Thursday, December 18, 2014

Modern Family: story logic problems that should have been avoided.

Modern Family hasn't exactly had its best season this fall. Some episodes have turned out to be surprisingly watchable, yet many of the episodes that have aired have left me scratching my head. How can so called professional writers make mistakes that seem so obvious.

For example the episode "Haley's 21st Birthday" that aired last week had some pretty weird timing and logic issues that were pretty hard to overlook. A lot of those who saw the episode went and commented on forums that this and that just didn't make sense.

In any case, the first storyline was about Haley and her birthday. She went celebrating her special day with Claire, Gloria, Cameron and Mitchell. This happened apparently during the evening which is a crucial point concerning the plausibility of the other storyline.

At the same time Phil and Jay were about to buy Haley a birthday gift - a new car that is. They had decided to surprise her, so what else could be a better and a bigger surprise than buying her a beautiful looking vehicle.

The problem with this all of course is that there's no way that a car dealership would be open at that time of the day. I mean, perhaps a single car dealership for a special event might be, but Jay & Phil went to visit another store too. That didn't really make sense.

These two storylines individually speaking weren't that bad, even though they were a bit too easy to predict - especially when it came to Jay's ultimate decision. However, when they intertwined together like it happened on the episode, they just didn't work.

Yet, that was likely not the biggest problem me and others had with these storylines. That is because when Jay & Phil eventually gave her the vehicle, Haley was - if not totally drunk - at least to some extent under the influence of alcohol.

So when she got out of the bar and got on the driver's seat, it was really hard not to cringe and think what kind of an example the show was setting for us. This felt like a major story flaw and simply didn't feel right at all.

Driving under the influence of alcohol simply isn't a laughing matter. It's one of the most reckless acts that you can do as a person. That the writers didn't notice it or at least didn't address the issue in any way was pretty disappointing.

To be honest, problems like these have been pretty rare on Modern Family, but this time it was pretty obvious for almost anyone who watched it. When it comes to logic and what's plausible, perhaps they should have thought about it a bit more. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

People are boring, events and ideas can be interesting.

Whenever I watch a bad television show, pretty much the first thing that comes to my mind is that the characters on that particular series are so damn boring. I could not care any less about them. They seem so vain, superficial and empty. I just have to quickly turn off the tv.

There are so many good, bad examples of these vapid characters on different shows. Anything that deals with people with no substance at all turns me off. From reality to sitcoms: Top Chef, Project Runway, Cougar Town, Parks & Rec etc. - boring people and boring characters.

The problem with us human beings (and characters) is that most of us - if not all of us - are actually pretty uninteresting. No matter who we are and no matter what we do, without a proper context and without real pressure we're usually not interesting at all.

This is a problem that is not that easy to solve as a person or as a writer. We're pretty boring and yet we need to find ways to make us seem more relatable and interesting. So how do we as humans and as writers deal with this fact? What should we write about?

Perhaps this famous quote from Eleanor Roosevelt could help us a bit. In it she says that small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events and great minds discuss ideas. That's pretty straightforward advice, but comes with certain caveats.

In any case her advice says that we shouldn't "discuss" people, which I think is a double edged sword. As I already wrote, I absolutely detest most shows because all that these bad shows contain is just nonsensical discussions about people. They're all about them.

This however doesn't mean that stuff about people can't by definition be interesting. The trick is to know how to do it. You need to make sure that you provide insight into how we think and how we interact with others. There needs to be substance, not just empty talk.

The other thing that she talks about are events. Events are perhaps the easiest way to create situations that make things interesting. I like creating events for characters, because events help to define them and give them something to do.

This is not to say that any event is going to be something that will automatically make us seem interesting. It won't necessarily bring out the best and the worst in us. Nevertheless, events give us a shortcut to write about universal things that we might be able to relate to.

Roosevelt's third point is about being idealistic. Great minds discuss ideas and ideas make us great - which in many ways is completely true. Without ideas shows are about nothing and without idealism characters can't stand for much - if anything.

The reason I love shows like Macgyver and Star Trek: The Next Generation is pretty much because of their idealism. These shows try to make us better human beings through change. They discuss ideas and what should be done to them.

Idealistic characters stand for something, which is why every writer should try to be idealistic too. It makes your job so much easier. If you just write about people without giving us substance or anything that we can relate to, you're pretty much writing about nothing.

So how do you make us more interesting? I guess in many ways it's about coming to terms with how boring we can be. Once you start to question the way we live our lives and how things should be, things might just start to get more interesting.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What are those television critics thinking?

One of the better decisions that one can make in life is to make sure that you don't watch too much television. This is because most shows just aren't worth your time. Most television programs are so bad that nobody should be watching them.

Nevertheless, even though most tv shows do suck, that doesn't mean that there aren't any decent or watchable shows on television. You just need to know what the good shows are and which shows are the ones that you should avoid like the plague.

So knowing this all, you might think that those who could help you are the people who review television shows for living. They would give you the best advice on what shows to watch. After all, they watch television all the time, so they must know what they're talking about.

It seems totally plausible and in theory makes a lot of sense. The reality though is, that television critics are very likely the most unreliable people on this planet when it comes to making honest evaluations about the quality of different tv shows.

But why can't we trust the critics? What makes them so untrustworthy? Are they paid opportunists and cheerleaders who lie for living? Could it be that they aren't really that smart? That is because they usually can't tell right from wrong.

What probably makes me distrust tv critics the most is that they are so wildly clueless about the state of television entertainment. They think that television has never been better. They continuously proclaim that this is the golden age of television™ - even though it isn't.

Here's the reality about television shows: at any given year there aren't usually more than three or four quality shows on tv that are actually worth your time. The rest are more or less garbage that you should avoid at all cost.

During the nineties there were a lot more shows that were pretty decent. But today things are much, much worse - and yet the television critics won't admit that. In their minds just about every single television show is totally awesome.

I mean, for example, look at this daily chart that I copy-pasted from This is one of the biggest sites on internet that does professional reviews of television shows. Just look at it, the chart consists mostly of 'A'-grades!

What are these people thinking?  'A' for New Girl, 'B' for Mindy Project, 'A' for The Good Wife and 'A' for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. This is pure madness. In my opinion all these shows are incredibly awful, they're hopelessly bad.

There's no way I would ever recommend anyone to watch these shows. There's no way I would ever be able to live with myself if I gave Mindy Project even a 'B'. It's so wrong. Most shows on the list deserve grades between C and F.

You simply can't trust these critics. If you watch these shows, you'll become dumber and you'll get more depressed. You'll learn to become more vain, more superficial and less interested in things that really matter in life.

If you want to get good advice about what shows to watch, there's probably no better source of information than your friends. They usually know what your sensibilities are and what are the shows that you'd like to watch. They might know - critics almost certainly won't.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When writers read your site and might be influenced by you.

