Dialogue is an overlooked art. The words spoken by our favorite TV characters are, by and large, taken for granted. We deemphasize both the great dialogue and the terrible, instead focusing on aspects like story or action or character. Mostly, this is the right course of action. Dialogue is the vessel through which we tell the story. Numerous great filmmakers (and wide audiences), in this vein, hold little regard for the importance of dialogue. Stephen Spielberg once said that, if you want to know the mark of a true filmmaker, see if you can turn off the sound while watching one of their movies. Of course, this isn’t a universal phenomenon. Fellini might not need dialogue to tell his story. Tarantino does. Both are still great. The interesting part about this is that great movies can still be considered great, even if they contain terrible dialogue.
Star Wars is worshiped by millions, yet most rational fans will admit that (with the exception of Empire Strikes Back) the dialogue in Star Wars is mostly horrendous. But, obviously, fans don’t watch Star Wars for the dialogue. On the other hand, there are movies (anything by Kevin Smith or David Mamet) that are successful only because of the dialogue. However, there are far less of these types of films (dialogue-centric) than there are of films that only use dialogue for practical purposes (action movies, slapstick comedies). The reason for this is simple. Dialogue is hard to write. So, given this truth, it’s clear why most films and television shows put little importance on the art of dialogue; it’s a hell of a lot easier to focus on the action. Which is why I don’t think Gilmore Girls has ever received its proper due. Gilmore Girls is so unlike anything else on network television, it’s flummoxing. For instance, their typical script is 15-20 pages longer than any other show. Why? Because it contains that much more dialogue. There is less action. Less scenes of the obligatory heartthrob staring off into the ocean. Less of the scenes that all of us have seen a million times before. Gilmore Girls is dialogue. That is the basis of the show. And it succeeds. This is kind of a big deal. No other show is like this. On Gilmore Girls, the viewers watch riveting scenes of characters TALKING ON THE PHONE. One of the first things they tell you in film school is to not write scenes of people talking on the phone, because it’s boring and it’s sloppy to film. Yet Gilmore Girls makes these phone conversations highly entertaining. Most shows rely on dialogue as a crutch, as a pragmatic tool that allows them to move the plot along. Gilmore Girls embraces the art of dialogue and has created a signature rhythm and cadence, specific to the main characters. It’s a verbal exercise for the audience. Can you understand what they said? Can you parse out the important bits? Though the Gilmore Girls speak in a signature verbosity, the emotions contained in each monologue and back-and-forth are subtle. I think we simply need to realize how far off the normal end of the dialogue spectrum Gilmore Girls actually is. Especially for TV. Films have their exceptions when it comes to dialogue. TV has only one exception. It’s called Gilmore Girls. -Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
Senior Writer, BuddyTV