been?

So now it’s a game for me, to watch these shows and to anticipate the conflict. And how many bad guys will old Raylan shoot tonight?

Much like I had to do when I was a kid, I think I’ve created my own entertainment in this regard. Life has given me persimmons and I’ve made persimmonade.


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