One of the best things about writing a blog is that at least in theory everyone has the chance to read what I'm writing here. Everyone who is interested in knowing what I've been doing lately (nothing) or what my thoughts about certain things are is welcome to read this blog.

Even though I primarily write this blog for myself - as a form of therapy - I'm also writing because I want to reach out to people. There aren't really that many active sites online about television writing, so perhaps this blog might serve a purpose.

Nevertheless, even though the purpose of this blog is not to go for maximum ratings, I've been lately thinking and wondering who are the people that are reading this site. Apparently some relatively influential folks have been visiting here pretty frequently.

One of the reasons I've been thinking this is because of what has happened on Modern Family over the last year. I think there's a decent chance - at least an outside chance - that one of the changes on the show perhaps happened at least partly because of me.

As you might know, I have tried to teach you here about writing - how to think about it and how to approach the writing process. I try to show how I do it myself: I post my story ideas, thoughts behind them and I post those scripts for you to read too.

The way I possibly influenced Modern Family is through something that happened to one of its characters. In this case we're talking about Mitchell Pritchett who became a courtroom lawyer rather soon after I wrote a spec about it - which is a rather peculiar coincidence.

At first I didn't really think about it that much, but the more I have thought about it, I guess the higher the chances have become that I might have influenced this curious change in Mitchell's career path. This whole thing kinda bothers me, if I'm being honest.

In any case, the reason I decided to do something different with him - unlike the writers of the show - is because Mitchell had always been strictly a desk job lawyer. So I thought what if the audience could see him doing some actual "lawyering" in court? To me it seemed obvious.

I also thought about this because I'm admittedly a massive fan of David E. Kelley. I had written Boston Legal already, so I knew I could make law - that is super boring in real life - seem interesting on a show like Modern Family too.

This wasn't that 'easy' and simple to implement though. Since there are so many storylines on each Modern Family episode, I had to adjust. No storyline could be about the actual facts or about the case, because there wasn't enough time for that. I had to make it about emotions.

So what I was thinking was; what if Mitchell had a storyline in which he had to give a closing argument in a big case? What if he was a nervous wreck. What if nothing seemed to go his way? How could he conquer his fears and save the day? That's what I came up with.

I think this storyline in my opinion was really well executed. If Steve Levitan - or any other person from the writing staff - read it, it must have given them the confidence to go and try this angle on the show too. (see the 4th season finale of the show "Goodnight, Gracie")

Sure, I can't be sure that I made them do the change, but the writers of the show know this blog - and at the very least I did it before they did. I showed that it can be done, even though subsequently those "Mitchell in court" storylines have mostly been pretty bad.

It might not be my best spec script, but now that I read it again after fixing it, I think I can be pretty proud of myself.  At least in my opinion I have the ability to read these characters really well and I think I have the ability to make them as real as possible.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Those crazy people in Hollywood: The Lena Dunham and Chuck Lorre edition.

As I've written here before, I have found it pretty disturbing every time that the Hollywood elite has tried to portray certain people in the industry in a way that makes them seem way more talented and better than they really are. 

The biggest offender is very likely Lena Dunham, who despite her obvious mediocrity and despite her obvious issues is somehow not only "a beautiful mind" but she's also "the voice of a generation" - if you are to believe the entertainment media.

So what happens when it's revealed and suggested that Hollywood's biggest media darling isn't exactly all that? What happens when information emerges that your supposed "beautiful mind" might not be a great person but a sociopath and a sex offender instead? 

This all and more happened last week when it was reported - unfortunately not by the so called liberal media - that Dunham had abused her little sister for more than a decade and that the abuse possibly involved sexual molestation too. 

This news story was pretty shocking. Even though most of us knew based on her show 'Girls' that she's at least a somewhat disturbed person and a narcissist who lives in her nepotistic bubble, who saw that stuff coming? Certainly I didn't.

What makes this whole thing so absurd is that these claims aren't even accusations. Dunham herself wrote about them in her book "Not that kind of girl". What makes it even more absurd is that apparently she thought what she did was not abuse but totally awesome and funny.

So how did the entertainment media respond to this? Salon for example wrote that "there's one thing we know for sure - Lena Dunham did not abuse her sister". Even though she already confessed to doing that.

Other critics wrote that it just can't be true and that they can't wait to give her more awards. This is supposedly just a dumb controversy that people will quickly forget. As if it's just a minor thingy and not really a serious matter. Unbelievable.

I think it's pretty obvious that if you confess to deeds like she did - that is to sexual abuse - there should be consequences. Behavior like that is so unacceptable that you need to be a total cheerleader not to react to it in any way.

So what's going to happen to her? My guess is that her fifteen minutes of fame are going to be over soonish, but you never know. Maybe the people in the media will pretend that these shocking things never happened. I certainly hope that won't be the case.

But that's not all. In my opinion Chuck Lorre managed to possibly one-up even Lena Dunham. Even though this 'story' hasn't been reported at all, in certain ways it might be as embarrassing as what Dunham did. 

In any case, as you might have read, some weeks ago Lorre wrote that he was done with writing his vanity cards (the ones you can see for a split second on his shows). He said that soon he wouldn't be writing them anymore.

So what happened is that like two weeks ago we got to his penultimate vanity card. He wrote about what he had tried to say over the years and he hoped that we would not judge him or something like that. No hard feelings, he said.

Then we got to his final vanity card - and for some reason he had gotten passive-aggressive again. He complained about how we hadn't appreciated his thoughts enough. He was bitter that we "under-appreciated" his writings.

That was pretty weird, because anyone who has ever paid attention to his vanity cards should know that his ramblings were most of the time wildly incoherent. There's absolutely no way anyone with half a brain could appreciate them.

So what happened the week after that? You'll never guess - the guy actually did not stop writing his vanity cards. Despite what he said and what he was supposedly serious about, he continues writing them as if nothing happened! 

Let's be honest here. This is just about the most demented thing I've seen in a long time. It's scary behavior and makes one question what kind of a person Chuck Lorre really is. Based on this only, it's pretty safe to say that he's not exactly the sanest person on the planet.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

My first spec scripts: Alan Shore & Denny Crane save the day.

When it comes to me as a person, probably the hardest thing about writing has been getting started. It has never been easy for me. Whether it's about writing to a friend, writing a blog post or writing an actual script, I have always struggled with taking the first steps.

So you can perhaps imagine how difficult it was for me and how terrified I was when I was supposed to start writing my first scripts. How on earth would I ever manage to write and finish my two part Boston Legal spec? There's no way I would be able to do it.

I mean, I hadn't written actual scripts before. I had just written some articles and some of them weren't that good. There was a decent chance that I would fail. I had even tried writing a script before - on a word pad - but had given up after a few sentences.

So there definitely was a reason to be worried. At the same time I just felt that I had to get the job done this time. I wasn't getting any younger and I had promised myself that at some point I would give it a shot. No matter what, I would try it.

