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.