Thursday, October 31, 2013

A-list showrunners slacking.

One of the things that television enthusiasts don't pay enough attention to are the writing credits. They talk about the episodes, but they don't talk about the writers.

Unlike many others, I'm rather interested in knowing who actually wrote those episodes that were really good. I want to know who is responsible for those funny and/or serious moments.

The reason I'm writing about this is because there are certain writers out there who are simply better - more talented - than the rest. When they write a script, more often than not there's a chance that the episode turns out to be really good.

One of these writers is of course Modern Family's showrunner Steven Levitan. I think almost every script that he has written on Modern Family has been pretty good, better than your average episode on the show.

So, naturally every time when it reads on the screen that Steve Levitan wrote the episode, my hopes go up. Very likely the episode has something that is real and funny. The characters feel more like they're actual human beings.

The only problem with this is that unfortunately he doesn't write that many scripts anymore. This season he hasn't written a single one yet. Last season he wrote like two, or one and a half to be more precise.

Steve Levitan not being the hero that the world needs but doesn't deserve bugs me. No scripts yet this season. I'm worried..

Nevertheless, even though I'm disappointed in Steve's output lately, there's this other guy, this other writer that I'm even more worried about.

That's right, David E. Kelley, who created The Crazy Ones and is really notorious in the industry - like Aaron Sorkin - for writing almost every script himself. Six episodes in and he's only written the pilot.

I don't know about you guys, but this really troubles me. I miss Kelley's writing and I just wish that he'd write more scripts like he used to do.

More scripts please, David and Steve!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Spec script mistakes: rushing your script & storylines out of sync.

Usually I write about mistakes that other writers have made. In order to be a bit more fair, I think it's time to write about  mistakes that I myself have made recently.

So, when it comes to making mistakes, one that really annoys me is when your script as a whole doesn't work because certain scenes are in the wrong order.

This happened to me with my Modern Family spec 'House of Cards'. When I sent it to a competition, I rushed the script, didn't rewrite it early enough, made some panicky changes and screwed up the pacing without even realizing it.

Here's the script that nevertheless made the top 10 in the competition :

Now, the problem with this script is that the storyline with Alex and Haley ends too early. This is because I didn't pay enough attention to the scenes (placing) involving Jay/Phil and Cam/Mitchell. I thought the script would work no matter what.

Of course in hindsight it really didn't work and this is a good reminder that there's really no upside to start rewriting your script five hours before the deadline when you haven't checked your draft in months.

The upside to this all is that I think it's pretty easy to fix the problem - as long as the pacing is what's wrong with the script. The downside is that you start doubting yourself even more. Mistakes are never easy to accept anyway.

So, nevertheless, I opened the script yesterday and did some changes to it. The Claire/Haley/Alex storyline now ends on page 20 instead of ending on page 17.  I don't know if it makes enough difference but I hope it does.

Anyway, here's the 'fixed' version of the spec script:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I watched some of those new sitcoms..

As far as I remember, last year I didn't pay that much attention to comedy shows that premiered on tv. I mostly read reviews and that was pretty much it. All those new shows reportedly sucked and that was all I needed to know.

This year on the other hand I wasn't as indifferent, unfortunately. I wasn't smart enough to not watch those new shows that aired. I watched and in most cases wish that I hadn't.

There were at least two reasons that I checked the new shows. The biggest reason is of course that David Kelley came up with 'The Crazy Ones'. I'm always curious about what Kelley has to offer. Despite his flaws, he's still likely the most talented tv writer of all time.

Probably the second reason that I happened to take a look at the fall lineup was because Chuck Lorre seemingly came up with yet another generic sitcom called 'Mom'. According to at least Ken Levine, this was supposed to be good. So I had to check it out.

Now, I must confess that I didn't watch every new show that aired - but I did watch 'Mom', 'The Crazy Ones', I watched 'The Millers', I watched 'The Goldbergs' and there was at least one more sitcom.. yes.. 'Brooklyn Nine Nine' that I saw. I think I gave them all a fair chance.

