TV gets a bum rapIdiot box. Boob tube. Time waster. How many times have you either heard or used one of those phrases to describe TV? Well, I'm here to say that I think television gets a bum rap. I don't subscribe to the line of thinking that watching TV will make your brain turn to mush. Keep in mind I'm not talking about plopping down on your couch and watching three straight hours of whatever garbage comes on. We all know there's a lot of drek on TV. What I'm a proponent of, especially for writers, is selective TV watching. I'm a firm believer in being able to glean useful writing tips from good TV programs while you're thoroughly enjoying them. For example:
Are you writing YA and want to capture the youthful feel? I've heard good things about Veronica Mars and plan to catch up on that series. My personal favorite is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's not on first-run TV anymore, but all seven seasons are on DVD and well worth watching. Joss Whedon is a master of combining the everyday "horrors" of high school (forgotten tests, bad hair days, getting a date to the prom) with deeper themes of friendship, first love, and fighting the good fight against evil in all its many forms.
Cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 2
Need to improve your dialogue? Again, Buffy is a great source as is its darker, more adult spinoff, Angel. Another Joss Whedon program, Firefly (which was cancelled before it could complete its first season -- GRR!), is a study in great dialogue. Currently, I think Bones has some fantastic dialogue -- both meaningful conversations between characters that reveal important story elements as well as some truly funny one-liners.
Cast of Bones
Bones is also a good program to watch if you want to see how to sustain sexual tension between characters until the viewer (or reader) is ready to scream. I want Booth and Brennan to get together, but then I don't because I know the tension and the show will be over. (Moonlighting, anyone?) As long as network execs don't lose their collective brains and cancel it before viewers get a satisfactory resolution, I want them to keep up the "will they or won't they?" tension.
How about just plain ol' tension and nail-biting cliffhangers (i.e. chapter endings)? Look no farther than Prison Break. OMG! I kid you not, I start getting tense before the show even comes on each week. I'm more tense with this show, but in a great way, than with LOST, and I didn't think that could happen. Both shows are great at surprises, twists and turns, and making the viewer fear for the characters. If you can do that in a book, you'll keep your reader turning the pages furiously until all hours of the morning.
Cast of Prison Break
Cast of LOST
What if you're not a writer and just a loyal Wet Noodle Posse blog reader? First, thanks! Second, you don't have to be a writer to enjoy these shows. They're all fabulous. Check them out. You won't be sorry.
So, what are some other TV programs with excellent writing?