TNT’s Poor Presentation of The Lord of The Rings Inexcusable By Kristin Battestella

Shame shame on Ted Turner and his TNT network. In the past we’ve all cringed at the cable channel’s too frequent and too lengthy commercial breaks, but this weekend’s poor presentation and lack of respect for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy went too far.

TNT began it’s build up to the network television premiere of The Return of the King with airings of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers the weekend before the big finale. While I must applaud the network for not cutting anything from the movies for length purposes, the lengths of the 3 hour plus films was not accurately shown in all television grids and guides. The films ran fifteen and forty five minutes over-Here’s where TNT’s love of advertising and commercials got the network into trouble.

When Return of The King finally neared its last half hour, a commercial immediately followed Frodo and Sam’s exit from Mount Doom. The film fades to black after Frodo’s, “I’m glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee, here at the end of all things.” My guide didn’t show that the TNT made for TV movie was to follow at 12:15 a.m.. Audiences not familiar with the film might have thought that was the end of the film! Those fortunate enough to stick around would discover another commercial after Sam’s fore mentioned wedding, also perhaps another ending to the film-a film which admittedly has perhaps too many endings. TNT, however, should have regarded the content of the film over its greed or commercial needs, perhaps adding a stay tuned card instead of a Best Buy push.

I’m not a fan of the ‘three chances to watch’ idea. I don’t know how it came about, and I refuse to believe that there isn’t enough programming to fill those time slots. Nevertheless, a weekend that was supposed to be devoted to the Best Picture winner of 2004 was littered with graphics on the screen for The Closer and hails every commercial break for TNT’s next big thing: Ocean’s Eleven. Clooney’s Rat Pack remake will be shown with ‘limited commercial interruption’ next weekend. Clooney may be It in Hollywood, but for a film that didn’t win or sell as much as any of the Rings films, shouldn’t TNT have been more faithful to Tolkien fans? Jackson’s faithful adaptations received no witty or star focused previews. One trailer was repeated, and it contained poor cuts of big battles and elephants and Legolas. The narrator didn’t even match the words onscreen.

I had expected the credits to also run at least the first night of Return of the King’s coming out party, but the first three frames were sped up, and TNT jumped straight into its personal promotions. Plain credits I can see splitting a screen-maybe the old way when you could still read the credits if you wanted to. King’s portraits-which hailed artwork from its Oscar winning team-and its Oscar winning closing music deserve more than being squashed into one forth of the screen.

One thing I fail to understand is why TNT showed the films in full screen. Are there rights issues involved? Surely it can’t be easier to cut the film than show it as is. I am so used to my widescreen DVD of Return of the King in fact, I’ve never seen it in full screen-until TNT’s butchered presentation. I never thought the film would be presented in full screen. The Fellowship and The Two Towers have aired in full screen previously on TNT. While they are also heavy laden with scope, effects, and digital imaging, I had seen them before as such, and the first two films do not have the massive battle scenes that are integral to Return of the King. Commercials I can deal with, but the battle scenes looked like computer gibberish and mishmash. The picture was so close and so in your face, the epic nature of the story could not be realized. Audiences that have not seen The Lord of the Rings could be miffed at the presentation and tune out of the best fantasy trilogy ever filmed. How is TNT serving it’s ‘We know drama’ mantra by turning people away from incredible film?

Who then was TNT’s marred airings for? They’ve alienated fans of the trilogy-the only people loyal enough to tune in to every single airing. Online forums are littered with ‘stay away’ mongers. Even those lucky to have High Definition were not impressed. Likewise, I’m sure they irked non fantasy fans or basketball fans with their all in one shot airing, and casual fans end up meh. The in between viewer bemoans TNT and dislikes The Lord of the Rings. Who wins? Nobody.

I implore TNT to show more care for its premieres, itself, and its audience. If they want to chop up any old film, Turner has plenty of other networks to do so. I hope I wasn’t expecting too much when asking for a faithful presentation from the conglomerate’s flagship station. I didn’t expect to see the Extended Editions of the films, nor should the films have run commercial free. Unfortunately, one must always be weary when tuning in to TNT. Miffed fans should invest in the original Extended Lord of The Rings set instead.

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