Naturally I wasn't really sure where to start from. I had read some tv writing books that gave me some advice. I even had gotten myself the latest version of Final Draft. So at least I had done some preparations. But I still needed to figure out what to write about.

In any case, for quite some time I had thought about writing a script about the John F. Kennedy assassination. I felt that there were things that needed to be said about it. I had studied the case for like eight years already. It was probably the greatest story (n)ever told.

So I came up with a revenge plot as my main storyline. I tried to pitch it to my friend and I quickly noticed that I was horrible at explaining story ideas. "This researcher guy kills a famous Oswald did it author who is a complete fraud (a la Gerald Posner) and then, uh uh...

Worst pitch ever - but the storyline was still good enough. It was so strong that it required more than just one episode to be told completely. Murdering a guy in a public place and then hoping that the jury would agree with why he did it. It was a risky idea for me too.

Boston Legal was pretty much the perfect show for my idea. It contained a lot of silly storylines but it also tended to be really serious when that was required. As David E. Kelley himself said, the show had jokes, jokes, jokes and then it preached like hell in the final act.

Of course I needed other storylines too. In these two episodes I also had stuff like tree-hugging and Denny Crane deciding in a private poker game the republican nominee for the 2012 election. There was also stuff about gaming addiction and a storyline about junior sports.

As I was writing these scripts, it quickly became clear how much I loved being able to be a social commentator. I had the chance to be totally tongue-in-cheek and the next minute I'd be able to be switch gears and be really preachy and serious.

Among other things in my spec I had the 'return' of Joey Heric. The trees were named after Will Hunting's imaginary brothers, Denny Crane made a fool of himself in court - and I got to write a seven page closing argument for Alan Shore to preach and to scream.

It really was like a dream come true. I could compete with my biggest hero Kelley. As improbable as it was, I was able to read the characters at least as well as the writers on the show. Writing closing arguments was pretty much the most fun I'd had in my whole life. I felt so lucky.

It wasn't an easy process, however. Writing a script for the first time is not something that you should take lightly. There were so many things about writing that I didn't know before. (I guess there still are) Nevertheless, I had to keep pushing until I reached the finish line.

To be honest, I haven't really read those scripts in like three years - and I guess for a reason. For example, when I check them, I notice that there are some mistakes - things that I didn't notice when I rather quickly wrote the scripts.

But what's worse perhaps and more important, even though there were indeed mistakes, if I did read my scripts again, probably all I would be able to think is that that stuff was just too good for a total beginner like me. It was just too good.

I hope I'm wrong, but no matter what I am going to do and no matter how much I'm going to write, it might be that I will never write anything better than those Boston Legal specs. That's not something that is easy to accept.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Multi-cam sitcoms can be a great learning tool.

As I've probably written about it on this site before, when it comes to writing a spec script, very few things are as important as choosing the right show that your script is going to be based on. In fact, it might actually be the most important decision that you're going to make.

One of those important things that you need to consider when you choose a show to spec is to make sure that the show has a lot of potential as a series. If you have any ambitions as a writer, you can never choose a show that isn't any good.

All good shows are well written or at least have the potential to be well written. The characters in them are believable and you can relate to them. The storylines have a connection to reality and the stakes are - if not always high - they still exist.

The reason you should choose a good show is because that way you get to challenge yourself. Choosing a good show gives you a chance to come up with a good spec. Writing a script based on a bad show won't give you that chance - you won't write anything good.

But there are other ways to challenge yourself too, because it's not only about choosing a good show, It's also about choosing a format that will teach you the most and  will be the best learning experience for you.

When it comes to sitcoms, you can choose between two formats: you can either choose a single camera show like Modern Family, or a multi camera show like The Big Bang Theory (multi-cam shows are recorded in front of a live studio audience and have "laugh tracks").

As far as I know, pretty much everyone agrees that it's at least somewhat more difficult to write multicam sitcoms than it is to write single camera sitcoms where you are not bound by locations. In single camera sitcoms there are far fewer restrictions.

Multicams are harder to write because there are only so many places where your characters can go and there are only so many things that they can do. You need better and stronger ideas for multicam sitcoms than you need for single camera sitcoms.

Not only you need stronger ideas, but in many cases - like for example in Frasier or on Everybody Loves Raymond, you need like really good ideas. You might have just one central storyline - and to make things more challenging, it might happen in one single room.

This is the reason that writing specs for The Big Bang Theory is so challenging. It forces you to think really hard before you can start writing. You need to think about the characters, what their strengths and weaknesses are and what you can do about them.

Nothing comes for free. If you don't have that big central idea that would get you through the script, you are screwed. You don't have those two or three other parallel storylines to bail you out. It's hard work to come up with one plot point after another.

Of course I'm not saying that you won't learn stuff from single cams sitcoms - but I would definitely recommend that you check out multicams too. They're harder to write, but in the end I think you'll probably learn more from then than you'll learn from single cams.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"When television is good, nothing is better. When it's bad, nothing is worse."

Some months ago I managed to find and read Newton N. Minow's landmark 'Wasteland speech' about the state of television. In it the former FCC chairman talks about the responsibilities of those who produce programming for television networks.

It is a wonderful and an eloquent speech about the need for quality programming. It was penned when John F. Kennedy was still the president of The United States - more than fifty years ago. At that time there were only three network channels on television.

In his speech Minow has a lot to say: he correctly warned us about many things that are wrong about television entertainment: unnecessary violence, bad dramas, unfunny sitcoms, implausible characters and families in situations that make no sense - and so on.

Today we have more than just three channels: we have hundreds of them. There's much more programming on tv nowadays, reality television, documentaries and scripted television, sitcoms and dramas among other things.  The list is almost endless.

It's not a secret that there actually are some good tv programs today. In reality though, more than ever before, television programs tend to be of very low quality. There are very few shows that are actually worth watching today.

One of the biggest problems with today's television is that basically nobody seems to be brave enough to say what Newton N. Minow dared to say more than fifty years ago: that is that most of the stuff that you see on tv is simply horrendous and has no value.

What he said was really daring. I don't think you can really say anything like that today in our politically correct environment where 'everything is awesome'. It's just safer to bow your head and say that this is the golden age of television™.

As sad it is, this kind of denial runs so deep in the entertainment business.  It's so depressing to read about these usual lies about the awesomeness of tv: like network executives backing their atrocious shows that nobody even watches - they call it "niche tv."

It's equally heartbreaking when you constantly read positive reviews by these so called "tv journalists" for shows that clearly don't have any redeeming qualities. They are extremely poorly made by people who don't have what it takes to entertain and to educate us.

Truth is, as Newton Minow said, that when tv is good, almost nothing is better. The best shows probably do make us better human beings: shows such as the early seasons of The Simpsons, Star Trek, the best of David Kelley shows, Amazing Race and so on.

