Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I already miss visiting IMDb's message boards.

When it comes to getting  information about movies and television, there used to be no better source than the internet movie database.  This site, also known as, was the place to go if you wanted to know more about your favorite films and tv shows.

As most of us know, the site was especially useful when it came to its message boards. This is where users gave their opinions, shared thoughts and gave links to stuff that would make it easy for us to get more information about our favorite shows and stars.

The reason I'm writing about this, is because a bit more than a month ago, boards for the site were closed. For some reason the owners of the site decided that these forums weren't needed anymore and that they would get rid of them.

The official reason for this decision was that the message boards 'no longer provided a positive experience for the users' and that 'the decision was made only after careful consideration and was based on data and traffic.'

As one might have guessed, these explanations weren't really based on facts and reality. It was pretty obvious that the available data didn't match with the conclusions and that the management team was  simply making excuses to justify their decision.

After all, almost everyone who visited the site thought that the boards were full of useful content. The forums helped us to make decisions about whether to check a movie or whether we should give a certain tv show a chance.

When it comes to the real reason that the boards were shut down, it's fairly obvious that there was outside influence and pressure to get rid of the forums. It's a safe bet that IMDb's management - owned by Amazon - didn't even make the call.

By that I mean that film studios obviously didn't like the idea that there would be honest discussions about films and tv shows. They didn't like the idea that users would be able to give honest and easily accessible feedback about their products.

For big film studios, it's much better if we just visit official pages and sites that are full of fluff. It's much easier for them if they get to control the narrative and direct us to sites where negative opinions don't get any visibility at all.

After all, that's exactly what IMDb's management suggested we should do, if we wanted to discuss films in the future. They stated that we should go to facebook or join specific 'fan' sites, where our specific 'needs' would be better met.

Of course, when it comes to this whole thing, I'm not saying that there weren't any problems with IMDb's message boards. I'm not saying that everything was great and that these discussion forums couldn't have been any better.
On the contrary, when it came to these boards, almost every discussion forum had their specific posters and trolls that didn't add anything to the discussion. These users were either too fanatical, ignorant or just trying to get a rise out of others. 

At the same time, when it came to the site as a whole, clearly the positives outweighed the negatives. It's super obvious that the boards served a real purpose and added to the experience like no other site has been able to do.

In that sense, I genuinely miss visiting Imdb's boards and getting information about my favorite tv shows on a daily basis. I miss these forums and just wish that someone would be able to come up with a  replacement for the boards soon.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Character reactions in Modern Family's S8E17.

One of the most important things about being a writer is that you have the ability to write stuff that makes sense. As a writer, it's crucial that you know how to write characters and storylines that are plausible and feel real.

The reason for this is that the more your characters and your situations make sense, the easier it is for us to relate to what's going on. Making these storylines plausible makes us care and in most cases, makes us come back for more.

I was thinking about this thing especially when I watched Modern Family's episode S8E17. This episode, 'Pig Moon Rising' had a lot of problems with it when it came to the characters reacting in their storylines. 

The first big problem I had with the episode had to do with the storyline that involved Mitchell and Cam. This storyline felt genuinely contrived and the character reactions to the so called 'problem' was completely over the top.

In essence, this story was about how Mitchell was exercising in their garage where he accidentally manages to drop an old vase. This old vase happened to cointain someone's ashes, which in turn created our problem.

This could have been plausible and relatable storyline, had the ashes in the vase actually belonged to another human being. In that case things could have felt real and you could have felt why Mitchell got so upset about it.

In reality though, the vase didn't contain the ashes of a relative, but the ashes of Cam's favorite pig instead. This made the whole story pointless, especially knowing that Mitchell was fully aware of what was in the vase.

This overreaction wouldn't perhaps been that bad, had there not been a huge underreaction in the second storyline. This one had to do with Phil, Claire and Luke, and was something where things made even less sense than in the first one.

In this story Phil tried to Help Luke, who had been rejected from every college that he had applied to. Since None of the universities that he tried to get in had accepted him, Phil wanted to use his connections to get Luke in to his alma mater.

When it came to this story in the episode, I was pretty much okay with it up until when it came to Phil and Claire and going to the university. This is when things started to get really weird and you just had to shake your head.

So what happened was that the person who was in charge of letting Luke in that college was willing to make an exception. He was willing to make an exception - as long as his old buddy Phil was willing to return the favor too.

What really bothered me was not that the person was asking Phil for a favor, but how Phil actually reacted to it. He didn't want to return the favor - that only involved revealing the secret to his decades old magic trick.

I mean, we were talking about the future of Phil's son versus some stupid trick that he had performed twenty five years ago. He should have said yes without any hesitation and should have been the happiest person on the planet.

It made absolutely no sense that he would actually consider not returning the favor. It was completely unbelievable how he reacted - just like it was totally implausible how wildly Mitchell reacted to his own 'problem' that involved those ashes.

In the end, when it comes to learning from this episode, it's pretty clear that there was a huge mismatch between the reactions of the characters and how they should have reacted. Especially when it came to the latter storyline, things made no sense at all.

At least in my opinion, the writers should have made sure that there was a balance between the situations and how the characters reacted. There should have been a certain amount of harmony so that the storylines could have worked.

Had they managed to balance the characters and the situations, there would have been a good chance that the script would have worked. In that case, the episode would have been plausible, relatable and entertaining to watch.

