TV pet peeve #5: The Meaningful Montage

While all of TubaTV’s pet peeves make our collective blood boil, #5 is doubly peevey: firstly, The Meaningful Montage constitutes some seriously vile pop culture demagogy.  It’s like the aural equivalent of the soap opera close-up: in the event that some half-dead member of the audience isn’t certain how to feel about a given story line, the Meaningful Montage packages the appropriate sentiment into an easy-to-digest caplet of radio friendly, unit shifting sound and vision.  Worse still than its status as a marketing ploy, the Meaningful Montage is essentially a less ambitious/more plebeian cousin to The Magnolia Moment, finally amounting to a spiritless gesture entirely bereft of rhetorical force.

Rupert Murdoch’s army of simpletons over at Fox/FX have honed the device to its most utilitarian: Don Draper must have convinced them that the final minutes of any given serial drama can be made both poignant and relevant for the “coveted 18-49 demographic” by the simple inclusion of a slow-motion montage set to some “edgy” New(ish) (White) Music.  Got a character moving to another state and/or resigning himself to a life of working class baby daddery?  Oh, Jeff Buckley’s oft-abused cover of “Hallelujah” should do the trick:

Rescuing someone from a burning building?  (Or drinking yourself into a stupor?  Or slowly ruining every relationship you’ve ever had?)  “Indie” rock is most definitely in order:

The Meaningful Montage is so trite, so ridiculously facile that this fan vid of The shield is practically indistinguishable from an actual episode:

In honor of all you anonymous Tuba lovers out there, I’ve gone ahead and edited the following choice editorializing out of the Wikipedia entry for The shield: “To enhance its realism, the show makes very little use of background music until the end of each episode.”  Back loading music at the end of an episode “enhances” its “realism,” huh?

[Edit: Some devoted Shield fan has undone my edits.  I had changed “realism” to read “market appeal.”  Any Wikipedia editors out there, please join the discussion page and weigh in on the proposed change.]

— J.C. Freñán


7 thoughts on “TV pet peeve #5: The Meaningful Montage”

  1. The antithesis to the TV musical montage ending is the way that The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and some other great shows do it. Usually a little before the credits roll the music starts, and is generally one scene, usually a reflection or summing-up of some sort.

    Rescue Me are probably the guiltiest when it comes to abusing the musical montage. Oh, and One Tree Hill. Both use it to close every fucking episode.

  2. I’d secretly be thrilled if every episode of every show ended the way the ‘Sopranos’ finale did: with Journey and an abrupt cut to black. Now that you mention Alan Ball, Alex, it occurs to me that ‘True blood’ has made consistent and effective use of the Abrupt Ending; maybe it’s time for a new column? “TubaTV <3's…"

    I read somewhere that Denis Leary's son has been given the privilege/onus of programming "hip" music for 'Rescue me,' which — if he's 15 years old — may explain a thing or two. Thumbu, we should troll the Magic Stick and pick a fight with the Von Bondies. I gather that the singer has a glass jaw.

    And coincidentally enough, I actually just heard that Frou Frou song on the radio here (in Mexico City) over the weekend. I couldn't help but think of the SNL skit.

  3. HAHA, they are both funny.

    Yeah, Alan Ball mixes it up by using the ridiculously over-the-top/mortal danger/often meaningless/soap-opera cliffhanger to end every episode.

    I love it!

  4. JC, I’m surprised you didn’t bring up the monarch of all musical montages, set to the same sweet song, marking each and every poignant ending of all 27 episodes per season…”Now… is the time… for the Lost Song…”

  5. I think the touching piano progression of the Lost Song merits its own dedicated TV Pet Peeve entry, since it’s not really about cross-marketing or establishing co-evalness with its audience. But you’re right, our boy JJ abuses the slow-motion montage at least as much as any Fox show.

  6. Whoa, ‘Rescue me’ totally surprised me with this:

    One of TV’s better musical interludes in recent memory.

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