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Melodramatic Pause

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A Soap Opera staple, the melodramatic pause is the perfect way to pad out time, show everyone's up-close reaction to a provocative statement, build tension after same, discovering an affair, and otherwise give the actors and orchestra a chance to ham it up. Basically, it's the swiss army knife of Soap Opera cuts for scenes and episodes. This is the Drama Queen big sister of the Dramatic Pause.

The set up varies but will usually go like this:

Alice: Bob?! Explain yourself!
Bob: Dramatic line!
Jump Cut to
Alice's face: *Dramatically appropriate expression of grief, shock, hunger, indifference, puppies, etc.*
There is a Sting and then a Jump Cut to
Bob's face: *Dramatically appropriate expression of defiance, anger, leprosy, epilepsy, narcolepsy, etc.*

This continues through all of the characters present, and if this is a comedy, some irrelevant characters will be eating or doing something terribly mood breaking.

The noise between Jump Cuts is usually a heartbeat, thump, clang, or in Spanish soaps, a musical flourish. Frequently used in episodes where there's Four Lines, All Waiting. When used in text, this generally represented by... ELLIPSIS!

A Sub-Trope of Melodrama. Commonly part of a Commercial Break Cliffhanger.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • A frequent occurrence on Neon Genesis Evangelion.
  • Bleach: "The time of Rukia's execution... got changed." Not quite as bad in the original, but...
  • The English dub of the original Speed Racer TV series did this, though it wasn't completely on purpose. Usually, at the beginning of an episode, there would be a dramatic pause for no discernible reason. This was because when the show was aired in Japan, the episode title would appear where the dramatic pause in the dub is.
  • Sometimes it seems like at least half of Dragon Ball Z is every other character reacting with a shocked expression to whatever it is Goku/Gohan/the Big Bad just did.

  • In the Bollywood movie Gumnaam (part of which was shown on the TV in the beginning of Ghost World) this trope is taken to excess and flogged like a dead horse. Each of the main characters, and there are a lot of them, had to have the same length of film devoted to closeups. After every dramatic thing happens each actor has their own reaction shot such that a one second scene is then followed by seven seconds of reactions from each of the characters.
    • This trope also applies to every single Bollywood TV show. Accompanied with music so dramatic you expect it to be the final scene in the episode. Except, it's not...
  • Somebody I Used to Know: Invoked. Reality TV showrunner Ally tells Sean that while interviewing subjects for features and confessionals, she'll sometimes pause for ten seconds and watch them scramble to fill the space, resulting in emotional and dramatic moments. Sean considers it manipulative, but Ally considers it giving people the space to talk about their feelings.

  • The characters in Animorphs discuss this trope, when the alien Ax is discovering TV for the first time, and decides to incorporate this trope into his own speech. Yes, Ax does have a streak of the Funny Foreigner in his character, and he's treated accordingly whenever he comes up with an idea like this. Rachel calls it a Soap Take.

    Live-Action TV 
  • House does this nearly Once per Episode right before commercial breaks. They say some dramatic line, like "our treatment is killing him" or "What's causing this? I have no idea.", and it cuts to the reactions of all the doctors present, including the doctor who said the line in the first place.
  • Rather hilariously played with in one of Red's fantasies in That '70s Show. Red's lost his job and is stuck at home watching Soap Operas all day. When he imagines Kitty leaving him, it plays out in this fashion, complete with absurd statements and a dozen rapidly changing facial expressions.
  • Joey calls it 'smell the fart' acting on Friends; when you hear a shocking phrase, you act like you're trying to figure out who just farted.
  • Nathan Fillion, who got his start on a soap, as a guest on Ellen Degeneres' show, ran through the three faces you might have to make when going to a commercial.
  • Parodied on the recurring Saturday Night Live skit, "The Californians".

    Reality TV 
  • Reality TV is a goldmine for melodramatic pauses. For example, there was a twenty seconds of crowd noise between the words "is" and "Joe McElderry" in the 2009 final of The X Factor.

    Western Animation 
  • Spoofed in the Show Within A Show "All My Circuits" on Futurama. "I have... amnesia!"
    • Spoofed even further several seasons later with Calculon, one of the All My Circuits actors, demonstrating his ability to do a dramatic..............................pause!