Unfortunately, since none of the characters in these situations made sense, and since there was no harmony in these storylines, 'Pig Moon Rising' as an episode turned out to be implausible, unrelatable and at least in my opinion, pretty painful to watch too.

Monday, March 13, 2017

I like watching shows like 'The Love Boat'.

One of the worst things about today's television shows is that most of them are not entertaining to watch. Most of the shows that currently air on tv networks are fairly uninteresting and tend to be pretty depressing to watch.

As unfortunate as it is, if you want to watch uplifting and entertaining stuff, you have to go back in time. You have to go back in time almost 30 years, before you can find shows that are about making people happy and making you feel better about life.

When it comes to these uplifting shows, one of these was of course 'The Love Boat'. This series that took place on a luxurious cruise ship, entertained us for nine whole seasons during the late seventies and the early eighties.

Very likely the biggest reason that the show was such a big hit, is that it managed to take us out of our everyday lives. It managed to break our routines and took us to a place where most of us could only dream of going.

When it came to the premise of the show, 'The Love Boat' was something different than what we were used to. Unlike every other series out there, it was more about its guest characters than it was about its main characters.

I mean, even though the show was about captain Stubbing and his loyal crew members, the storylines always revolved around its guest passengers. They and the beautiful setting - the cruise ship - were the real stars of the show.

So every week on the show we would have different kinds of storylines that would take place. There was the 'funny' storyline, there was the 'romantic' storyline and there was also the 'dramatic' storyline that had to be resolved.

What made this episode structure work, is that there was something for everyone. You had laughs for those enjoyed comedy, you had dating for those who enjoyed romance, and you had drama for those who wanted to be emotionally moved.

In hindsight, when it came to these storylines, it's true that sometimes the story threads tended to be a bit too predictable. In many cases you were able to predict too easily all the twists and turns that would happen during the episode.

After all, no matter what happened, you always knew that things would be resolved at the end. No matter how bad or hopeless things were at some point during the episode, the show always found a way to give us happy endings.

Still, despite this admittedly safe and predictable approach, 'The Love Boat' managed to be entertaining and uplifting as a whole. It managed to be lighthearted fun without offending anyone or without being mean towards anyone.

In the end, that is something that is super rare when you look at today's television. 'The Love Boat's' uplifting and idealistic approach is something that shouldn't be overlooked when it comes to us trying to find quality shows on tv.

All in all, when it comes to me watching television, if there's nothing good on any of the channels to cheer me up, there's a good chance that I'll go online and try to find one of the classic episodes of 'The Love Boat' to watch.

I'll watch these episodes, not only because they help me to forget my worries and make me a bit happier - but also because they remind me that as a writer, I don't always have to take everything in life too seriously.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

HBO's 'Big Little Lies' is a solid drama series.

Lately I have tried to pay a bit more attention to watching television again. Over the last few days I've tried to find out whether there might be anything decent out there that might be worth my time and worth watching.

Naturally, I wasn't having my hopes up, since we're not that close from reaching the end of current tv season. It was probably a bit unrealistic to expect that there would be anything even remotely enjoyable for me to watch.

So knowing this all, I was more than surprised when I noticed that HBO had just started airing a new series on their network. A much anticipated drama series 'Big Little Lies' had just started airing two weeks ago. 

Very likely the biggest reason that the series - based on a best selling novel - was so anticipated is because it has so many famous actors on it. With A-listers like Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley, the expectations were bound to be high.

The other big reason that the show had so much potential is that it's written and produced by my favorite scribe David Kelley. He, as a ten time Emmy winner, is the guy who would likely be able to do the best selling novel justice.

So after having seen the first two episodes that have aired, I have to say that like most critics, I have mostly enjoyed watching the series. In most aspects, 'Big Little Lies' has been well made and is pretty entertaining. 

By that I mean that the series has a solid, relatable premise that it can easily build on. All these three main female characters have their 'big, little' secrets that keep unfolding as the series and the story progresses. 

Among other things, in the first two episodes there's stuff that many of us can relate to. Feelings of inadequacy, problems with kids, being left outside of the group and domestic violence are issues that most of us can identify with.

Later on in the series - as is apparent based on the very first scene of the pilot episode - things are going to get more dramatic. Someone's going to be murdered and the show is going to be about the homicide and why this murder happened.

When it comes to acting on the show, it shouldn't surprise anyone that 'Big Little Lies' is a well acted series. These three A-list Hollywood actresses are giving their everything and making sure that you find their characters believable.

When it comes to how the drama series is written, I also don't have that much to complain about. The storylines written by Kelley have been fairly interesting so far, and the scenes haven't had a forced feel to them.

The only real problem I've had with the show is that those constant jump forwards and those 'talking head' interviews don't really work. They just pull you out of the story and disrupt the flow of the episodes a bit too much.

Still, despite this minor issue with the show, I've been mostly positively surprised by the quality of the series so far. As someone who isn't exactly the biggest fan of relationship dramas, things seem to look relatively good here.

All in all, we can only hope that HBO's 'Big Little Lies' is able to keep its quality high throughout its seven episode run. We can only hope that the show is as good as the hype and the expectations would make us believe.

After all, there simply aren't that many good quality shows on tv at the moment. There aren't enough  shows on television that could inform us, that could entertain us and that could make us care about what's going on.