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Stacie Monroe and Sir Alan Sugar - what do they have in common?

Stacie Monroe and Sir Alan Sugar don't appear to have much in common, apart from being sharp operators. But the TV programs in which they appear could mark the beginning of a new trend in story telling...

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Well they're both pretty sharp, that's for sure. But of course where Stacie Monroe is a master con artist, Sir Alan Sugar is a master marketer. Err...

But it's their TV shows where they have most in common. Stacie Monroe is actress Jamie Murray's character in Hustle, a stylish, slick and intelligent comedy drama currently playing on BBC1. Sir Alan is the undoubted star of The Apprentice, the UK version of the US show of the same name.

What these two shows have in common is a different structure to conventional TV or film drama.

It is traditional for a movie to be constructed in three 'acts'. You don't see the joins, neither do you normally get an interval, but film writers, producers and directors definitely see things in these terms. Act 1 introduces the audience to the characters and sets up the story, Act 2 develops the story and adds to the complexity, Act 3 is an exciting headlong rush to the final closing couple of minutes where the story is wrapped up.

TV drama commonly works the same way, except in a drama series it is assumed that the audience already know the characters (or in the very first show it can be assumed that the audience will come to know the characters and don't have to be told everything), and the series might have an overriding story 'arc'.

But both Hustle and The Apprentice are different. They still have a three part structure, but the conventional Act 3 is missing. In its place is a very extending conclusion that lasts fully one third of the show, rather than the few minutes of a conventional movie or show.

So at the point at which an engaging and suspenseful drama would typically dumb down to a mere car chase, both Hustle and The Apprentice raise the level even further. They don't pander to the audience, they treat the audience as the intelligent human beings they are.

Perhaps it could be the start of a new trend?

As the boundaries between production and technical personnel erode and everyone has to become more multi skilled, an understanding of the story-telling process will become increasingly important.

By David Mellor Friday April 22, 2005
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