Thursday, October 12, 2017

'Young Sheldon' doesn't work as a comedy series.

When it comes to this season's freshman comedies, there's no doubt that one series was more anticipated than the others. Of all the new television shows that were to be aired, CBS's 'Young Sheldon' was the most anticipated one.

The reason that 'Young Sheldon' was so hyped as a series is fairly obvious. The series that it was based on, 'The Big Bang Theory', had been the most watched comedy series on television for so many years and had a huge fanbase.

So having now seen then pilot for the show, I have to say that it doesn't look like 'Young Sheldon' is going to be a success. Based on its first episode, it doesn't look like there's anything in the series that would keep the audience interested in watching it.

The biggest problem with this 'spin-off' is that it doesn't have a premise that is good enough. The premise of the show, in which the audience follows the early years of young Sheldon Cooper, simply isn't strong enough.

As unfortunate as it is, none of the elements that made the original series so good are present here. There is almost nothing in the new series that would remind you what made the original show watchable in the first place.
 
After all, the reason that the original Big Bang Theory managed to work so well is because it had a solid premise and likable characters. The show about four likable nerds and a girl next door had elements in it that kept the show going.

When it comes to this new show, it simply isn't enough to have one of the 'characters' from the original. It's not enough to transfer one popular character from the old show, give him a fresh new face and think that it's all that it takes.

Besides, we shouldn't forget that the popularity of Sheldon as a character has always been at least a bit exaggerated. He isn't actually that popular, especially when it comes to the character's likability and relatibility.
 
By that I mean that there are a lot of characteristics about Sheldon that aren't desirable at all. In most environments, his 'autism' and inflexibility as a character are things that will turn off the audience almost instantly.

In that sense, it's all the more unfortunate that the producers and the writers decided to take the absolute worst aspects of his character. All the good things about the early seasons that had to do with Sheldon's character are gone now.

Instead of making Sheldon curious about how the world works, all he does on the show is brag how much smarter he is than the rest. Instead of making us relate to him, all he does is complain and insult others like he's the only person left on the planet.

So based on all these mistakes and how badly the writers messed up Sheldon's character and the premise, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the show doesn't work. It shouldn't surprise anyone that 'Young Sheldon' is in trouble as a series.

At least in my opinion, the pilot had too many problems and there were too few, if any moments that made you smile. It didn't feel like any of the characters in the episode made sense or that the writers knew what they were doing.

As a whole, even though it is true that the kid who plays young Sheldon is a talented actor (Iain Armitage from Big Little Lies), that alone is not enough to save the show. His presence as a Sheldon is not enough to keep the series going.

In that sense, we can only hope that sooner or later CBS will do the right thing and cancel the show. There's no real reason to keep the series going, even though the first episode that aired did get somewhat decent ratings.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Jimmy Kimmel did what journalists wouldn't do.

During the last a week or so, everyone who follows news has heard about Jimmy Kimmel. This late-night talk show host has been active in the media when it comes to the proposed new healthcare bill in the U.S. senate. 

As a host of his talk show, Kimmel has been spending his opening monologues speaking against the unpopular Cassidy-Graham bill. This legislative piece, if implemented, would hurt most americans and would make the U.S. health care system worse.

For those who haven't paid attention to the case, the whole thing started several months ago, when Kimmel talked about his newborn son's health problems. The heart defect that his son had was potentially lethal and had to be operated immediately.

Kimmel talked about how lucky he was that doctors and nurses at the hospital noticed the problem and took care of it. He talked about how deeply upsetting it was that not everyone in the country had the means to deal with healthcare issues like he did.

So not long after Kimmel's original monologue became popular, Lousiana's senator Bill Cassidy (r) thought that it would be a good thing to get free publicity. He went on the show to proclaim that every future bill would have to pass the 'Jimmy Kimmel' test. 

What this 'test' basically meant is that no child would be denied care because of a pre-existing condition like Kimmel's son had. Any bill that would replace the Affordable Care Act would have to address the issue sufficiently.

Kimmel, understandably enough, felt fairly good about these assurances. He perhaps even thought that he had made a bit of a difference and that his heartfelt speech about his son's medical problems would make politicians care.

