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.