Friday, April 28, 2017

How much do you need to 'practice' writing?

When it comes to writing, one of the most important things about being a scribe has to do with practicing. Anyone who wants to become a competent writer has to be willing to practice and has to work on his craft on a regular basis.

No matter who you are, it never hurts to spend some time writing and trying to create something worthwhile. There's no downside to practicing with your keyboard and trying to come up with something that others might want to read.

At the same time, when it comes to becoming a better writer, we shouldn't forget that 'writing' is not the only way that you can get better at your craft. There are other ways too that can help you to become a better scribe.

For example, when it comes to myself, I try to spend at least some time every day reading what others have managed to write. I try to find stuff that could be worth my time and that I could perhaps recommend for others to read too.

When I keep reading what others have written, I can always evaluate their work. Whenever I read news pieces and articles, I get to evaluate whether the stuff is well written and whether I would have written it the same way.  

When it comes to other forms of entertainment, like watching scripted shows on television, I also pay attention to how well they are made. I try to pay attention to whether these shows make sense and whether they have any value as a whole. 

In these cases, it's certainly true that I tend not to have that much patience as I have with printed stuff. I tend to give up on most of the television shows pretty easily and go do something else when I get frustrated. 

Still, whenever I'm either reading or watching anything, I almost always learn something. I learn something, even though I might not consciously realize that my brain just got more information to process and to learn from.

In that sense, it's difficult to say how much each of us have actually practiced the craft. Since the process is so intertwined with reading and following all these sources of entertainment, it's hard to say how much we have practiced over the years.

At least in my case, the fact is that I have learned a lot about writing when I watched all those tv shows and films. It's safe to say that I would never have become a writer, had I not watched so many quality shows like Ally Mcbeal and The Simpsons over the years.

These are the shows that taught me about the importance of characters and the importance of plausible storylines in writing. These are the shows that taught me how important it is to be real in order to be funny as a writer.

In the end, when it comes to writing, the truth is that none of us who decide to 'start' practicing are going to start from scratch. We all have read, watched and paid attention to things that have helped us to become better with the craft.

At least in my opinion, just because you might think that you don't know enough about the craft doesn't mean that you should be too worried about your abilities. You shouldn't think that you're not good enough and that you don't have it in you.

On the contrary, the fact is that you have already learned a lot about writing in your life. The fact that you have read so many books, watched so many movies and watched so many television shows counts a lot more than you might think.

In that sense, if you feel like writing, you should just give it a go. You should give it a go, because at least in my opinion, there's a pretty good chance that you'll become a solid writer and that it's going to happen a lot faster than you had thought at first.

Friday, April 21, 2017

There are so many (bad) shows on television.

When it comes to my television and film watching habits, there's only so much 'entertainment' that I can stomach every day. I can watch only a certain amount of stuff, before I start to feel sick inside and have to turn off my television.

As a person who spends a lot of time writing about tv shows and movies, I'm not someone who likes to watch that much tv. I don't think that spending too much time watching movies or television is a good thing at all.
I thought about this whole thing especially after I stumbled on a site that listed all those current tv shows on networks and cable. This site listed all the shows that had either been renewed or that still had a chance of being renewed.

When I kept clicking and browsing the site, I was more or less shocked to find out that there were actually so many television shows on different channels. I didn't know that there were hundreds of scripted programs that were airing or that had aired this season. 

For example, I had absolutely no idea that there was a drama series called The Blacklist: Redemption. I had never heard about this particular show and was pretty dumbfounded that a series like that was actually out there.

When I went further with my search, I noticed that were tons of other shows too that I hadn't heard about before. These shows even had similar sounding names, like Chicago P.D, Chicago Justice and Chicago Med. 

Altogether, there were about 60+ scripted television programs that were still to be renewed and were waiting for their fates to be decided. Only the biggest hits - like Modern Family and The Amazing Race were locks to return.

