Friday, March 18, 2016

You should never take story beats for granted.

One of the most important things about writing screenplays is that you need to pay a lot of attention to the structure. Pretty much nothing else is more important than getting the fundamentals in your scripts right.

If you don't manage to make your story beats - your story structure - work, there's basically no chance that your script as a whole is going to work. The end result is going to be a disappointment that won't make sense.

I thought about this especially when I watched the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory, 'The Application Deterioration' (S9e18). I couldn't help but to notice that there were pretty big problems with the episode's main storyline.

This was the episode in which Sheldon, Leonard and Howard decided to file a patent for their 'infinite persistence gyroscope'. Our likable nerds had come up with their innovation, so they felt they needed to do something about it.

Probably the biggest problem I had with the episode's storyline was that it just wasn't properly set up. The writers of the show didn't give us a proper introduction to what the main storyline was supposed to be about.

Instead of developing the story and having 'a debate' section - in this case their excitement about the patent thingy -  the writers skipped that part completely. The episode went right to a scene that should have occurred much later (the patent meeting)

The problem with all this was that once Sheldon, Leonard and Howard got out of that actual meeting - Howard perhaps not being able to be part of the deal - it became pretty obvious that the story would run out way too soon.
There was no chance that the writers would come up with decent story beats that would eventually save the episode. They had made a major structural mistake, so they would be in deep trouble with their script later on.
Sure enough, instead of us getting an organic and plausible storyline that was about our guys doing and fixing something together, what we got was 10 mins of plausible stuff and after that another 10 mins of material that made very little sense.
It just didn't feel plausible that Bernadette would doubt Sheldon's ability to make a deal or that she would doubt his ability to be a solid team player. All that stuff felt remarkably forced and didn't feel organic at all.
In my opinion, many of these problems could have been avoided, had the writers simply respected the structure more and had they understood that it's not easy to come up with plausible story beats for your episode.

Instead, the writers should have thought about their storyline a bit more and figured out that the story needed to start earlier than it did. In that case the episode as a whole wouldn't have been as disappointing as it turned out to be.

But that's not what they did and that's why The Big Bang Theory's S9e18, 'The Application Deterioration' was so underwhelming. As unfortunate as it is, the writers really dropped the ball when it came to writing a good, plausible episode.

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