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What do you think of the writing on some of the recent TV shows?
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Ben Cahan
Posted November 1, 2011 5:38 PM
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I would love to start a discussion of recent television shows, a whole new crop of which has sprung up in recent weeks and months.  What do you think of the writing?  Concept aside, let's talk about the good and the bad, which shows feel comfortable like an old shoe and which feel as stilted as a rip on a fresh pair of pantyhose?

Potential shows might include:

Terranova
Once upon a Time
Grimm
Pan Am
and others that I have not personally seen.

When you post, name the show and what you think of the concept and writing.  For all of you aspiring television writers, how might you have structured the show differently?

I may not weigh in because I am the "piss off nobody" profession, but I would love to hear the thoughts of our many writers,

Ben Cahan

Darren Seeley
Posted November 1, 2011 6:39 PM
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I'm glad you mentioned the first two Ben, along with that third. I'll add another : Person Of Interest.

First of all, let me start with Terranova.
There was a lot of hope riding on the pilot ep, which I was rather disappointed in. But I felt it was just enough to warrant a second chance. In the next ep, I found myself enjoying it a bit because it was not only a slight improvement on the FX, but also it was a nice and unexpected homage to Hitchcock's The Birds. The next two eps (I haven't seen the latest yet) were, in my view, standard sci-fi show fare - it is no coincidence Brannon Braga helped create the show. I'm starting to see bits of recycled Trek episodes transplanted in "the new timeline". I find myself caring less and less about the "renegade faction" and who the "snitch" is, and as much as I like the actors, I don't see the show surviving a second season.

Oddly, I can't help but notice that the series shares some common ground with 'Falling Skies', not just the co-producer connection (Spielberg) but also in terms of casting (having actors in parts which may be different characters, but they have played characters like that in past films and shows - Stephen Lang, one of my favorite character actors, best known to current audiences due to Avatar; Moon Bloodgood on 'Skies' was in Terminator Salvation) and also a family dynamic. Falling Skies, however, is a series that has the limited show seasons (12 ep season instead of 24) and therefore won't wear out the welcome. I find Nova's production value not as inventive, and I see it running out of steam.

Grimm is something I gave up on halfway into the pilot. No interest. It does not help if the basic premise is fairy tale demons living among us. I see it following in the footsteps of Playboy Club and Charlies Angels. Real soon. But there's another reason...

...which brings us to Once Upon A Time, which also has "fairytale" characters living among us. Half of which I found amusing, I was into it, but once  Jim Cricket showed up in the same story in "fairy tale past" I was sold. Fleshing out the modern day and fleshing out Storyb(r)ook land feels fresh and must be a blast to write (or so it would appear). That said, it saddens me because the premise is so great, the characters set up well, that it...well, I hate to predict this but I don't think it will last a second season. It feels more set up like a miniseries. I hope I'm wrong--I *want* to be wrong. I love the show! But I have this uneasy feeling that somewhere in the second half of the rookie season, it will start jerking viewers around. That's what happens to great setups in TV shows. It will have a following, a loyal base. I'm sure on that. It might survive a season, but that second season will not be kind. Again, I want to be wrong here. But that's the way I'm seeing it.

Person Of Interest.
This is a series which feels fresh and yet feels like a old pair of shoes. One of the best things the series did was introduce an unseen adversary which most likely be revealed by the end of the first season. But I like the concept of the series, big scope but contained. The writing is clever and smart. Sometimes we see a hand-to-hand action scene. Other times, they cut to the outside of a building, and you hear chairs break and windows smash. It has a light bit of humor in that, and I like it. It's going to be winding up being this generation's Equalizer.



Update (since I wrote the post):
"I don't see the show [Terra Nova] surviving a second season. " and it didn't.

Both Once upon A Time and especially Person Of Interest will be back for another season. Grimm has also been renewed.




Dawn Chapman
Posted November 5, 2011 2:48 PM
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I watch Terra Nova, think it is pretty good. Not so sure of the others mentioned, but can check them out.

D

Ben Cahan
Posted November 5, 2011 4:52 PM
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Interesting, Dawn, my personal feeling on Terra Nova is quite different than yours.  Can't get over the complete lack of any family dynamic in the lead characters.  Rough and tumble white cop with top drawer Indian doctor (she is from India, right?), the son is a white guy and the two daughters both look Indian, maybe the most uncomfortable and stilted family unit as a main draw for a show that I have ever seen.  Not only strange casting, but there is nothing about this family that says family at all, they act like complete strangers except for the very rare perfunctory peck on the cheek.

The other thing is that it so not "Lost", and the dinosaurs seem to be an after thought, just window dressing, in fact nobody is even thankful for being in a place with clean air, they grouse over losing old friends when clearly the old world was made to look like the worst nightmare we could imagine for our future.  Ungrateful mustards!  By the way, since a few folks get eaten by the local wildlife every episode, I am surprised they still have residents.  I remember from the pilot them saying that they would have trouble finding housing for the next wave of immigrants.  At the rate they lose folks on the show, to either Sixers or Raptors, I bet there will be plenty of empty places waiting for new arrivals.  Just strange how the writers and producers neglect to even address any of that.  Quite tough to tolerate a show whose producers must think I'm an idiot.

Perhaps it is not about how much money you spend on a TV show (although HBOs' Game of Thrones really makes use of their big budget to great effect), it is about the idea and the concept.  Just can't be too much to ask for.

