If you’ve ever noticed that TV characters never say “goodbye” when using the phone, you’re not alone.
In fact, the question is so common that Michael Jamin decided he had to set the record straight.
Jamin, who posts on TikTok as (@michaeljaminwriter), is a screenwriter and producer with decades of experience on shows like King of the Hill, Wilfred and Maron. He’s previously gone viral for sharing all kinds of insider secrets, such as why TV characters rarely have pet cats.
As Jamin explains, lines like “goodbye” are what writers refer to as “shoe leather.”
“Shoe leather might make a scene feel more realistic,” he says. “But it doesn’t necessarily make the scene more entertaining.”
Then, there’s the issue of run times. As Jamin details, most networks are extremely strict about how long an episode of a show can be.
So the showrunners usually shoot a few minutes of extra footage, knowing they’ll eventually be cutting the episode down.
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“Not every scene is gonna be great,” Jamin says. “We want to have the liberty to trim and pace up a bit.”
During that process, shoe leather is one of the first things to go. At a certain point, Jamin says, this editing style also influences the writing process.
“Eventually you’ll get to the point where you’re not even writing ‘goodbye’ into the script, knowing from experience that you’re just gonna cut it later.”
TikTok users were somewhat mixed in their reactions to Jamin’s video. While many said they realized the phenomenon, some didn’t buy Jamin’s reasoning.
“This doesn’t explain it tho,” one user wrote. “Usually they’ll linger on them for their reaction to the phone call for more time than it takes to say goodbye.”
“Nah, I don’t believe this,” another agreed. “Zero point five seconds on the goodbyes isn’t saving you anything, you are all just copying each other.”
Others, however, were grateful for the insight.
“So glad you weighed in on this. I’m a firm believer that it’s more distracting to say goodbye in a film or tv show,” one user wrote.
“It also makes actual goodbyes a meaningful event within the plot,” another added.
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