Thursday, April 28, 2016

Silicon Valley's third season premiere.

A couple of days ago I noticed that the third season premiere for HBO's 'Silicon Valley' had just aired. I had my expectations high, considering that the show had been pretty good last year and had provided solid entertainment.

I mean, it's not exactly a secret that during its second season the series improved quite a bit from its uneven first season. The series was now much more consistent and didn't suffer from as many flaws anymore.

So having now seen S3e01, 'Founder Friendly', I have to say that unfortunately the season premiere wasn't nearly as good as I expected it to be. There were a lot of problems with the episode ranging from bad storytelling to weird character behavior.

Probably the biggest problem I had with the season opener was that it didn't feel believable or organic in almost any way. It felt too much like I was watching a sketch show that didn't really know what it was trying to be.

Not only were there a lot of the scenes that didn't make much sense storywise, most of the characters didn't make sense either. I couldn't relate to what the characters were doing and it felt like they weren't likable at all.

Even the very first scene made me scratch my head, when our demoted main character Richard was only able to talk about himself.  That 'cold open' felt so out of character to me that it made me feel pretty nervous about the episode.

Unfortunately, it got only worse when Richard got to the meeting with his financiers. For some reason he simply couldn't understand that he had screwed up too many times as the CEO of his company and that they needed fresh blood.

It didn't also help that other characters were also unbearable in the episode. Dinesh and Gilfoyle for example were completely unlikable and 'sketchy' when they were talking about what would happen to them in Pied Piper.

I couldn't believe that after spending all that time in the firm, they couldn't take their situation more seriously and resorted to making 'jokes'. I couldn't believe that it was all about them and not about the company as a whole.

Yet, easily the worst thing about the episode was the scene with Hooli's CEO Gavin Belson giving his speech. This scene that was written as a faux-emotional sketch was so bad that it honestly made me pretty mad.

I mean, clearly the writers should have tried something else than misleading the audience after having had so many problems with the episode already. It didn't help at all that they were trying to be more clever than they were.

In any case, I'm not saying that there weren't any good things about Silicon Valley's season premiere. There were some jokes and moments that managed to work pretty well and that even managed to make me laugh.

At the same time, it was pretty clear that this was not a good episode as a whole. There were too many instances where it was clear that the story wasn't a priority and that the writers paid more attention to other things.

In the end, I can only hope that in the next episode they'll pay more attention to the story and the characters. In the long run, that's the only way you can make the series work and keep us interested in watching the show.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

You shouldn't get too confident as a writer.

One of the most important things about being a writer is that you need to trust yourself and your instincts. You need to have the confidence to think that you're good at what you're doing and that there's a reason for you being a scribe.

At the same time, it's important that you don't get too confident about your talent and your abilities. If you get too arrogant or too certain about your skills, bad things might happen that might get you in a lot of trouble. 

I have thought about this lately, because recently I have had some genuinely awful writing days. I haven't been able to write material that at least in my opinion was entertaining, plausible or truthful enough.

During those days, no matter how hard I tried and no matter how many hours I spent writing and rewriting, I couldn't make things work well enough. Fixing even the simplest things turned out to be almost impossible.

So I tried to think about why this had happened and what were the likely reasons behind it. I thought about things that could have contributed to me not writing well and that could have explained why I was in rewriting hell.

It didn't take that long before I understood that the reason I had been writing bad stuff was likely because I had been too confident. I had felt too certain about myself, which led to me making mistakes that I normally wouldn't make.

The thing is that even though it's obviously a good thing to have confidence, we shouldn't ever get too confident about our abilities. Getting too cocky about our 'talents' will get us in trouble almost all the time.

Instead, we should always be aware of the kinds of mistakes that hurt us the most. Those mistakes that we're prone to make are the exact things that we should keep in mind whenever we try to write good stuff.

In my case, I probably started making mistakes because I had too much energy after getting back in shape again. I likely thought that it didn't matter whether I was mentally alert or whether I had thought about my ideas enough.

In reality though, I should have thought a lot more about what I was doing and why. I should have been less confident about writing 'awesome' material, so that things could have been a little bit easier for me.

