Thursday, May 30, 2013

"So you're saying, I go in to NBC, and tell them I got this idea for a show about nothing."

Thursday was always "Must See TV Night" so, in the Hollywood spirit of give me the same thing - only different, I will be giving you MSTVTs here.  This should be great fun, considering how much I loathe network television and the fact that I haven't had cable since 2001.  Really.  Since 2001.

Netflix is our cable.   Sure, you already know if the shows I'm just getting into are great or stink, but I'm still a huge fan.  I know that "on-demand" is the big draw for most but what keeps me around is NO COMMERCIALS.  If I'm going to "waste my life rotting my brain in front of that confounded box" I'd prefer to do it without being inundated with advertisements for products I'll never use - like a personal laser hair removal system, a Saran Wrap dispenser that you put the Saran Wrap dispenser that comes with the Saran Wrap inside of, or a company that wants me to buy gold from them (scam, BTW).  If I had the money to buy gold do you really think I'd be watching Drake and Josh? 

We've tried two new series in the past week.  Completely different genres.  Both have been in our queues for a bit, aging as it were.  Last night was Castle's turn.  I'd like to focus on one very specific thing that my wife said.  "I really want to like him, but I'm just not there."  That opened my eyes to a challenge of TV writing that I hadn't really thought through and flew in the face of something I'd said two nights previous, you know, that thing arrogant writer types like to throw out there.  "Writing for TV is EASY."

The problem with developing a compellingly flawed protagonist for many authors is that they don't take him far enough back - he's too good from the very beginning which leaves him with little room to grow - resulting in a shallow character arc and an unfulfilling story.  For the novelist this isn't such a problem, but in film it can be tough to overcome- you don't have a lot of time establish your characters and it's easy to alienate your hero by making him too much of a jerk or prince.  In a series you can't end your story with the character issues resolved because you've still got the whole season to go - and then what are you going to do next season? 

The solution in Castle was, in my opinion, well done.  He's irresponsible, there are suggestions of an immoral lifestyle, there is NO DOUBT that he's an annoying and arrogant know-it-all but then we are shown him interacting with two other women - his mother and his daughter, and we see that there is hurt, compassion, and love - a broad depth.  The relationship between father and daughter was especially well portrayed.  Script writing is all about showing, not telling, and there is a scene where the two of them are discussing his trip to jail before going to bed and she holds on to him, both laughing, while he drags her along the hardwood floor in sock feet.  5 minutes of banter wouldn't have shown their closeness as well as that scene did - probably the best in the episode.  There is also a scene, not nearly as well written, but structurally sound, where he is playing poker with his friends and, using dramatic irony, admits that he is stumped, showing the audience - if not the world - that HE at least knows he's not all that.

I'm reserving judgement on the series.  It isn't the Mentalist after one episode, but then, the Mentalist wasn't either.


  1. It seems to me that all writing, as well as rhetoric and other uses of language, is better served by showing, not telling. For example, an attorney must not tell the jury that a person is a liar. Rather, he must ask the right questions so that the plaintiff or defendant will show the jury that he is indeed a liar. By the same token a novelist doesn't announce that a character is neurotic, she shows the bizarre behavior, and the reader draws the conclusion.

    1. "is better served" being key! This is really great advice.

  2. Try HEARTLAND for the kids. I think they will really enjoy it, especially Ali as there are horses galore. C.