Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Novelty of Entertainment

Imagine the scene, you look out of your window every day at a particular time, and you see a man walking a dog, the man is average height, average weight, wearing normal clothes, walking unremarkably. His dog is a brown mongrel, about 50 centimetres tall, and 80 centimetres long, it is on a brown leather lead and does not stand out in any way as being different. The sight of the man walking the dog is typical, and to most people in England and in many other parts of the world this would not be considered as being special.

One day you look out of your window at the same time, and you see the same man walking again with the same dog, except this time the dog is not on a lead, instead it walks upright besides the man on it’s two hind legs. You momentarily stop what you are doing and are transfixed by the spectacle of the upright walking dog as you watch it walk with the man into the distance. When somebody else comes into the room you immediately tell her about the dog that is walking into the distance with the man, she looks at you unremarkably and says that she sees this every day outside of her house, and does not seem as excited or enthusiastic about the site as what you do.

This scenario is used to demonstrate the importance of novelty in entertainment. According to the Apple online dictionary (2007) novelty is the quality of being new, original or unusual. When you looked out of the window and saw the dog walking on two hind legs, you saw something new, this captivated you and you were entertained by it. To the other person this was not a novel sight, and therefore not entertaining. In real life there are actually dogs who are trained to walk on their hind legs for entertainment purposes, and to many audiences this is a novel sight.

A great deal of entertainment is novel, sword swallowers and stilt walkers are not every day sites to most people and therefore would prove to be an entertaining spectacle, however to somebody who worked in a circus this may not be the case. Novelty is one measure by which the quality of entertainment may be measured by an audience. The challenge is to present something that the audience will find novel so that they are entertained by it. The now defunct ‘National Centre for Popular Music’ in Sheffield was praised for it’s novel building design, but slated for it’s unremarkable and often ‘boring’ exhibits, this lead to low visitor numbers and eventually the Centre’s closure. The buildings are now used by Sheffield Hallam University’s Students Union, as an entertainment venue and the base of a radio station.

Update 27th March 2008: See this -

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