After the publicity for the case eventually waned, it more or less looked like we were done with the whole thing. It seemed as if from now on, Kimmel's show would just try to be mindlessly funny and concentrate on comedy.

However, in late July, the republican controlled U.S senate tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Republicans tried to get rid of the Obamacare, which stated that no person would be denied a health insurance because of a pre-existing condition.

Even though the initial repeal effort turned out to be a failure, that wasn't the last word on the issue. It didn't take more than a month before a new, even stealthier bill was introduced, by none other than our 'Jimmy Kimmel test' senator Cassidy.

The problem with this bill was that it didn't pass the 'Jimmy Kimmel' test at all. Not only were there cuts in the bill to medicaid, but the protections for patients with pre-existing conditions were more or less thrown out too.

Once all these facts became available, it didn't take more than a day before our late-night host started going after senator Cassidy. Kimmel was merciless in the way he went after the republicans and their odious plans.

In his opening monologues, he openly called the 'honorable' senator a liar and a fraud who couldn't be trusted with this new healthcare bill. Again and again he went after the senator's empty promises and lies that he told us.

Pretty much no one else in the media was willing to say that Cassidy & Graham were completely full of it with this new bill. Almost all of the establishment media was trying to tap-dance around the fact that the legislative piece was a massive scam to hurt the poor.

In the end, Kimmel's reaction and the massive publicity that it created managed to make a difference. Kimmel's outrage and opposition is one of the main reasons that the Graham-Cassidy bill wasn't even brought to the senate floor for a vote.

In that sense, when you look at the whole thing, we can only be grateful that he was willing to talk about this issue with such honesty and integrity. We can only be grateful that he was willing to take a brave stand here.

After all, by doing what he did, he showed that just because you're a late-night host, that doesn't mean that you can't have a voice of your own. Being an entertainer doesn't mean that you can't make a difference when it comes to political matters.

On the contrary, Kimmel showed that if you have a platform like he has, there's nothing wrong with using it for a good cause. There's nothing wrong about rising up to the occasion, when no one else in the establishment media is willing to do that.

In that sense, by exposing these guys, he was clearly doing God's work here. By exposing them, he helped to make sure that millions in the U.S. are still going to keep their health insurances and that they won't get hurt for no reason at all.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Why are so many television shows so bad?

It's not exactly a secret that when it comes to television, most of the shows that you see on tv aren't good at all. Most of the shows don't have good things going on in them and there isn't anything in them that could keep us entertained.

The biggest reason that these shows don't work is because they aren't about anything real or meaningful. The premise and the basic idea in them isn't strong enough, so that the series could have something to build on.

Especially when it comes to most comedies that are out there, it seems as if the writers behind these shows had no idea how to write good stuff. It's as if they had no clue about how storytelling is supposed to work.
 
Nevertheless, when it comes to creating good stuff, it shouldn't at least on paper be impossible to pull off. Even though it's not easy by any definition, creating good shows should be doable, as long you pay attention to the basics.

Unfortunately, when it comes to this creation process, most of the time producers and writers don't seem to pay attention to these things. It's as if they had no idea about the craft and about how they're supposed to do their jobs.

For example, when it comes to creating a solid premise, they don't spend enough time coming up with a decent idea for their series. They don't pay enough attention to their idea, so that they could have a premise that might actually work.

When it comes to creating likable characters, they don't seem to think that those things are needed either. They seem to think that you don't need to have likable, honorable characters that people could actually root for.

This same, lazy approach to the craft also applies it comes to coming up with decent storylines. These writers aren't worried about coming up with storylines that would have substance, idealism or things that mattered.

Instead, what these writers and producers try to do is to obfuscate and throw off their audience. Things like spamming weak jokes, obsessing with empty popular culture references or using ridiculous amount of swearing is the way to go.

For example, 'comedy' shows like Community, Family Guy and Rick & Morty are pretty much all about using pop culture references. They're all about catering to the lowest common denominator with their pointless references.

When it comes to the overuse of 'jokes', pretty much all the multicamera sitcoms are guilty of this. Showrunners like Chuck Lorre are known for using jokes as a crutch when they have no clue how to make their storylines work.