John Doby
Posted November 5, 2011 5:14 PM
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In my opinion, the best recent shows on television are:


  • American Horror Story
    Dexter
    Entourage
    Game Of Thrones




Each of these have me hooked.  I watch them every week, religiously.  None of them hold any punches.  They are constantly making unexpected twists and turns.  Even killing off main characters.  They keep me on the edge of my seat.  Genuinely concerned for the players involved.  They are all very character driven.  Simple concepts, explored to complexity.  They are masterfully written, but I must give kudos to their directing, acting, editing, and cinematography as well.  I find myself easliy relating to, and rooting for the protagonists, although, respecting and despising the antagonists.  This is vital to maintain any series.  Each of these concepts are constantly evolving.  They remain fresh.  Never get stale, or boring.

Ben Cahan
Posted November 5, 2011 7:13 PM
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I guess I will have to tune in to American Horror Story, I missed that one.  As for Game of Thrones, another great HBO series in my opinion, especially since the first few books of the series stand near the top of all time fantasy series.  As for where the Game of Thrones series is headed, I just finished the latest book, Dance with Dragons, this past week, and I am a bit concerned with what has become an overly large cast of characters and a story that wanders around with not much of a goal in sight in terms of what the end game might be.  A problem with the books, tho, not the tv series.

I will also embarrassingly point to Parenthood as a well written series, I have become a real fan.  Not as sappy as Brothers and Sisters was and always some good life lessons in each episode while following an interesting and varied family through life.

Melvin Johnson
Posted November 5, 2011 7:43 PM
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I tried watching Terra Nova, but my response is like Ben's. I was underwhelmed. I think it's because of all the hype surrounding it. Another which is losing my interest is the Walking Dead. Not that the writing itself is that bad, just the story is too slow for my tastes. I especially want the blonde to get hers because I'm sick of her constant whining about her dead sister.

On the other hand, Dexter is my favorite tv show that I dvr if I'm not home. Love it, love it! Another good one for me is Castle. I like that Castle gives the police a different way to view their crime scenes. He doesn't solve them all, which is also good. Plus his sense of humor is like mine.  ;)

A show I wish didn't get cancelled is Dead Like Me. It has a great combination of humor and drama.

Dawn Chapman
Posted November 6, 2011 1:57 AM
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Ben,

I agree with you on Terra Nova, but for me it is just an escape. I enter a world which I don't think about much and believe it. I don't question it so much. Maybe I should as a writer, but then again it would lose its appeal. I like other worldly stuff to just entertain me, no matter how bad it is. I can't help but love scy fy's B movies, they're just fab even if mostly so un-believable.

Look at Outcasts, pretty much the same, only a UK version.

The top series which I do really enjoy and is fantastic writing, has to be Fringe. Best show around at the moment.

Now as for other shows, more drama and crime stuff. The other half watches, Blue Blood, even the new series of Hawai 5 0 or (sorry don't recall the name) but they're not bad to just get absorbed in.

Just my thoughts,

D


Paul Mailhot
Posted May 4, 2012 6:10 AM
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So I'm visiting my brother and we're talking about all the TV that I don't watch. I'm a terrible conversationalist when it comes to the tube. I haven't even watched Game of Thrones which is, hands down, my favorite book series.

He feels pity for me and says here, then hands over season one and two of Raising Hope. Holy crap! What have I been missing? The show is incredible. It made me consider trying a pilot script. I've heard Modern Family is good, and I haven't seen a single episode. Makes me wonder if there is a lot of really quality stuff out there that I'm not aware of. I stopped watching TV because of all the hum drum, but maybe things have gotten better.

Never saw Spartacus, Sopranos or Terra Nova. Am really liking Raising Hope. Any suggestions on where else to tune in?

Darren Seeley
Posted May 4, 2012 10:25 AM
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Never saw Spartacus, Sopranos or Terra Nova. Am really liking Raising Hope. Any suggestions on where else to tune in?


and you won't find Terra Nova anytime soon, unless they put it on video. It's dead as...well, a dinosaur.

I forgot all about Spartacus, which I think has a strength of not only cable (without a doubt) but also has a limited number of eps per year. One big factor for me was the fact that I first avoided the series, but then watched the prequel series Gods Of The Arena first (they did this in order to keep some of the actors, and sets as the lead Andy Whitfield got sick and later died; Spartacus was recast for this past season) which fleshed out the back stories of Crixus, Oenomaus and Ashur.


Donna Brodsky
Posted May 4, 2012 5:40 PM
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Love, love, love the writing on "Breaking Bad," "Justified," "Game of Thrones," and "Sons of Anarchy." 

Although I was initially turned off from the premise of a chemistry teacher gone rogue making meth in "Breaking Bad," I gave it a try upon the recommendation of several friends.  The strange thing about this show is that ALL the characters were well developed from the baseline of good intentions and eventually circle the drain of a slow train wreck.  I'm a bit of a voyeur from that standpoint.  At times I hated the character that Brian Cranston portrayed and thought he made such assine decisions but in the end I think I was drawn to the main premise; a man doing bad things for noble reasons and who would do anything to protect his family. On that note, "Sons of Anarchy" follows the same premise. 

"Justified" is just plain clever as hell and has Elmore Leonard's footprint all over. 


Tyler Marshall
Posted July 4, 2012 12:31 AM
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I like the writing on Community... But Dan Harmon is gone now so we'll see how the show holds up.