At the same time, as he also said, when television is bad, almost nothing is indeed worse. Almost nothing is as depressing as seeing bad television programs. Bad tv makes us seem vain, self-absorbed, superficial, ignorant and worthless.

In any case, television is potentially a wonderful innovation. It allows us to communicate our ideas. It also allows us to entertain and to educate people. But it is up to us to set the bar higher. If we don't care about the quality enough, we don't really deserve better.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Modern Family's worst storyline ever - "The Cold".

When I read the synopsis for the episode that aired this Wednesday, I already knew that the audience was going to be in serious trouble. There was no way that the episode would make any sense. Reading just the recap made me nauseous to be honest:

Phil must make creative edits in Cam and Mitch's wedding video when footage reveals that Phil is responsible for a terrible cold that has plagued the family; Gloria and Jay try to help Manny cope with stress in different ways.

This was so bad because the premise of the episode made no sense at all. Why would anyone - weeks or months after the fact - give a damn about who "gave" the flu? Influenza is a totally natural thing to happen anyway. It's not like Phil created that particular virus.

So the whole thing was unbelievably stupid and made no sense. Especially considering that others must have known that he was sick - if he indeed was sick. In that video he was five and a half feet under and yet nobody else supposedly had a clue. 

Besides, why would anyone really believe that every other member of the family would get sick and after like a month or so it would then be Claire's turn to get the flu - and that it still would have something to do with Phil's condition. 

But the storyline got even worse, when Phil decided to fix this "problem" that wasn't really a problem in the first place. Using a green screen and other techniques to cover up his accidental sneezes? In what universe was that even remotely plausible? 

Phil superimposing Luke's head to replace him in the video. Having two Phils in the same scene and no one notices anything? How can any writer who's even remotely sane pitch something like this in the writers room? This was just pure madness.

This storyline was so bad that it really depressed and made me mad. What were the people in charge thinking here? Modern Family is supposed to have at least some kind of a connection to the real world. This was just a new low - and I knew it before I even saw it.

If this is the best that the writers can do - ('The Cold' was written by American Dad writers) then I think we're pretty much done with the show. Three episodes have aired and every episode has sucked donkey balls. I'm almost afraid to see what happens next week.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Gotham - looks better than it really is.

Even though I have never been that big fan of the Batman series itself, I was still rather excited about seeing these familiar characters on my tv screen again. I thought it was about time that we'd get an update on what's happening in Gotham city nowadays.

One of the biggest reasons that I liked the idea of getting a new show about 'Batman' characters is that 'Gotham' isn't that much about Batman's character itself. Instead, the show primarily revolves around commissioner Jim Gordon and his police department.

In essence, Gotham is a show about what happened before Bruce Wayne became Batman and before those other characters, heroes or villains like Catwoman and Penguine became who they were. This "origins" concept seemed pretty interesting to me.

I have now seen the first two episodes and I think I have a pretty good idea what the strengths and the weaknesses of Gotham are.  There are a lot of good things about the show, but there are unfortunately some really big problems that one simply can't overlook.

So let's start with the good things about Gotham. I have to be honest and say that the show looks pretty darn good. The production values are high, so you get the feeling that those who were responsible for the 'look' of the show did a good job.

I also like the casting in most cases. I think Benjamin McKenzie is not only pretty believable but also surprisingly likable as commissioner Jim Gordon. He's definitely a good actor who has evolved and grown over the last decade. McKenzie's definitely not an "O.C" actor anymore.

I also thought Donal Logue is pretty good as detective Harvey Bullock. He brings toughness to his character. Also, the child actors who play Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle seem pretty solid too (some people haven't liked her at all). 

Nevertheless, I think pretty easily the best character so far has been Oswald Cobblepot who will eventually become the penguin. I think this character played by Robin Lord Taylor is genuinely fascinating. Here's a character that you either hate to love or love to hate.

Then there's the writing, which so far has been Gotham's weakest link by far. I found the lack of quality writing to be weird, because almost everything else about Gotham has been pretty good. There's really no reason why the scripts couldn't be really solid too.

There are numerous problems with the writing as far as I'm concerned. For instance, too many things happened in both episodes that I managed to see. They crammed as much plot as possible which made the episodes feel rushed. They story just kept jumping forward.

Too many characters were introduced in my opinion too. I'm not sure but it seems that they introduced like four different villains already, which felt so unnecessary.  It's as if we have almost seen every single character already.

Then there's also the problem with things not making sense. For example, I didn't like how they went after the person who supposedly murdered Bruce Wayne's parents. I also didn't like when Gordon's wife contacted the reporter. That was just too implausible.

You also tend to get the feeling that the story drives the characters too much and it's not the characters that drive the story. They are sacrificing character development in order to keep the story moving forward.  The penguin character is the one that has suffered the most.

When you watch the show, you get the feeling that there's so much potential here. This show could be really good, if only the scripts were a tad better. It shouldn't take that much effort, but it really depends on whether those in charge have the talent to pull it off.

All in all, 'Gotham' is a show that I'm very likely going to keep watching. The flaws are a bit too apparent,  but there are still a lot good of things about the show. Hopefully the scripts will get better because that's pretty much all that's missing.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Can Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory get any worse?

I didn't really know what to expect from this new tv season that begun this week. Nevertheless, I was rather happy that shows like South Park, Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory were finally back from their summer breaks.

So, I have now seen all these three shows and only South Park managed to entertain me. Its season premiere "Go Fund Yourself" was pretty funny. I found that the episode actually had something to say. Watching it made me feel pretty good about life.

On the other hand, when it came to shows like The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family, I can't say the same. Truth to be told, I couldn't have been more disappointed. I was just shocked how bad the season premieres for both these shows were.

Modern Family's "The Long Honeymoon", s6e01 especially was an episode that made no sense whatsoever.  It was completely distanced from reality, it was superficial, implausible, and a rehash of what we had already seen.

It's hard to believe how bad it was. Especially because the first episode of the season is supposedly be the episode where the writers deliver. They have just come back from their holidays and are usually fresh full of energy. They were supposed to bring out the best in them.

But no, everything was so unnecessarily over the top that I felt the writer(s) had gone mental. What had Phil the magician bits have to do with this episode?  What was the point with Cameron's ├╝ber obsessive behavior? What was the point with Alex's storyline?

Dear lord was I disappointed. All the characters were so unlikable and they kept repeating the same jokes over and over and over again. Phil with the plums, Manny with the ipad and even Haley with the webcam.  Almost nothing worked.

So Modern Family was really bad, but The Big Bang Theory in all honesty wasn't really any better. It aired two episodes back-to-back, which gave the audience a chance to see a bit more of their favorite series.