In order to throw off the audience, if these showrunners can't come up with a solid storyline, they try to write in as many jokes as possible. By doing this they try to confuse us, so that we wouldn't notice that there's no real story in these episodes.

Still, perhaps the most heartbreaking of these cheap stunts has to be the overuse of cursing. This kind of behavior is especially true on HBO, where there are no limits on how much profanities or cursing you're allowed to use.

In reality, the only thing that a supposed 'comedy' series like 'Veep' has going for itself, is that it's completely filled with profanities. This Emmy winning comedy series that has unlikable characters and weak storylines has nothing else going for it.

In that sense, when you consider all these things, it shouldn't really surprise anyone that there are so many bad shows out there. It shouldn't come as a surprise when you consider how disrespectful most of the writers and producers are towards their craft.

In the end, the truth is that when it comes to creating quality shows, it's about paying attention and respecting the basics. It's about having a solid premise, having likable characters and making sure that you write storylines that make sense.

It's not about ignoring the fundamentals of storytelling. It's not about ignoring the basics and thinking that as long as you just write in pop culture references, spam jokes and swear, things are magically going to work.

Unfortunately for us, as long as these writers and producers keep trashing their craft, things won't change. As long as they think that it's okay to cut corners and that you don't have to take your job seriously, we're not going to get better shows on tv.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

What should we think of the 'Zootopia' lawsuit?

A couple of weeks ago I read about a lawsuit concerning Disney's animated film Zootopia. I read about how a writer claimed that Disney had stolen his idea for the film and that the company should have to pay punitive damages as a result.

According to this writer, Disney had stolen the title of the film, 'Zootopia'. The company had also stolen the basic premise and the basic character designs in the film, which the lawyer for the plaintiff tried to argue in court.

When I started reading about the case, at first it seemed like there was a decent case against Disney. As long as you focused on the company stealing the title and you had your focus on the character design, it seemed like the writer was on to something.

However, once you dug a bit deeper and started to pay attention to the case a bit more, things started to get more complicated. Even though there are a lot of similarities, these similarities tend to be too generic and even deceptive.

When it comes to the original film, 'Zootopia' (2016) is an animation that tells a story about a hillbilly bunny called Judy Hopps. This bunny, who becomes a cop and moves to the big city of Zootopia, is what the movie is about.

When it comes to the film, at least 80-90% of its success has to do with our likable bunny. Bunny Hopps is the biggest reason that the movie works so well and that it was such a success both critically and at the box office.

Almost every emotionally meaningful story beat in the film is derived from this character. The character's idealism and her underdog situation is what makes the story work and what makes us care about what happens in the movie.

What this all has to do with the lawsuit is that in the plaintiff's treatment, 'Zootopia' apparently isn't about the 'Bunny'. In the plaintiff's version, the squirrel (that isn't even a cop) doesn't seem to be at the center of the story.

Instead, the plaintiff's version revolves more around the 'fox' character that we see in the produced film. This character (a hyena in the plaintiff's concept), isn't that likable and isn't someone that you can easily relate to.

The big problem with this is that if the plaintiff's story had a protagonist that wasn't particularly likable, that concept wouldn't have worked. There were going to be so many problems with the story, regardless of how the treatment would have looked on paper.

Incidentally, Disney admitted that they tried to write a script that revolved around the 'fox' character. They spent almost a year writing different drafts and tried everything to make the story work and to make it worth producing.

Eventually, they gave up and decided that the movie simply shouldn't and couldn't be about the Fox. They decided that they needed to start from scratch and thought that the film should instead be about the Bunny character.

What this means is that if Disney actually did steal the concept or the treatment from plaintiff, in that case they also ditched it. Even though the concept might have worked in theory, when they wrote the script, it didn't work anymore.

So as a whole, when it comes to this lawsuit, I think it's safe to say that it doesn't seem to be completely outlandish or frivolous. It seems to be likely that Disney in some ways tried to 'steal' the concept from the writer.

After all, the company is infamous for having stolen other people's material over the decades. They have clearly played fast and loose with copyrighted source material before (for example The Lion King / Kimba The White Lion).

Still, even though this wouldn't be the first time that they stole from other writers, when you consider what we know about the case so far (possibly different, unlikable protagonist / other stuff), the lawsuit is walking on a fairly thin ice.