When it comes to me not having ever watched any of those drama shows, I can't say that I have that much of an incentive to give them a chance. There's nothing about any of these shows that would make me think that I should watch them.

After all, when you have programs like Chicago PD, Chicago Justice and Chicago Med, you know that they're going to be mass produced junk. There's no way that they would have any real quality to them and that they would have value as entertainment.

In that sense, I shouldn't be that disappointed that I haven't heard about these shows before. I shouldn't feel bad that in my country these programs are prescreened and those in charge have decided against acquiring them.

At the same time, as a writer and a supposed entertainment critic, I really got caught by a surprise here. How on earth does Hollywood find all these writers, actors and directors that are willing to produce all these tv shows?

In the end, none of this changes the fact that we in the audience shouldn't watch that much television. Just because there's an endless supply of tv channels and shows doesn't mean that they're actually worth watching.

On the contrary, the more we watch these uncreative and unimaginative programs that have no value, the worse it is for us. The more we're exposed to bad shows, the worse that is for our mental health and for our well-being.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

'Trial & Error' gets everything wrong in its pilot.

Almost certainly the worst thing about a sitcom pilot is that it doesn't make you laugh. It's hard to imagine anything more annoying than watching an episode of a comedy series that doesn't have anything funny in it.

A bad sitcom pilot doesn't work because it doesn't have a plausible or a believable premise. A bad pilot episode doesn't hold our attention and lacks interesting or relatable characters that could entertain and that could make us laugh.

Below I'll try to list most of the reasons why NBC's latest comedy series, 'Trial & Error', doesn't work at all. I'll try to point out why the series is so unwatchable and why you probably shouldn't give the show a chance.

1) It's very difficult to make homicide look funny.

Who came up with the idea that a premise where a lawyer defends a murder suspect could be a source of laughs? Who thought that this concept could possibly lead to a show that people could find entertaining and worth watching?

Historically speaking, it's true that there have been quality comedies that have been about lawyers, like Ally Mcbeal and Night Court. There have also been comedy shows that have been about murder cases, like the legendary Police Squad.  

At the same time, this sitcom is pretty much all about the murder and things that revolve around it. I don't see that anyone - regardless of who the writer is - could make the show even remotely plausible, interesting or enjoyable.

2) The 'star' of the show is unlikable and unrelatable.

In the very first scene of the pilot, our murder suspect calls 911. In this 'funny' phone call, the suspect is actually more interested in talking about his cable company than talking about how he found his wife dead on the floor.

Not long after that, when the press arrives and the murder suspect gets arrested, he 'accidentally' kills his dog for the 'laughs'. I found this to be an extremely offensive scene and have no idea what the writers were thinking.

Othan than that, this character, played by the usually wonderful John Lithgow, is incredibly unbearable. I don't see how anyone could be rooting for him or how anyone could care about what was going to happen to the guy.

3) Most of the characters are super incompetent.

How does our defense lawyer. played by Nicholas D'agosto, get things done when you take into account how incompetent his supporting team is? I got triggered by how stupid and utterly inept the rest of the cast is.

I mean, it's not like our main protagonist is the sharpest knife in the drawer, but the rest are beyond hopeless. The secretary can't even write and her 'dyslexia' is played for the stupidest laughs that you could imagine.

In contrast, when it came to characters on a supposedly 'dumb' show like Police Squad, even Frank Drebin was a relatively smart guy. His sillyness was always unintentional and was based on clever dead-pan humor that made you laugh.

4) The pilot has no momentum and the jokes are awful.

It's hard to believe how stupid the pilot was and how it didn't seem to have any direction whatsoever. This was apparent especially when the defense team kept brainstorming about who the real killer could have been.

As you might have guessed, they weren't concerned about the fate of their client and were doing other things instead. Playing hangman on a chalkboard was supposed to be funny and was supposed to make us in the audience laugh.

If that wasn't bad enough, making jokes about how the real culprit was a mexican (food) or a chinese (food) was even more pathetic. It was obvious that the writers of the series had no clue what they were doing.

