ANALYZING MEDIA: TV Trailers
It's eight o'clock on a weekday evening, and you've decided to watch primetime TV. Your local TV listings tell you that there's a great deal to choose frompopular sitcoms and all kinds of dramas about law, crime, and hospitals. With so many programs out there, how do you decide which one to watch?
If you've tuned in at all during the previous few days, you've probably seen trailers for many of these TV shows. A trailer is basically an advertisement for an upcoming TV episode. TV executives use trailers as a way to grab your interest and make you want to tune in to their shows. Sometimes trailers are aired at the end of an episode to give you an idea of what will happen the following week. They are also aired throughout the week during the network's other shows.
Trailers can be very persuasive. They often show a preview of the conflicts the main characters will face. The intended effect is to make you wonder, "how will they ever solve that problem?" The hope is that you'll tune in to find out.
Trailers for sitcoms usually feature the show's funniest moments and many jolts. How many times have you decided to watch a sitcom because of a hilarious traileronly to discover that the actual show isn't funny at all? TV executives know that if you find the trailer humorous, then you'll expect the episode to be funny as well. Unfortunately, sometimes the trailers are better than the shows themselves.
You should also look out for the use of loaded words and phrases. For example, you may hear something like this: "Tonight, Julia will face a decision that will change her life," or "Don't miss the most unforgettable episode of the season." Most trailers inform you that upcoming shows are "the most important," "emotional," "dramatic," "hilarious," and "suspenseful." Rememberthis is a deliberate technique used to get you to watch.
Using what you've just learned about TV trailers, try analyzing a trailer for a TV program of your choice. You may search for online trailers at the sites below, and view them on your computer. When viewing your trailer, critically evaluate the persuasive elements at work, and think about whether they really add up to a "must-see" show.
Problems. Trailers usually tell you about the problems, or conflicts, the main characters will face in upcoming episodes.
A drama is a common type of TV program that follows a set formula. Most dramas are an hour long and take a serious approach to the characters' problems.
The selection and arrangement of images in a TV trailer. The images shown should give you a sense of what the story is aboutwithout giving anything away.
Moments of excitementsuch as jokes, motion, and quick cutsthat are used in TV trailers to grab your interest.
Words or phrases with positive meanings attached to them. For example, such loaded words as "important," "amazing," and "unforgettable" may be used in a trailer to describe an upcoming episode.
Short for situation comedies. A sitcom is a common type of TV program that follows a set formula. Sitcoms are usually a half-hour long and often use humor to deal with the problems experienced by the main characters.
Advertisements for TV episodes. Trailers usually give you a preview of an upcoming episode by showing particularly funny or dramatic moments from that episode. The intended effect is to make you tune in to the show to find out what happens.