As far as I'm concerned, even though I don't like siding with a corporation against an individual, in this case one might have to. It might be that in this case the writer didn't create a concept that was strong enough to be protected by copyright laws.

In that sense, if Disney took the idea and made it work, that isn't automatically their fault. It isn't automatically their fault if the plaintiff didn't come up with a story that was good enough and if the story didn't have merit to stand on its own.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Why is writing movies harder than writing for tv?

A couple of days ago I read some articles, in which television writers compared movie screenwriting to television writing. They wondered why tv writers aren't usually good at writing movies and why it can be so hard to transition to films?

These writers had their own theories about why this tends to happen. According to them, writing for tv was either too lucrative, or they thought that since they had somehow 'mastered' the art of tv writing, they were now 'too good' to write movies.

Not surprisingly, I didn't find these explanations to be particularly convincing or plausible. None of these writers, in my opinion, had the insight or the courage to admit why transitioning to films is so incredibly difficult.

In reality, the biggest reason that most television writers can't switch to writing films is that most of them just aren't good enough as writers. Most of them don't have the talent to write full length movie screenplays.

As far as I'm concerned, writing film scripts is a lot more demanding than writing television scripts is. Whether we like to admit it or not, it's a lot more demanding in almost every aspect that has to do with the writing process.

For example, movie scripts require a lot more ideas than your average episode for a sitcom or for a drama series. You need to come up with a lot more ideas that have to do with your premise and your characters throughout the length of the screenplay.

With movies, you need longer arcs that require more thought than those vignettes on tv shows. A twenty minute sitcom episode or a forty minute drama episode simply isn't as demanding storywise as is a full length movie screenplay. 

When it comes to this writing process, we shouldn't also forget that most television writers in the business aren't actually that experienced either. They haven't mastered their craft, even though they might think that they have done that.

As unfortunate as it is, the truth is that most of these writers did not create the shows that they have been writing for. The overwhelming majority of these writers were not in charge of creating the characters in the pilots of their respective tv shows.

This means that there's a very good chance that most of them have no clue about creating original material from scratch. They don't know how to create original material that would be good enough to be produced on its own.

In that sense, whenever I read someone writing about how they don't write movies for this and that reason, we should take their explanation with a grain of salt. There's a good chance that the person is not being honest about the issue.

At least in my case, the reason that it took so long for me to write a movie script is that it was really that difficult to come up with one. It was that hard and I knew that there was a good chance that I wouldn't be able to write one.

It wasn't because I thought I had more important things to do than to write movies. It wasn't because I was 'too good', that I had 'mastered' the art of television writing or that I was somehow above writing film screenplays.

On the contrary, it was because I was afraid that I was going to fail as a movie writer. It was because I was scared to death that I wasn't good enough, that I didn't know what I was doing and that I wouldn't be able to take my craft to the next level.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

What kind of screenplay did I manage to write?

Before I started writing my very first movie screenplay, I kept thinking what my strengths as a writer were. I kept thinking what are the things that I'm good at and how these qualities could be used in the writing process.

After all, if I wanted to write a quality screenplay, I would have to concentrate on my strengths instead of my weaknesses. If I wanted to write something that had any merit or value, I had to know what were the good things about me as a writer.

So when it finally came to deciding what I should write about, I knew that I would have to write something that I felt relatively good about. I had to choose a genre that would reflect my values as a person as well as possible.

Not surprisingly, since I'm a pretty big fan of animations, I thought it would be a good idea to give an animated screenplay a chance. I had been writing a lot about these movies, so I wanted to see if I could come up with a script myself. 

The decision to write an animated screenplay wasn't actually that difficult. Especially knowing that most animations manage to cheer me up and put me on a better mood, I thought it would make sense to write a script myself.

When it comes to writing the script, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I was influenced by other movies. Popular films like 'Amelie', the recent 'My Life As a Courgette' and 'Shaun The Sheep were the ones that influenced me the most.

For example, when it comes to 'Amelie', I liked how the main character in the film was so creative and proactive. I liked how Amelie was trying to do the right thing and how she was a character that you were able to root for.

