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Entertainment

4 Brilliant TV Voice-Overs That You've Never Heard Of


By Miles Chicoine | 27th April 2021

Many great television voice-overs have a way of slipping by unnoticed. 

As is the case with numerous mediums that use voice-over, this is wholly intentional. Their use is selective and deliberate, and their purpose is to accentuate the message and impact of the content subtly.

Whilst audiences may seemingly disregard the presence of a tv voice-over, their use is increasing primarily because the world’s fascination with TV serialization has never been more significant.

Of course, that’s not to dismiss the equally solid and parallel interest in digital, short-form video. Tik-Tok’s sudden emergence as a social media juggernaut is proof of that. However, increasingly polished amateur videos aren’t going to replace television.

Tik-Tok’s staggering growth validates how technology of all types perpetuates an insatiable human appetite for audiovisual media. The production budgets of TV series are now easily surpassing that of traditional movies.

As voice-overs continue to have a profound and almost improbable influence on the success of those shows which utilize, we draw attention to four great examples of tv series where the voice-over has played an instrumental role:

 

Desperate Housewives

Marc Cherry created a cultural phenomenon with his simple yet highly effective mixture of domestic comedy-drama and mystery in Desperate Housewives. Audiences lapped up the tales of secrets and woe that hide behind the apparent suburban bliss of Wisteria Lane, and its popularity propelled an ensemble cast that included Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross and Eva Longoria into tv notoriety.

However, one of the most memorable and recognizable performances throughout the series belongs to none other than the outstanding Brenda Strong, who plays the role of Mary Alice Young and, most importantly, the narrator of the series. 

 

  

Despite only appearing in 17 of its 180 episodes, Brenda Strong consistently delivered a comforting and yet deliciously revealing commentary that always moves from carefree to contrite and back again.

Brenda Strong’s voice-over sounds perfectly effortless, and it permitted audiences to relish the guilty pleasure of the disturbing secrets and absurdity hidden behind a picture-perfect neighbourhood. 

 

Ozark

Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams’ Netflix drama Ozark is undoubtedly worthy of mention for its stellar television voice-over performance. The show’s focal point is the character Marty Byrde, played by Jason Bateman, a savvy financial advisor that finds his home in Chicago. However, things turn for the worse when he is forced into laundering money for a drug cartel, leading him out to the Ozarks.

Jason Bateman delivers nothing short of an outstanding opening voice-over in the first three opening minutes. Bateman’s monologue doesn’t merely entice the audience to participate in a story of crime and intrigue. It also suggests that the show may reveal profound truths about the fundamental purpose of wealth.

His dark voice charges the viewer with curiosity, all but guaranteeing that you will watch all ten episodes to completion. Some will argue that the opening narrative formula is a long-established and overused cliché. Still, Bateman’s delivery offers a perfect combination of grit and authenticity that breathes new life into it. 

 

 

 

The first scene is powerful as it is potent, an excellent example of an opening that can hook its viewers and Bateman’s execution and juxtaposition of the process of laundering money for the montage sequence, over a motivational client pitch, fits perfectly.

Marty Byrde’s opening monologue is a prime example of how a voice-over can immediately engage viewers within the confines of the story without breaking the fourth wall to establish an immediately compelling narrative.

 

13 Reasons Why

Brian Yorkey’s television series adaptation of Jay Asher’s novel: Thirteen Reasons Why was met with widespread critical acclaim. Sharing a range of stark perspectives on the types of social issues that affect modern youth, the series proved to be a massive success for Netflix.

In summary, the story revolves around the suicide of young high school student Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) and the tragic and unsettling aftermath that follows. Before her death, she prepares a box of cassette tapes, each detailing a contributing reason or accusation against those she held responsible for her decision. 

 

 

The cassette recordings are a candid and haunting narrative throughout the series. As a voice-over goes, Katherine Langford’s delivery continuously opens emotional wounds that audiences will be unable to find closure without watching until the end. 

Langford’s narration supports a deeply moving on-screen performance that also netted her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress – Television Series Drama. 

The combination of Katherine’s sad voice and her portrayal of a young girl forced to confront the traumas of a broken, modern society stirs fragile anxiety in us all. It doesn’t take long for Katherines’ narrative to become too-close-for-comfort, which ultimately makes it so effective. 

 

The Handmaid’s Tale

Bruce Miller’s TV series adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel offers a sombre and disturbing exploration of an alternative, dystopian society. The main story focuses on June Osborne, one of the many “Handmaids” subjected to a tortuously cruel, totalitarian order that forces fertile women to child-bearing slavery. The superb Elizabeth Moss brings June to life with a chilling authenticity and a poignant and fierce portrayal.

Moss’ voice-over is equally remarkable as she speaks directly to the audience, daring you to discover the same determination that will allow her to overcome such overwhelming futility.

 

 

The central theme of The Handmaid’s Tale uses the wicked subjugation of women to stir a sense of fury in the audience. The concept alone draws on familiar anger that we all share over real-life cases of oppression.

What makes Moss’ combination of acting and voice-over so good is her ability to continuously draw out a powerful sense of determination and independence from the audience and, perhaps most importantly, a very genuine feeling of hope. 

 

Conclusion

These are only a few exceptional cases of how TV voice-overs have been an essential and potent ingredient to the impact of a series. 

We can expect many more as the streaming market ushers in a new era for serialized content and increase the utilization of narrators and voice-overs to embolden emotional connections with audiences that are stronger than ever.

 

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Miles Chicoine

Miles Chicoine

Managing Director and co-founder of Voquent.

About Author

Miles Chicoine

Miles Chicoine

Managing Director and co-founder of Voquent.