Now, I have to say that first episode of the season, "The Locomotive Interruption" wasn't as bad as the second episode, "The Junior Professor Solution". It wasn't any good, though, but at least the writers tried do write in some good jokes. Too bad that the show just doesn't work anymore.

I mean, I didn't have a problem with Penny's new haircut. I don't care about looks. But I did care about / had a problem with her having a new high paying job. Her not aspiring to be an actress anymore is one more reason why this isn't a nerd / geek show anymore.

The real problem with The Big Bang Theory is that it hasn't been any good since they added Amy Farrah Fowler and Bernadette as regular characters. Once they gave this "gruesome twosome" individual scenes, the show has been getting worse and worse.

This season the scenes have kept getting shorter. There are more and more scenes that go nowhere. The character pairings are awful too: Stuart has moved in with Howard's mother, Raj spends time with his dog, Amy talks on skype in her lab.

Like with Modern Family, the characters on The Big Bang Theory keep getting more and more unlikable. Sheldon has totally gone off the rails. Leonard mopes, Howard acts like a dick and Bernadette is a complete monster. Instead of being uplifting, the show is just nasty in my opinion.

I mean, what was the point with Howard taking Sheldon's class as a student and trying to sabotage him as much as possible? Where was the fun in that? Instead of being chidlike, the episode was totally childish.

In any case, I'm hoping that The Big Bang Theory gets a bit better. I'm pretty sure that at least Modern Family is going to improve as the season progresses. But as a whole, for network comedies this was just a disastrous start.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I don't - and probably ever won't - use twitter.

Even though I don't see myself as someone who's necessarily an expert or a fan of social media in general, I'm not really that much against it. In fact, I happen to  use it relatively frequently too. 

For example, I do have a facebook account - which I try to update almost every single day. I share news stories, music, and upload pictures that mostly deal with food or cats and dogs. I 'spend' a lot of time on facebook every day, perhaps a bit too much to be honest. 

I also have this blog that I have tried to keep going the last four years. I rant and rave here about television and television writing in general. I have posted some of my scripts here and I have also done some investigative journalism too.

So I think it's pretty safe to say that I don't have anything against social media per se. I'm not someone who thinks that I'm better than the rest who may or may not use the networking sites frequently. Using social media in moderation is perfectly okay in my opinion.

In any case, based on that one might expect that I wouldn't have anything against an application like Twitter either. After all, like facebook and blogger its function is to share stuff and to connect with people that you don't always know personally.

Nevertheless, I'm not a fan of twitter and tweeting. I don't see any scenario in which I personally would start using it even as a tertiary tool. I just don't see myself using it in order to connect or to share stuff with people that I'd like to reach.

Of course, probably the biggest problem that I have with twitter is that your posts or "tweets" are limited in size. As far as I know, you can only send messages that have a size of 140 characters or less. This is just completely - for the lack of a better word - ridiculous.

You can't say anything genuinely meaningful using only two short sentences or less. In my opinion this restriction will just, well, cheapen you as a human being. Even though you might be able to reach more people, tweeting narrows down our ability to express ourselves.

Tweeting really does dumb us down which is why we don't see good things about twitter in the news. Usually twitter related news means high profile fails and twitter wars: celebrities either fighting with other celebrities or fighting  with regular people. That is just pathetic.

In my opinion Twitter almost perfectly captures the vanity of this current adhd rapid fire society. It has Orwellian newspeak written all over it (lesser vocabulary, hashtags). Twitter has the potential to make us dumber and lazier. It doesn't encourage us to think enough.

Of course I'm not saying that tweeting is always a bad thing. But unless you're giving out links to some other articles or sending for example information about premiere dates or schedules, I don't understand the point of tweeting at all.

When it comes to me, I personally want to have the freedom to see if I might have something genuine to say.  I want to give myself a chance to succeed (or to fail). With tweets it's really hard to succeed unless your definition of success is hobnobbing with other usually vain people.

In any case, "real" writing is most of the time hard work. Coming up with anything meaningful isn't that easy. It takes a lot of work and spending few seconds writing and reading short sentences (tweets) usually won't get you anywhere.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

If your heart is in the right place, almost nothing is off limits.

Yesterday I tried to check the new comedy shows that will premiere this season. As expected, all the new shows will almost certainly be completely lame and unimaginative. They won't take you as an audience member anywhere. They probably won't even try.

None of them will be about anything meaningful. They won't take a stand on any issues, they won't make us care and they won't push the envelope. Watching these shows will likely be complete waste of your precious time.

In any case, this got me thinking about those few current shows that actually manage to make me laugh and sometimes make me think about different kinds of issues. I'm talking about shows that have actual balls.

Specifically this got me thinking about South Park, that will start airing its 18th season in two weeks. This is a show where you can expect anything from it. Anything can happen in South Park's universe - it is a show that isn't afraid to go the distance.

South Park by all accounts is totally "out there". It has gone to places where no other show has ever gone before: Randy Marsh grows huge testicles, the show kills the Kardashians, there was the talking Christmas poo and other wildly outrageous things have happened too.

South Park has been a daring show. Yet, very rarely, if ever have I felt that it has gone too far. I haven't thought that they have objectively speaking crossed the line. They have managed to keep the show, well, almost always funny. thoughtful and most importantly,  relevant.

There are obviously reasons for this: the show's creators are of course very talented. They also take their jobs very seriously. Unlike many others in the industry, they know that they have responsibilities that go far beyond just keeping the show on air.

But more than that, South Park shows how important and crucial it is to have your heart in the right place. I think Trey Parker and Matt Stone have pretty much the best moral compasses in the business, which has helped them to be as successful as they are.

In my opinion that's what in the end it's all about - knowing what's right and saying what needs to be said. As long as you have good intentions and you have the talent to back it up, the chances are that you can get away with practically anything. There's almost nothing you can't do.

In any case, I really hope I'm wrong about this new upcoming television season. I hope these new shows actually manage to surprise me. Nevertheless, as long as we have South Park, there's hope for me as a television viewer.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Are you really too old to become a television writer?

It's not exactly a secret that being a young person gives you an advantage in today's youth obsessed society. Employers seek and in many cases prefer people who are both young and fresh out of ivy league colleges.

What this means is that if you're a thirty- or a forty-something, some may see you as a product of the old, not as someone who's vibrant, not someone who's able to do his job and able to lead the way for the next generation.

In my opinion, this isn't always a bad thing. There are certainly areas of expertise - like being a computer programmer or an athlete - where being young and able is not a bad combination at all. Sometimes it's good to be young.

On the other hand, when it comes to something like being a writer - which is my supposed expertise - being young isn't necessarily a good thing. Hiring writers based on your age - depending on the quality of whatever product you have - can be really dumb.

There are numerous problems with hiring young writers. Unlike with many other professions, when it comes to writing, there's the real issue whether these young adults have any skills or abilities.

