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Home » Archives » January 2007 » Pipe Dreams
[Previous entry: "Some Culpa for Mea"] [Next entry: "He Got in Trouble for Telling Menotti Jokes. Really? How Naughty Were They?"]

01/29/2007: Pipe Dreams

Remember when I told you that TV writers refer to exposition as "pipe"? Well, we do. Knowing that will help you understand this wonderful inside joke that I saw on an episode of Sci Fi Channel's Eureka. (The first line is from memory, so it's not exact.)

We're in some kind of labyrinth under Eureka. This must be part of the original network of conduits that takes care of the town's water and electricity and gas and sewage.

That's a lot of pipe.

Hee! I love that. It's one of the first true inside jokes I've ever heard. No, wait. It's one of the first true inside jokes I've ever *understood*. Yeah, that's right.

As long as we're here, it's worth spending a moment to think about why exposition is called "pipe." It's actually a really apt analogy... exposition is there to supply information that you're going to need later in the script. The trick with pipe is that savvy viewers/readers tend to be able to spot it, and then they can guess where the story is going.

"Why are they telling me all this stuff about how you need a retinal scan to get through that particular door?", you think to yourself. "Hmm... that's going to come around later." "Why are they making a big point about how he never knew his father? Ohh... I bet that older dude's going to turn out to be his father." This is all probably stuff you don't want your readers figuring out. So you have to hide the pipe.

An excellent way to do this is to make it look decorative. Pipe in a script is only obvious when it serves no obvious function. Make the exposition seem to *have* a function and it will go unnoticed. Make it into a joke, for example. Have someone mishear the word "retinal scan" and start to take their pants off... Ha! (psst... rectal, they thought it was a rectal scan) Now it seems like the bit was there to set up the joke, and no one realizes they've been piped. Or, for example, make who gets to deliver the exposition a matter of conflict between two characters. Now it seems like *that* was the function of the line, to further the conflict. Just give it some other reason for being there.

Paint the pipe bright red and tell people it's art.

Lunch: Koo Koo Roo -- chicken with yams and cucumber salad. Quite nice. The surface of a Koo Koo Roo chicken is so good, order enough so you don't have to eat the insides. Mmm... surface.


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