When it comes to 'My Life As a Courgette', I liked the themes in the film and how well the animation in it was done. I appreciated how well the theme of being an orphan was handled and how the movie was able to convey real emotions.

When it comes to 'Shaun The Sheep', I absolutely loved how the writers were able to come up with an 80 minute movie that had zero dialogue in it. I found this to be awesome and was really impressed with how many good ideas the movie had. 

So by mixing these three movies, I wrote an 'original' script that revolves around themes and ideas that these films represented. The script, currently titled 'Valerie and The Girl', is some sort of a synthesis of these movies.

It handles themes like compassion, transformation and coming to terms with change without being judgemental and without being mean. It tries to take the best aspects of those three movies and comes up with a story of its own.

When it comes to me borrowing stuff, my script, like in 'My Life as a Courgette', is about a young child growing up. The character not having a father in her life is one of the overarching themes in the screenplay that plays throughout the script's length.

Like in 'Amelie', our main character is an active protagonist that tries her best to change things for the better. She not only wants to help others - including her new friend - but she also wants to know what happened to her father.

Like in 'Shaun The Sheep', in its current form the screenplay doesn't have any written, intelligible dialogue in the script. Every single scene in the screenplay runs on the strength of the characters and the overarching storylines that are in it.

As a whole, when it comes to the script, I'm fairly confident that the story and its characters feel authentic and respect the reader. I'm relatively confident that the story feels original and doesn't seem too much like the movies that it was 'based' on.

After all, if I managed to do those things, that would mean that I wrote something good. It would mean that I have a certain understanding of what storytelling is about and that I'm capable of writing original characters that you can relate to.

Still, regardless of how good the screenplay turned out, when it comes to this project, I did my best to come up with a good script. I tried my best to write a screenplay that would reflect my values and my strengths as a writer.  

Whether I actually managed to write a really good script, I don't know. That, after all, takes a lot of luck of and is something that cannot be controlled, no matter how hard you're willing to try and no matter how talented you are as a writer.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

'My Life as a Zucchini' is a solid animation.

Like many others, if I have to choose between watching a live action movie or an animated film, it's usually an easy decision. In most cases I'll watch the animated film, because it's much more likely to put me on a better mood.

After all, when it comes to animations, you don't judge characters in them the way you judge actors in live action movies. There's no prejudice involved with animated characters, which makes watching them so much easier.

In that sense, it wasn't a difficult decision to give a chance for a French animated film called 'My Life as a Zucchini'. This is a movie that was nominated at this year's Academy Awards in the best animated film category.

In essence, the movie tells a story about a young boy called 'Courgette' (Zucchini). Once he becomes an orphan, he is moved to an orphanage, where he meets other kids who haven't been fortunate in their lives either.

Over the course of the film's one hour length, the animation deals with all kinds of issues that have to do with the main character's situation. There's stuff about abandonment, friendship, acceptance and making the best out of what you have.

When it comes to 'My Life as a Courgette', very likely the best thing about it has to do with how simplistic and how down to earth it is. The themes in it are clear and there isn't anything in the film that doesn't belong to it or that feels forced.

Unlike in most movies, almost all the characters in it are likable and relatable. Every person in the orphanage, including the personnel, are characters that you can relate to and who are trying to work in the best interest of the kids.

When it comes to the animation in the movie, the stop motion technique works really well. It's a real pleasure to watch these characters and how the makers of the film have managed to make them so lively and full of emotion.

These high quality production values also apply to the voice acting. Especially when it comes to the original French version of the film, you can't help but to fall in love with these characters and how authentic they sound.

If there's anything in the movie that could have been better, I guess it has to be said that the ending for it was a bit lacking. The movie should have gone a bit longer so that the last fifteen minutes of the film could have had a better flow.

At least in my opinion, the last phase could have used a couple more extra scenes that would have made the ending more satisfying. There was something missing from the script that made the finale a little bit underwhelming.

Still, despite these fairly minor flaws in the film, it has to be said that I'm glad that I managed to watch 'My Life as a Courgette'. It's good to notice that movies like these exist and that they're not all the same old, same old.

As a whole, even though the film doesn't sugar coat things and doesn't shy away from real stuff, it manages to entertain. It manages to give you hope and makes you feel that just because things aren't going your way, life can still get better.