Saturday, January 25, 2014

Without good writers shows are doomed (The Crazy Ones?).

I think it's time to write again about The Crazy Ones, the show that showed a lot promise in its early episodes. I even wrote that it could perhaps be the best sitcom on tv at the moment.

The pilot was pretty well made and I really liked the episode with Josh Groban. There were some other pretty solid episodes too - like for example when Brad Garrett was serious instead of being a doofus.

Now, what happened after these episodes is just about the worst thing that could happen to a show - the storylines started to become too implausible.

What I saw on screen was the exact opposite of what The Crazy Ones, at least in theory, should be about. The show is supposed to be at least somewhat believable, not implausible and vain.

For example, what's the point in making an episode about the employees turning into zombies? It's as if those 'Community' writers invaded the show or something. Yay, zombies..

When it comes to the characters, who wants to see storylines about the hot guy doing the hot secretary? In reality very few want to see that because almost no one can relate to that stuff (and no one should).

I know it's a show about advertising and the whole advertising industry of course is pretty empty and superficial. But that doesn't mean that Crazy Ones itself is supposed to represent their "values".

No. This show could be more. They should go against the expectations. Give us cases that are interesting and give us solutions to problems that are creative and inventive. Something like that.

Please don't give us the nonsense that we already get from ads. Like the hot guy. We relate to him if he's a bit shy or if he's like the moral compass on the show. Not if he's unlikable.

The likable, underdog approach is almost always the right way to go. It just doesn't happen on this show enough. I guess the writers don't know enough about life, or something. That just sucks.

There are so few good shows on air at the moment and considering the fact that this show has an all-star cast, I think we as audience members deserve a bit more than what we're getting.

The Crazy Ones is yet another show on air that proves that there aren't enough good writers in Hollywood. Without good writers every show is in trouble, and this show is in trouble too.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How that Modern Family episode (5x11 And One to Grow On) should have been written.

Okay, so instead of being all negative here, I'm trying to a find way to make that latest Modern Family episode work. Let's try to come up with plausible storylines and sequences that you can relate to.

Now, the most important thing here is to find out where the substance and the potential is with these story ideas that we saw on screen. (the writers gave us a lot to work with)

First, I think it's obvious that Haley having some kind of a parking ticket problem is a good story idea. We just need to make sure that the audience immediately knows what's going on - so Haley tells us. That's a good start.

I'm fine with Phil forcing only Luke going out with Luke to the dancing class. But instead of not showing it happening, it would be best if we get to see them dancing together. Also, no fooling Luke, though, just honest stuff and keep it cool.

Cameron & Mitchell can have their storyline, but one needs to modify it. No letting them first be indifferent about the whole thing. Let's make it clear that they want it, there's only one spot open for months to come and there's another couple 'fighting' for it.

I'm also okay with doing something with Manny and Jay. But let's be clear, almost from the very first scene with them, we need to be aware of what Jay is afraid of. We need to know that he wonders whether Joe recognizes him.

Things that need to go: the stuff with the babysitter, one also has to drop that Claire trying to find cash from Phil's stash. Cut the 'when did we start falling in love'-stuff too. I think we have enough material for one episode anyway.

So Phil and Luke go to dance. They need a turning point, so what if it's something like Luke seeing that there's a hot girl instructing the dancers? I think this would be a nice, even though a totally cliche thing to motivate him.

Mitchell and Cameron: I think it would be okay if we get a premise in which they expect that the other couple wants to have a wedding too - and that C&M understand them. Everything leading up to the revelation is based on this.

Of course the revelation that it's two 15-year old girls will turn the whole thing around. It could be a solid source of comedy. They want to get married, those others want to have their super sweet sixteenth. Which is more important?

Instead of Phil getting arrested, we could just switch to Alex getting arrested while Haley instructs her to drive. We could also keep the Phil getting arrested. I'm fine with either one as long as it doesn't happen too early.

But how do we wrap the whole thing up? Do we force them to be together based on Manny's birthday? That's what tends to happen on this show and I guess you could go that route.

Yet, the most important thing is getting the basics right. What's plausible and what's implausible? Where's the substance, what's true and what's not? I don't think it should be that hard.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Implausible "and then" storytelling that makes you think you're insane.

I don't want to sound negative or anything, but oh my, has the first week of 2014 been bad when it comes to network sitcoms. Especially when it comes to Modern Family - it's the series that has disappointed me the most.

Yes, I know, and I've written about this before: Modern Family's showrunners are still slacking, but you'd think that the rest of the staff would know how to write at least decent scripts.

Unfortunately the first fifteen minutes of 5x11 'And One to Grow On'' are simply nightmarishly bad, like incredibly awful. How can the writers write stuff like this and try to get away with it?

The problem with the whole thing is that there's no story in this episode. There's just stuff that happens on screen. There are a lot of sequences that wouldn't make any sense in real life. You just can't follow or relate to 'it'.

So, let's go through it:

First storyline: Starts with Phil fooling Luke and he takes him to a dance class. Okay... but then they do not show the actual dance thing. They just skip. My head already hurts.

Next thing in this sequence (and then). Phil gets stopped by a police officer who arrests him for having unpaid parking tickets. I was like, what the hell?

