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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Friday, September 01, 2006

TV gets a bum rap

Idiot 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 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?


At 7:16 PM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

I'm addicted to Law and Order. Not the "other" Law and Orders, like CSI and such, but the REAL Law and Order, starring Sam Waterston. I also love Medium, although for some reason, I miss it with great regularity, but the family relationships are terrific in that one.
I think Lost lost its focus this year. I was very disappointed.
Another secret pleasure is Charmed. I always like it when I see it.
I am a bizarre TV watcher. I must blog about it sometime.

At 7:53 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Funny you mentioned Charmed. I happened to see most of an episode on TV today. I'd seen bits and pieces before but never really watched an episode. It's one of the ones I want to go back and watch from the beginning, along with Deadwood, Grey's Anatomy, Smallville and 24.

At 8:31 PM, Blogger MaryF said...

I have the first three seasons of the first Law and Order. Love my Logan! And I learned a lot about what it takes to be a cop from that show.

Grey's is my current obsession (NO!) I love how they can make every character, even the patients on for one show, with maybe 15 minutes of air time, real. And great dialogue and sexual tension. It's not "will they or won't they" - it's "will they, again??" And emotion! I cry even when I watch reruns. DENNY!!! You must watch.

I'm not talking to you about Prison Break. I couldn't wait till next week for Disc 4 to come from so I had to go rent it. Talk about your chapter hooks!!!

I love Lost for the twists and bends, and the Sawyer zingers.

I like the character arcs in Bones.

And Joss Whedon....well, he's a master. Anything he wrote is amazing.

At 9:34 PM, Blogger Jennifer Smith/Ila Campbell said...

I have a limited number of shows I can see (duh!), but Medium, Grey's Anatomy, House and Weeds are at the absolute top for me, writing-wise. There's never a wasted motion or word in any of the characters, main or otherwise. It may take a while to see the sense in it, but it's always there.

At 9:54 PM, Anonymous Emily McKay said...

Ah ... loved Firefly. Man, that was some great world building. Loved it, loved it, loved it!
And, yes, you should check out Veronica Mars. It's a hoot. I don't know if it's available on DVD, but it would really benefit from watching from the begining.
Another great show is Scrubs. They do a fantastic job of using humor to heighten the emotions. They lure you in with a good laugh and sucker punch you with the bigger emotions.

At 6:20 AM, Blogger Sandy Blair said...

I so miss the West Wing!!

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Janet Mullany said...

I'd add Fawlty Towers to the list, because it's meticulously plotted, the timing is brilliant, and the relationships between the characters are shown so well.

At 4:53 PM, Blogger Kiki, aka Esri said...

Monk is my favorite. Sometimes the mystery plots are downright silly and/or contrived, but the characterization, emotional arcs and dialogue are usually outstanding.

At 9:33 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Hey, Emily! I did start watching Veronica Mars, season 1, and have gotten through 7 episodes. I love the relationship between Veronica and her dad, and I really like that this show is like Nancy Drew meets Buffy. And I agree about Firefly. Might I just say that the network execs who pulled it without giving it a chance to build a following were idiots.

Janet, I've never even heard of Fawlty Towers.

Sandy, I was a huge West Wing fan until I somehow fell out of watching it the last couple of seasons. I thought it had some of the best writing on TV.

At 9:41 PM, Blogger MaryF said...

I love Monk, too, but I never remember to watch it. Friday nights are not good.

Trish, I agree about the execs and Firefly. They didn't even show them in order!

I liked West Wing, but dang, you really have to pay attention. They talk so FAST!

At 7:03 AM, Blogger Colleen Gleason said...

Great post, Trish, and spot-on. I agree with you that writers can learn a lot from watching other writers at work.

Not only do we learn about pop culture, which can filter into our writing in different ways, but also about characterization, plot, tension...and all the things you mentioned.

I'm looking forward to receiving the first DVD in Firefly in the near future from Netflix. I enjoyed what I've watched of Buffy (still have more to go), and Law & Order is one of my favorites too.

At 7:33 AM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

I've heard of Fawlty Towers! It appears on BBC America, I think, and PBS (or it used to) It stars John Cleese of Monty Python fame and was filmed in the 1970s. Janet's right. It's a scream


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