Some TV shows are too dark

I’ve noticed a strange image problem with certain TV programs. Normally, my Sony LCD RP HDTV works like a champ. We don’t get an HD signal through our cable (can’t justify the cost yet), but most TV channels and programs look fine. SOME shows, however are really, really dark. During daylight scenes everything looks ok, but dim lights or night scenes are almost totally black. I’ve only noticed it on a couple of shows: Lost, Prison Break, House, Deadwood and some Masterpiece Theater programs… Bleak House to be exact.

Anyone have any idea why this might be? I don’t think it’s the TV because DVDs look great, video games look great, and most TV show look fine. I have a theory that it might have something to do with those shows also being simulcast in HD. I’m not sure why that would make a difference, but that’s the only thing I can think of.

I don’t remember this being an issue with my old CRT, but then everything looked like shit on that.

The simulcast in HD isn’t going to do anything negative.

The issue you are running into is called “black crush”, it’s one of the primary drawbacks of RP LCD sets. Basically RP LCDs are not particularly good at producing black and near-black colors with much detail - the result is that parts of the screen where the signal has very low black levels end up the same color. The problem is exascerbated by the extremely low resolution of SD television signals - the scaler doesn’t have much detail as it is to work with and when the scaler is taking that 480i signal and turning it into a 720p picture it interpolates pixels. Areas with a lot of near-black wind up looking a uniform color.

It’s just the way the technology works. Every year the new RP LCD sets handle the black crushing problem a bit better than before, but it’s still a problem. Your options are getting a new set (CRT does blacks the best, followed by DLP and LCoS) or using better sources.

On the bright side, RP LCDs are great at bright colors. You’ll notice that when you go to a BB or CC they usually have the sets running in torch mode (uber-brightness) with lots of vibrant and bright scenes. Gotta put that best foot forward after all.

That makes sense, but why would some shows come off as dark where others do not? Only certain shows super dark. Other programs that have lots of “dark” scenes look fine. For example, I can watch an episode of The Shield and the night scenes look great.

I’d chalk that up to differences in the qualities of the source material. RP LCD isn’t particularly good at showing nuances in dark scenes - if the signal is poor it’s going to intensify that problem.

Have you considered putting up an antenna to pick up OTA HD broadcasts? The quality on those typically is higher than what you’ll get through cable - cable companies compress the hell out of HD channels.