This is already implausible but it gets worse. Then it turns out it was Haley who's responsible for these tickets. How much does Phil / Haley owe the city? That's right, 18 tickets, for a total amount of 1600$.

The amount is just huge. But instead of taking a serious approach to this, all we get is another 'and then' moment. Phil isn't allowed to pay with his credit card (really?), so he calls Claire and she has to find cash from Phil's secret stashes.

As I already wrote, 1600$ is too much money to joke about, but they play the whole thing 100% as a joke. Claire has a sequence in which she tries to figure out Phil's riddles. Is the cash where the ash is? No. Haa haa, so funny. Finally she finds the money. And then..

Second storyline: Cameron and Mitchell are having a meeting with an apparent wedding planner. They are not sure if they should get a reservation to the place on a certain date, so they take a five minute break to think about it.

When they get back to the room, they're ready to make the reservation. Amazingly enough, it turns out that the place just got booked for that day - which of course could never ever happen in real life - and they're out. And then..

It gets much worse of course. Now, it turns out that the reservation was made for two fifteen year old girls, that Cam & Mitchell both for some reason know remotely. So "naturally", their next mission  - and then - is to convince the girls separately (!) to cancel their reservation.

No, I'm not kidding you here. From not being that enthusiastic about their possible wedding date & place to being absolutely convinced of doing everything in their power to secure the place on that exact date.

But that's not all. There are three other 'storylines' too in this episode. There's Haley teaching Alex how to drive because Claire  for some reason has had enough of doing that (I thought it was Phil who taught). More and thens..

Then there's a story thread about Manny being worried about finding a girl. There's also stuff with Joe's babysitter and there's also stuff about Jay being worried about his newborn not recognizing him.

Even this is not all. The final quarter of the show is about everyone coming together and - and then - talking about how they met each other and how long it took before the couples fell in love (this is the part that actually almost works).

So, the episode starts with one thing, then immediately goes to another direction. Then it once again takes a turn, has like six other story threads going on, and it's supposed to make sense? 

As a whole is 5x11 'And One to Grow On' is a complete mess. I mean, an unbeliveable mess - and I just hope that we don't get to see more episodes like we saw here. But I'm afraid.. it might happen again.. and then..

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Crushing The Emmy Awards: Fair & Square, David E. Kelley Style.

It's not exactly a secret that David Kelley is my biggest hero when it comes to tv writing. No other person has managed to win both the comedy series and the drama series Emmys the same year.

As a person who cares a great deal about tv, I think the question that we probably should ask is, how was this amazing feat possible (it happened in 1999) and what was it based on?

Was it based on quality and talent, or was it based on something else? Were these wins deserved or should some other shows have walked away with these awards?

Over the years there have been a lot of shows that have managed to win Emmy Awards - and not always because of the quality of the product. The factors that have played a role have been hype, lobbying, politics and industry back-patting among other things.

For example a sitcom like Will & Grace, won because it was gay (and a pretty bad show). Another show, Arrested Development, mostly won because of the hype - and is probably the most overrated sitcom of all time.

When it comes to drama, Mad Men kept winning because the advertisers loved the show too much, not because it was that well written. Its predecessor The Sopranos largely won because of the back-patting that came from the industry ("we all can write good").

The West Wing's Emmy wins were frankly a bit suspicious too. Thanks to Clinton's sexcapades and Bush junior's selection, The Emmys became the second election day for Hollywood and its liberals to get even with rednecks. How good was the show really?

There have been pretty deserving winners too, though. Drama series like 24 (I think the best drama of the new millenium) and Lost, sitcoms like Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family among other shows genuinely earned those Emmys.

But still, how does one guy _really_ win both major Emmys the same year? Were the Practice and Ally Mcbeal actually fair and balanced shows? Did they have a clear meaning? Were they full of suspense like 24 and funny like The Simpsons?

One might think that there's no way one guy would be able to crush the competition like David Kelley did. He must have cheated, bought votes, must have gotten hyped, pulled a liberal/big money please-vote-for-me like some other shows did.

That's what one might think. But if one actually takes a look at these shows, I think it's more or less obvious that this kind of built-in/outside-influence-stuff wasn't there. He won fair & square without getting much help from others.

[It's hard to imagine anyone lobbying for him & I doubt those epic closing arguments made other writers feel like they're part of the gang]

I mean, when David Kelley manages to bring his A-game - and we all know it doesn't always happen - I think he is close to being the greatest writer of all time. There's soul, substance and entertainment. There's almost nothing more that you could ask for.

In my opinion, these are the qualities that managed to get him the impossible double win. Having integrity, understanding how the human mind works, trying to make the world a bit better place. Being kind and compassionate and humble.

These are also qualities that most people take for granted - which is why none of his shows made to the top 100 series list of all time. The Sopranos #1, Mad Men, West Wing in top ten. The awful Good Wife was there, Even Will & Grace made the list. Not David Kelley though.

That's just depressing and all and says a lot about the industry. Nevertheless, his double win, the miracle of 1999 did happen and it should remind us all to keep fighting the good fight. You never know, maybe one day it could actually happen again.