As far as I know, it's almost impossible to educate and teach anyone to become a good creative scribe. You either have it in you or you don't. It doesn't have much, if anything to do with education or wanting to be good.

Just because you graduated from a screenwriting class doesn't really mean much.  In order to be a good or a great writer, in most cases you need to have at least certain amount of life experience before you can have anything meaningful to say.

Let's not forget that writing is not that much about learning a technique or a style. It's much more about having substance and having the ability to express what's right and what's wrong.

This is what makes the whole entertainment industry so problematic: hiring these mostly young inexperienced writers who at best have been influenced by Seinfeld and at worst haven't seen a show better than Happy Endings.

What can we really expect from the next batch of writers? It makes me worry when I think how much worse television might get if and when we unleash these new fresh faces who - most of them - haven't grown up emotionally. Most of them probably haven't ever "lived".

In my opinion, when we keep asking questions like "are you too old to become a writer" at least in certain cases we're asking the wrong question. Perhaps every once in a while we should ask "what do you know about life" or "aren't you a bit too young?".

Certainly I'm not saying that if you're much over 40 you should start thinking about getting a writing career on television. At the same time, worshiping youth as much we're apparently doing now just won't get us anywhere.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

From the creator of Mad Men: one of the worst movies ever.

I know it isn't necessarily fair to criticize movies that are complete failures. Stuff like that happens all the time. Most movies suck, so what else really is new here? It happens, so we as audience members just have to deal with it.

One of these bad movies, "Are You Here" was written and directed by Matthew Weiner, who is best known for being the creator of Mad Men from television (check the advertising line on the poster).

The problem with "Are You Here" is that not only it is a bad movie but it's a genuinely awful film. Currently it stands only 8% fresh at That is an extraordinary low number and begs for an explanation.

How can a supposedly talented person write and direct a movie so bad? Let's not forget that for example the movie Expendables 3 has a 32% fresh rating on the site. Even super turkeys like 'Catwoman' and 'Deuce Bigalow 2' that premiered years ago had 9% fresh ratings. 

Some have said that the movie failed because Weiner had previously done only television.  Tv and film are two different mediums after all. Just because you're supposedly a good television writer doesn't mean that you're automatically a great movie writer. 

Now, I can't say that I categorically disagree with this notion. For example, my favorite television writer, David E. Kelley, hasn't really found success with his movie scripts. Most of the movies he has written haven't been that good. So it can definitely happen.

But how do you explain a meltdown like "Are You Here". It is apparently so bad that you have to start wondering whether you can explain this all by just blaming Weiner's inexperience with movies. Perhaps Matthew Weiner just isn't that good of a writer per se.

To be honest, unlike many others and despite the praise, I never found his Mad Men to be a particularly well written show. Not much happened on it, the storylines went nowhere and the characters weren't that relatable, fascinating or likable. (Same thing happened with the Sopranos)

Even though in my opinion his show was fundamentally flawed, critics and advertisers loved the show and people in the industry fell for the series too. Plenty of awards were given to Weiner, so no wonder that he started to believe the apparent hype about his abilities.

With "Are You Here" Weiner stepped out of his comfort zone and decided to put his neck on the line without knowing what might happen. Unfortunately things didn't go well and the chickens came home to roost. The honeymoon was over - everyone hates his movie.

In any case, this whole thing should teach us all a lesson. This is what might happen when you think you're better than you really are - thinking that you can't screw it up. This is pretty much why such a big boo boo happened with this particular project.

In my opinion we should very rarely take anything for granted when it comes to writing. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and writing good scripts isn't easy at all. Honest feedback is almost always needed and obviously something went horribly, horribly wrong with "Are You Here". 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Real writers don't pose on the covers of magazines.

One of the things that pisses me off is seeing writers posing on the covers of entertainment magazines. I really don't understand why any decent scriptwriter would do that, because pretty much nothing good can come out of it.

In my opinion, probably the best thing about being a writer is that in most cases you can be both successful and influential and still remain relatively invisible. For example, I don't think most people on the street would recognize David Kelley or Steve Levitan.

There are reasons why writers shouldn't be in the public eye. Like for example almost without exceptions it feeds your ego. As a writer, writing with it - ego - is not a good thing. You're supposed to write with your soul instead.

Nothing feeds your ego like being in the media. The U.S media particularly is extremely vain, shallow and superficial. If you want them or if "they" want you, it probably isn't because you're full of substance and talent.

If an entertainment magazine wants to have you on its cover, it's most likely because you're more or less a fraud as an artist and as a human being. As a writer you should be aware of this unfortunate reality.

Sure, the chances are that they will tell you that you're an interesting or an awesome person and stuff. Or even more absurdly, they might tell you that you have a beautiful mind or that you're the voice of the generation. But please, don't believe it.

For example look at the cover of Hollywood Reporter that has the showrunner of the extremely mediocre Orange Is The New Black, Jenji Kohan on it. If you think that the cover is bearable, wait until you read what's inside. It's a painful and even a disturbing read.

I didn't know anything about her, but after reading the article it became pretty obvious to me that she's not that talented or smart. What's worse, she actually does seem to believe what the media tells her - like that she's an iconoclastic or an original writer.

In all honesty that interview made me pretty mad and depressed. It contains obvious nepotism, all kinds of crude things that were supposed to be funny, denial and extreme superficiliaty that made me feel sick in my stomach. She just isn't that special.

What makes one special as a writer is not being a "disrupter", or being crude and all. If you want to be respected as a writer and as a human being, you need to be kind and truthful and real.

Besides, any self respecting artist should know that the product or whatever you have created should speak for itself and is the only thing that really counts.

In any case, there's no point in being on the cover of a magazine, unless you want to feed your ego instead of your soul. There's just no point in doing that, unless you're a vain and a superficial person.

If you want to get some contrast, watch the 2 hour interview with the uber recluse David Kelley below, and then read that long empty fluff piece about Jenji Kohan. The difference is just unbelievable.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A great David E. Kelley interview.

So here's a must see interview with David Kelley, the guy behind shows like L.A. Law, Picket Fences, Ally Mcbeal, The Practice and Boston Legal. 

There are a lot of interesting things that you can learn from this two hour interview. There's good stuff about the creative process.. and, well, just about everything. 

I can't really recommend this interview enough. What an eloquent, kind, modest and talented person he is.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Harrison Ford on expressing honest emotions and being an artist.

Yesterday while I was randomly watching videos on Youtube, I managed to see this wonderful clip in which Harrison Ford gives an answer to a question during the filming of the television series 'Inside Actors Studio'.

Basically what the person in the audience asks Mr. Ford, is whether being a private person - and yes, Harrison  Ford is a private person - affects the way one performs as an actor.

Does being a private person in real life mean that you won't be open when you're supposed to act and perform? How is it being an artist? Surely a private person must have problems expressing his feelings when it counts.