I've already written about The Crazy Ones - so I guess it's time to write about those other wonderful new sitcoms that unfortunately didn't turn out to be wonderful at all. It turned out that all those other new comedies were, I'm sorry to say, awful.

So how bad was The Millers, lead by Will Arnett for example? Well, it looked cheap, there was no point to anything that happened and I kinda got a claustrophobic feel from the show. I was able to stomach 'The Millers' for about eight minutes before I had to turn it off.

The Goldbergs was a show that I hadn't heard anything about before. Jeff Garlin is always great in Curb Your Enthusiasm but he's completely wasted here. I couldn't believe how pointless the show was until I noticed that it was created by the guy who also wrote the movie 'Fanboys'. I gave up after ten minutes.

Brooklyn Nine Nine was supposedly a good show because critics liked it. But at the same time this show is nothing more than a weak imitation of the absolutely hilarious Reno 911. All the characters are unlikable, the storylines are terrible and the funny moments aren't funny.

Finally, Chuck Lorre's Mom. Even though we all 'knew' it was going to suck, I still kinda wanted the show to be good since it's about a single mom's struggles. I think it's an ideal underdog situation so the show can't be that bad, now can it?

The problem is of course that for some miraculous reason the characters aren't likable. Everyone's a cheater on the show. Everyone does nasty things to each other. The 'jokes' are so stupid and juvenile. Superbly talented actors are wasted here.

What's even worse is that Chuck Lorre had the nerve to write a vanity card in which he says that the writers worked really hard and that this is a serious show about a serious subject matter. Critics are supposed to keep that in mind when they take shots at the show..

I mean, this is unbelievably pathetic behavior from Lorre. At least those other showrunners were smart enough to keep their mouths shut. Most of them know that they screwed up (not sure about that Parks & Rec guy though).

But all in all, this is a really bad year for new sitcoms. It's not easy to come up with good shows, but you would expect that they could do better than this. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Modern Family spec script: What Would Brian Boitano Do?

Okay, so here's my final Modern Family script 'What Would Brian Boitano do?".

I never thought I'd be able to write this script, but fortunately I did. I hope you'll enjoy reading it.

Here's the song that this episode is based on:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

'The Crazy Ones' looks promising.

Well, I think it's too early at this point to make any definitive conclusions about The Crazy Ones, but based on those two episodes that I have seen, the show seems almost surprisingly solid.

Now, does this mean that it's going to be a good show or a great show? I wouldn't count on it yet. At the same time, The Crazy Ones is already probably the only show that can challenge Modern Family at the Emmys next year.

There are certain things that I like about the show and there are also certain things that I'm not sure about yet. We have to see more episodes before I can better assess the show.

First, let's start with those things that I'm not sure about yet. Like many others, I'm not sure I'm totally buying Robin Williams' act here. I personally like him more when he does drama. He's a fantastic dramatic actor and perhaps he should be more serious here.

Another thing is that I'm not sure whether this is a show that I'm going to care about. Will I care about the characters, are there honest moments on the show and is there enough substance? That's something that's going to be pretty crucial.

On the other hand, there are a lot of good things about the show. Unlike those others CBS sitcoms, The Crazy Ones doesn't have a laugh track. Also its production values are high enough and that's always a good thing.

When it comes to the characters, I especially liked James Wolk's character who has great chemistry with Williams. I had my doubts about Wolk being the lead on the show, but now that I've seen him, I'm not actually having problems with him anymore.

I also like Sarah Michelle Gellar. She seems to be a good person in real life and I think it shows here. Also, it was good to see Hamish Linklater. He was awesome on The Newsroom, so whatever he does here, I'm buying it.

Furthermore, this is after all a David Kelley show. Even though he hasn't had a good decade when it comes to winning Emmy awards, he probably still has that golden touch. We'll see how it goes.

Anyway, as I wrote before, I wasn't really supposed to write any more television spec scripts, but now that I've seen this show, I might actually reconsider. It really doesn't take that much time to write one or two more.