5) The mockumentary approach is super tired.

Like many others, I've never been a big fan of the 'talking heads' style mockumentary approach to sitcoms. In most cases, it's a fairly cheap stunt to get away with exposition and to make you look hip and cool as a writer.

In reality, any time that you use these talking head 'interviews', you're pulling your audience out of the the story. This mockumentary style disrupts the flow of the episode and makes you uninterested in what's going on.

To make it even worse, this series also uses random 'break the fourth wall' scenes. There's almost nothing that spells desperation more than those moments where the characters look into the camera for no reason at all.

6) The series just doesn't have anything to offer to us.

In the end, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I couldn't stomach watching 'Trial & Error' for more than one episode. I gave up on it, because the sitcom had nothing to offer and because it made me so frustrated and angry.

At least in my opinion, a 'comedy' series about a lawyer defending a murder suspect can't really work. It can't work because the concept goes too much against the fundamentals of comedy and what we can find funny as human beings.

In that sense, I can't recommend 'Trial & Error' for anyone that enjoys watching quality tv. I can't recommend it, because the pilot gets everything wrong and because the series doesn't have any idea what it's supposed to be about.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Why are most remakes of television shows so bad?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how much I liked watching old television shows like The Love Boat. I wrote about how these classic shows made me feel better about life and managed to put me on a better mood. 

Like so many others, I liked these tv shows because the writers and the producers behind them didn't take their audience for granted. I like that they took their jobs seriously and tried to make sure that we in the audience were entertained.

So when you look at how popular shows like The Love Boat were, it shouldn't surprise anyone that there have been attempts to remake them over the years. There have been multiple attemps to revive many of these popular shows.

Unfortunately, in pretty much every case,  these attempts have been pretty massive failures. Instead of being able to capture the magic of the originals, these new remakes and reboots have been extremely disappointing.

Probably the biggest reason that they have been such big failures is that the producers behind them didn't understood what made the original shows so popular. They didn't pay enough attention to what made these old ones so good in the first place.

Instead of making sure that the remakes respected the premise of the original shows, the producers thought that those things didn't really matter anymore. They thought that anything would go, as long as the title of the series remained the same.

One of the best examples of a bad remake is the attempted reboot of the classic series The Love Boat. This was the revival that happened almost 20 years ago, when networks and producers were starting to run out of original ideas.

When it came to this Love Boat 2.0, it's obvious even based on the opening credits that it didn't work at all. Everything about it felt wrong and made you wonder what on earth the producers and the writers were thinking.

When it comes to the characters on the show, none of them felt friendly or likable compared to the original series. Pretty much all of them were unlikable and had that 'douchy' 90s look, which made you want to punch them in the face.

The way these characters behaved on the ship was simply atrocious. The characters drank on duty, the captain's kid kept telling everyone that he's above the law and nobody seemed to have any sort of integrity on board of the ship.

When it came to the storylines in this remake, that wonderful upbeat feeling that you got from watching the original show was missing too. Everything that you saw on your tv screen felt superficial and pointless.

There was no clear idea of what the storylines and the story arcs were supposed to be about on this new version. There was no humor, romance or uplifting comedy that made it so easy to keep watching the original series.

As a whole, when it came to this new Love Boat, it's safe to say that the producers were simply coasting on the old show's reputation. They were oblivious to what had made the original series so watchable and popular.

In the end, that is the biggest problem with almost all of these remakes and reboots. Those in charge of making them think that they don't have to try that hard and that they don't have to respect the spirit of the original series.

They think that no matter what they are going to do, the new show is likely going to be as solid as the old one was. They assume that everything that they're going to do is going to work and that there is no risk of failure.

Unfortunately for them, that is not how you remake or reboot an entertaining tv show today. You don't recreate a quality series by forgetting what the original was about and what made it work in the first place.

On the contrary, remaking a good series is all about respecting the original premise and its characters. It's about respecting what made the original work and making sure that you understand what the new series should be about.