Closed Caption Connoiseur

I have mentioned before that I have difficulty with my hearing. Usually I can start the day with what you may call normal hearing, but by the time the sun sets I am straining to make out your typical inside voice. Luckily GM is a hard of hearing gal as well so we crack each other up yelling out pleasantries and Jeopardy answers.

One of my bigger hurdles is dealing with television programs with shitty closed captioning. Sometimes the misspelling and lameness of the caption server can completely distract me from the program itself. This was never more apparent than a few months ago when I watched VH-1’s World Series of Pop Culture with some friends. I am quite used to being teased for having old lady hearing, but when your friends are over reading the craptastic captioning it can get hilarious. Whoever was in charge with the captioning for this program was just plain crazy. “King of Pop” became “ming of poop”…ok, I can’t remember what the exact infractions were, but trust me, they were that bad.

Some captioning services actually sensor for you. For instance in a recent episode of the show Bones the word “bastard” was replaced with “…”. I just imagine this meek and shy plain Jane feeling mighty smug at sparing the hearing impaired with what she deemed as bad language.

Other stations have overly enthusiastic captioning. Every single sound is spelled out: “door opens” is quickly followed by “door closes”. The worst is when they type “footsteps” and then follow with some random descriptive word such as “scary” or “ominous”. I get that those specifics are for the true hearing impaired, but it does seem like too much.

Since I am bitching about some of the bad services I should point out that there is a program that has the BEST and dare I say, poetic, closed captioning I have ever seen. House. If you don’t watch this program already you should. It kicks ass.

If you already watch the show and are looking for a new way to enjoy it try turning on your closed captioning. Points are given for the accuracy and speed of the captioning, but the beauty is how they describe the music sequences. Here are the descriptions from this week’s episode:
Pensive Music
Sad Music
Dramatic Music

Even though I can hear the transitions, there is something so profound about seeing the words “pensive music” on the screen.

(By the way, I tried to watch this new show the other night called 3 lbs. It is CBS’s version of House. I lasted five minutes before switching the channel. Everything about it is a rip off: the snarky and emotionally unavailable doctor, his staff of eager to please residents, even the way the cases are presented. Skip it.)


7 thoughts on “Closed Caption Connoiseur

  1. I’m a lurker, but thought I’d post about this. I don’t have hearing problems, but I turn on the closed captioning when I’m running on the treadmill at night. I am horrified at the awful crap that gets put up as ‘captioning’. My grandparents were both deaf and it breaks my heart that THIS is what they had to endure if they watched TV. Some shows are good, but boy…the news…its really atrocious!

  2. I have never noticed censoring with closed captions (cuz I rarely have them on), but I’ve caught censoring in foreign films with subtitles. If I know the language well enough, I sometimes realize, “Hey, that’s NOT what they said! They said something much nastier!”

    Also, the Jerry McGuire scene with the deaf lovers supposedly signing “You complete me”? Then Renee Zellweger translating it? Well, the deaf man actually signs something more like…”You make me feel whole (or complete)”… Close, yes, but not really a direct translation.

    Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

  3. The censoring thing really pisses me off! (Or should that be £$%$£”$ me off?)

    My favourite caption cock-up was when the subtitles descrbed Prince Charles as the “hare to the thrown”. Truly!

  4. Kinda off subject, but your post made me think of this….when my dad was getting older, and more sick, his hearing started to go.

    But he LOVED the spice channel. He’d watch his tv porn with the volume WAY high, and then if someone walked into the room he would click over really fast to the Discovery channel, like us, and the whole freaking neighborhood didn’t know he was just watching porn.

    Good times.

  5. It’s more likely that the work tape given to the captioner was pre-censored (indeed not spelled with initial S) but the tape that went to air had uncensored dialogue. This is the converse of post-postproduction sweetening, in which the audio is changed after the captioning is done (the source of endless complaints by hearing people).

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