Friday, October 16, 2015

Learning from a bad episode of a quality show.

In my opinion, there's at least one good thing about seeing a bad episode of your favorite series. As a writer, you should figure out what went wrong and learn from the mistakes that the writers of the show made.

In this particular case we're talking about Modern Family's episode 7x04 "She Crazy" that unfortunately disappointed me. I tried to list some of the mistakes and things that are important when you're writing a script.

1) Try to come up with storylines that have substance.

In my opinion, pretty much none of the storylines in this episode had anything to say about anything. They weren't well thought out and didn't make sense. All of them were half-baked at best and gave me a feeling that the writers didn't care about what they were doing.

Probably the worst was the storyline with Cameron and the frat boys. There was no point to anything that happened. For some reason the forty-year-old Cam decided to steal a pet goat in order to appear cool. Where did that idea come from? 

2) Have a clear sense of your episode's time frame. 

One of the most important things to consider when you start writing your spec is to think about when those storylines actually happen. Does the episode happen during the course of a day or even during an afternoon?

In 'She Crazy', I don't think there was a clear idea about when it happened. In the middle of the episode it felt like the whole thing just jumped forward in time. There was no clear sense of time or place and it bothered me quite a bit

3) Don't let your characters overreact too much.

Just about everyone who saw the episode had problems with Gloria's storyline. It was about Gloria meeting her Telenovela idol who for some reason happened to be in town. Understandably, she wanted to meet her.

There's nothing wrong with that, except that when she did get the chance to meet the star, all Gloria was able to do was to appear like a complete idiot. It was not believable in the slightest and it made me feel pretty uncomfortable.

4) If a joke or a situation doesn't work, don't keep pushing it.

It's not the biggest crime to keep jokes in your script that we may have seen somewhere else before. You can't always come up with original stuff that completely makes sense. Every joke and scene doesn't have to be perfect.

At the same time, the 'misunderstanding' between Luke and Mitchell really didn't feel original or organic. What's worse, they kept repeating that exact same 'joke' in the subsequent scenes too, which made the whole thing look embarrassing.

5) Having too many scenes is not a good thing.

There are usually big problems with the script if there are multiple short scenes just for the sake of it. In almost every case they aren't needed because they don't have any meaning behind them - because they are too short.

Every 'Cam-with-new-guests' scene felt unnecessary and made me think that the writers were clueless. Just because it looked flashy doesn't mean that it made sense. In most cases you should stay away from scenes like these.

6) Don't build anything that isn't needed (sets etc.).

Finally, I have never been someone who likes to build stuff in my scripts. I try not to imagine things that aren't really needed.  In most cases, everything that is needed can be acquired easily and won't cost much, if anything at all.

Therefore, I honestly cannot understand why they built Phil's 'duck town'. Who would build that kind of a miniature set? It was just a waste of time and money and didn't make the end product any better.
Never, ever try to do that as a spec writer.

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