Unfortunately, that's not what happened with my writing task last week. Instead of getting the basics right, I got too confident, screwed up big time and ended up spending way too much time before my stuff looked decent again.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The series finale for Hulu's '11.22.63'.

For me it wasn't that easy to start watching the final episode of Hulu's miniseries, '11.22.63'. I wasn't really that motivated to check the finale, because for so many episodes the series had managed to disappoint me.

Probably the biggest problem I had had with the series was how little it had to do with actual history. There were so many problems with the facts that for any serious student of the assassination it was very hard not to get frustrated. 

Yet, even though I had not liked at all the episode that had aired before the finale, I decided to give the series one more chance. The show had already failed us when it came to being accurate, so it couldn't get much worse.

Surprisingly enough, even though the last episode still tried to sell us the idea that Oswald was the assassin, it turned out that it wasn't that bad. I actually managed to enjoy it much more than I had thought at first.

I mean, yes, it is true that in the finale James Franco's character does prevent Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating the president. He manages to pull off what he was supposed to do when he decided to go back in time.

At the same time, what I liked about the series finale is that there was a lot of emphasis on things that happened after Franco's character manages to save JFK. All these things mattered at least as much, if not even more. 

For example, when Franco's character got arrested, it was fascinating to watch when the feds and the Dallas Police Department go after him. It becomes obvious that he's in huge trouble, especially considering what his 'explanation' was.

What I also liked about the finale was that it wasn't only about stopping the assassination from happening. It was also about Franco's character's personal life and how he tried to manage and control it as much as possible.

By that I mean that the final episode was also about how he wasn't able to change history the way he wanted. In his personal life he had to make difficult decisions and grow as a person, which I found to be rather touching and even uplifting.

In any case, when it comes to judging the series as a whole, it helped that the finale turned out to be better than I thought. The fact that it was entertaining enough more or less saved the miniseries from being a total disappointment.

Even though there clearly were a lot of problems with the facts - like that Oswald didn't kill JFK -  I have to say that I still managed to like '11.22.63'. There were enough redeeming qualities that made me enjoy watching the series at least most of the time.

At the same time, if only the show should have been better researched and historically more accurate than it was. In that case Hulu's '11.22.63' would not only have been a more truthful show, but it almost certainly would have been a better series too.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Things don't look too good for Modern Family.

When Modern Family's five year reign at the Emmy's ended last October, I couldn't help but to wonder what would happen to the show. I was hoping that perhaps the creator of the series, Steve Levitan would react and work harder on the series now.

After all, clearly he has been the best writer on the show and the person who knows how to make me care about the characters. If only he would get his motivation back so that he would churn some quality scripts again.

Unfortunately, recently it was reported in the news that our talented showrunner was going through a nasty divorce with his wife. This turn of events was something that wasn't expected and honestly made me pretty sad.

I'm obviously disappointed, because I'm very much a family person myself. I don't think there's anything more important in life than being around with people that you can care about and who also care about you.

I'm also disappointed because even though I don't know him personally, through his episodes I've learned to respect his sense of humor. I've learned to respect his ability to write solid scripts that have consistently managed to entertain me.

Having said that, when it comes to his impending divorce, I couldn't help but to notice that the timing of it is pretty unfortunate. At least when it comes to me, I couldn't help but to wonder why it might have happened.

By that I mean that the filing of the papers wasn't that far off from last October's Emmy Awards. It seems almost too much of a coincidence that just two months after his five-year winning streak ended, things went south in his private life.

In his case, I can only hope that the show getting shut out at the Emmys didn't lead to a some sort of a mid-life crisis. I can only hope that the reason his wife went rage mode is not because he pulled a 'John Edwards' on her.

I mean, I might be totally wrong, but it doesn't look that good when your wife of almost 24 years suddenly tries to get a restraining order against you. Clearly something serious must have happened that deeply upset her.

In any case, the whole thing is very unfortunate and doesn't make me feel optimistic about this show's future. Not only is Modern Family's showrunner in trouble now, but in all honesty the series hasn't been delivering lately either.

It's just too bad, but unless those who are in charge of the show get their act together, this series is going be done pretty soon. It would be a shame, because for so many years Modern Family has been the best comedy on tv.