Anyway, the answer that he gives is just about the best that any (private) person could give to the question. After watching the clip it's no wonder that Harrison Ford happens to be the biggest movie star of all time.

Despite having a rather well known public speaking anxiety, the minute he gets to give an answer to a real question, he starts to shine. He makes it seem so easy.

As a writer I can only agree with what he's saying. Every single time that I'm trying to write something,  I have to be real. I need to write with my heart and basically nothing is off limits.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

It can be a good thing to have mental health problems.

One of the most depressing things about today's so called television entertainment is the almost complete lack of empathy on almost every channel out there. When you take a look at all those different shows, it's pretty obvious that those people that produce these shows don't have much empathy for you as a viewer.

As unfortunate as it is, there are just too many examples (shows and their writers) where you can almost immediately say that this and that person does not care. No decent person would put out that crap for the audiences to see.

But why is this so? Is it because the television industry is so tough, so stressing and so demanding. Because, I mean, certainly I've heard that explanation before. "You should try it yourself, you wouldn't last for a day". In my opinion in most cases this is just a really weak excuse.

I know that it's very difficult to come up with quality concepts. It's not easy to come up with a comedy series that actually works. It's not easy to create a drama series that manages to captivate the audience. Neither is it easy to create a reality show that is both uplifting and real. 

There are so many television channels today that it's admittedly impossible to fill them all with quality shows. You're bound to have a lot of shows that are a bit questionable when it comes to their quality. I do understand that.

Nevertheless, I think we still have to draw the line somewhere. The unfortunate truth is that there are just too many bad shows that for no reason at all treat you - as a viewer - as someone who has no value. You're not important. You're not precious.  Too many shows are cold, cruel and even sociopathic.

I think one of the biggest reasons for this is that there are too many people that write these different shows who just don't understand what it means to be a human. They don't understand that they have responsibilities that are bigger than just keeping their shows on air.

They don't understand what pain means. Instead of serving others and not wanting others to be in pain, usually all they want to do is to take the easy way out. These people are lazy, superficial, vain, ignorant and hollow inside. They don't care.

The biggest reason that I myself became a writer, is because - at least in my opinion - I care about people. I want to do what's right and what's good for others. I think I understand at least to a certain extent what it means to be in pain. I have a clue what depression, anxiety and ocd can do to you.

The requirement for being a talented writer, I believe, is that you know as much as possible about how the human mind works. Having problems yourself is a good way to learn empathy.  It won't guarantee that you'll become a great writer but it's nevertheless a pretty good start.

In any case, we need writers who have empathy for people like you and me. Because in all honesty, we need to become better human beings.  Without compassion it's just never going to happen.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Some reasons for getting rejected.

So this is one of those of painful topics that very few of us want to talk about. How do you react when your work - screenplay or whatever that is - gets rejected? Do you get mad or do you give up? How do you cope with it and do you ask why it happened?

There are actually a lot of pretty good guides out there if one wants to know how to cope with rejection. The advice is pretty basic but it's definitely helpful. It ranges from not blaming yourself to talking to your friends etc.

Nevertheless, even though we have to come up with coping mechanisms that allow us to move on, as human beings we should be curious enough to know what exactly went wrong and why.  In my opinion it's not enough to just move on. 

One of the things that I myself have learned about rejections is that I have learned to pay  more attention to the quality of my product.  I take another look at what I managed to do, if there were mistakes and how big of a difference those mistakes made.

With just about every script I have noticed that, yes, I  really did make mistakes. Some of them were bigger, some of them were smaller. Some of them really made the difference and objectively speaking probably ruined my chances. 

In any case, noticing that you make mistakes is a good thing and it should bring you relief. It gives you a rational explanation to why things went wrong and why you were rejected. It was your fault - that's awesome. Next time you can do better. You have a reason.

But it isn't always that simple. Even if you happen to make mistakes, it doesn't mean that it was the reason why you got rejected. It's possible that your product nevertheless, overall, was good enough. So there can be other reasons too.

Speaking from my own experience (writing specs & competitions) and how much I've learned about how people in the business think, I think I can say pretty safely say that quality doesn't always matter. As shocking as it sounds, not all people care enough.

As unfortunate as it is, everyone has biases. There are of course exceptions, but too many people out there simply don't have what it takes to say what's good and what's not. Too many in charge can't tell what's right and what's wrong - or they just don't give a damn.

That's what makes the whole thing so difficult and depressing.  Make mistakes as a writer that are too big and you get rejected. Don't make mistakes, do things too well and you might get rejected too. That's something that's not easy to accept at all.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

24: Live Another Day - some issues I had with it.

SPOILERS: If you haven't seen the season yet, DO NOT read this.

So anyway, even though I did like 24: Live Another Day: There were certain problems I had with this new mini-season. In my opinion most of these problems could probably have been avoided had the writing been slightly better.

The first big problem I had - and many others had a problem with it too - was when President Heller survived the attack that he was supposed to have died in. This really didn't make much sense. It felt gimmicky and convoluted. 

Before that the audience had seen stuff that was totally entertaining. Jack and co. being chased by drones in the middle of London was easily the the best thing that we saw on tv this season. It wasn't even close in my opinion - this was gold.

I really liked the drone strikes storyline this season. There was a clear moral dilemma. If the terrorists can hijack a drone, don't they have every right to use them as well? After all, there's no honor in using drones as weapons.

Why President Heller surviving didn't work was because everything leading up to this moment had not only been entertaining but also - if not completely believable - at least relatively plausible.  The subject matter was relevant and the character development was pretty good too.

Margot Al-Harazi was a pretty interesting villain and her terms for stopping the attacks were pretty fair too. Just give the president of the United States who ordered the killing of her husband and she would let go off the drones. 

I found it very disappointing when the audience didn't get what it "wanted". Since it was revealed that President Heller suffered from Alzheimer's disease, sacrificing himself in order to save thousands didn't seem like a bad idea. Too bad this cathartic moment never happened.  

Nevertheless, things got worse this season when Mark Boudreau,  the White House Chief of Staff decided to sell out Bauer for the Russians - again. I didn't like this turn of events at all. Even though he started as the token bad guy, the audience started to like him as the episodes went on.

That he acted like a total coward didn't really make sense.  It's as if the writers forgot his character arc and decided to cop out. Clearly there were other options available that would have served the story better than how things eventually went.

There were some other obvious problems too. Benjamin Bratt's character turning out to be the villain didn't seem right. The token 'mole' in the headquarters had been played out so the writers probably shouldn't have taken that route.

I also didn't like how everything was so connected. That Michael Wincott's 'resistance' character was connected to the Chinese and how the Russians were connected to everyone - including being able to get information about that forged signature in the White House.

Of course probably the worst part of this season was Audrey's death. Not that I really cared about her character - or anyone else did for that matter - but her death was pretty much straight out of a Monty Python comedy. How can you fail at securing that place - twice in a row?

Other than that I am not someone who necessarily wishes to see happy endings all the time. Nevertheless, the ending of Live Another Day was just too depressing even for me. It wasn't really derived from what had happened during this season.

A lot more than that it was a compilation of what had already happened during the earlier seasons - awful things happening to everyone. In all honesty they should have given at least Boudreau some kind of a happy ending. After all, he did lose his wife too.

Since it turned out that Jack turned himself over to the Russians, the story obviously isn't finished yet. This of course means that we're almost certainly going to get another season of 24 at some point in the future.

In the end, this season had a lot of great things going for it. Unfortunately the last third of the series turned out to be pretty disappointing. Hopefully the final upcoming season will set things right for Jack. That might not happen, but I guess you never know. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

How to motivate yourself to write: get mad or get really depressed.

I think it was Hemingway who said that he doesn't like writing, but he likes having written. I don't necessarily like writing that much either. Writing isn't always easy - sometimes it's really hard. 

Having said that, in my opinion writing, even bad writing usually beats not writing at all. As much as it pisses me off when I can't seem to be able to put together coherent sentences, not writing many times feels perhaps worse.

But in order to be able to write something, you need ideas. For me personally, it's not that easy to get them. Nothing happens when I don't have a clue what to write about. I'd like to write about something, but the ideas, they just don't keep coming.

It helps to have a certain writing routine that you try to stick to most of the time. It also helps when you have goals that you try to reach. These are the things that give us a feeling of having control over the process.

That is the rational approach to writing. Planning, thinking about writing, being analytical about the whole process. Thinking that we can decide what to write about and when to write. Thinking that we're in charge.

In reality though, we can't always decide when and where to get ideas from. That's not how our minds work. Our ability to control it is much more limited than we are willing to admit to ourselves. That is because our emotions play a big part too.

In my case I can safely say that I tend to get ideas and I'm actually motivated to write when I'm feeling mad over something that has happened in my life. I have the need to vent and I have to get rid of my frustrations. This seems to work rather well.

What also gets me started writing  is when I feel depressed and life becomes pretty unbearable. This forces me to do something - and writing helps, because it makes me concentrate on things other than my problems. 

If I don't feel bad enough or if I don't feel angry enough, it's usually hard to get anything done. There are exceptions too: sometimes I do like writing and sometimes I'm even excited to start writing, but those days are few and far between. I just don't get ideas.

In any case, when it comes to writing it usually doesn't hurt when you're hurt. Most of the time the worse you feel, the better you write. If you're mad or depressed, there's a decent chance that something good is about to happen.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hilarious stand up by Michael Mcintyre.

There are very few current stand up comedians out there that manage to be funny. One of them is Michael Mcintyre, who I suppose is not well known in the United States. After all, he's not American - he happens to be a Brit.

Now, I admit that Mcintyre's stand up routine is not that daring and it won't necessarily challenge anyone to think. Jokes about the Queen aren't by default that edgy. Neither are the bits for example about England's football team to be honest.

Nevertheless, even though he's not a social commentator like Bill Hicks, that shouldn't stop us from taking a look at those things that he manages to get right. Because in my opinion he's a very talented performer who knows how to keep you entertained.

One of the good things about Mcintyre is that his style of comedy isn't that much about telling jokes. Instead his stand up routine is based on making observations that happen to be funny. They're funny because they're true.

I think he's also pretty good at telling a story. He's also good at doing physical comedy. The way he walks, the way he "dances" and the way he imitates with his moves. His facial expressions are hilarious too and he's also good at doing voice impersonations.

He's also funny because he makes fun of himself constantly. What is especially good is that despite mocking himself he manages to keep the tone upbeat and cheerful. It doesn't distract in any way, it doesn't feel out of place.

He also seems to have a really good grasp of the popular culture. For example in the clip above is the hilarious "I'm going to Hogwarts" moment derived from the Harry Potter series. The bow shooting from Lord of The Rings was great too.

Little things like these make you feel like you can trust the performer. He knows things that you know and manages to  integrate these references into his acts. (I especially recommend Mcintyre's playstation bit from his "World Cup" video).

In any case, it not easy to be a good stand up comedian. It takes so much work to perfect an act like this. There's no way I myself would ever be able to do something like this. Like no way...

But Michael Mcintyre does and the way he performs makes me feel happier about life. I hope this guy keeps going because there can never be enough laughter on this planet.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Matt Damon should get back to writing.

Last week I wrote about recent coming of age movies that I felt were really mediocre and disappointing to say the least. These films could have been so much better had they been written by someone with talent, compassion and insight in life.

That got me thinking about movies of this genre that managed to get it right. Movies the draw you in from the get-go. Movies that make ordinary seem extraordinary. Movies that make you feel like you're actually worth something.

Naturally one stood out from the rest. It wasn't really hard for me to start thinking about Good Will Hunting, a  film about a troubled genius with pretty incredible abilities. A movie that in my opinion is one of the best of all time.

There are a lot of reasons why Good Will Hunting is a really good movie. For example, it is wonderfully acted and directed. The performances are all great. It also has a relaxed feel, even though it's a pretty serious movie.

However, the biggest reason that the movie is so good is because of its script, written by the actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (mostly by Damon). It has all the elements that makes the audience care and gets them involved with the story.

For example, Damon's character Will Hunting is an underdog, which is something that you can almost never emphasize enough. He's a math genius who for some reason only works as a janitor at M.I.T university.

He is also a conflicted character with a troubled past. But even though he gets in trouble with the law, he's not an unlikable person. Everything that he does happens for a reason. As an audience member you can't help but to root for him. 

He has real problems that make the story so compelling. He's about to go jail, until a Math professor saves him - as long as he's willing to work for the professor. So the stakes are real - it's about his freedom, both physical and psychological.

The movie is about change, which makes it important that it has strong characters. Will's therapist is a great match for Will's sensibilities. Without good protagonists/antagonists, movies can rarely succeed. 

The movie is also exceptionally well structured. It manages to make its big moments feel natural and real. Like when Will breaks up with his girlfriend (token break up), This feels completely natural. It makes sense, which is really rare in today's movies.

Also the dialogue in Good Will Hunting is really wonderful. Not only is the dialogue amazing but the scenes themselves are amazing. Watch any of the numerous clips on youtube and see for yourself.

So many movies fail or are mediocre because they don't get the important ingredients right. The characters aren't interesting enough, the problems aren't real or big enough, the stakes aren't there or perhaps the writers make too many misreads.

Good Will Hunting is a great movie because it manages to get almost everything right.  Its script is one of the best ever, and watching the movie makes you wonder why Matt Damon hasn't really written that much after this wonderful film.

Here's a guy who has a real gift. It's a shame that he hasn't utilized his skills more in recent years. After all, there are too many hacks and clowns in the business anyway. Damon on the other hand, is the real deal.