Monday, November 14, 2011

TV for writers

In Stephen King’s book On Writing (which is a fabulous read, even if you’re not a fan of his fiction), he recommends that committed writers not waste time "suckling from the glass teat." The dude's got a point. A recent Nielsen survey reported the average American spends 35 hours a week in front of the television. How is that even possible??

As someone with no cable, no satellite, and a boxy 1990s twenty-incher in my living room, I don't watch much TV. But every once in a while something comes along that I just can’t resist. The kind of show where I will watch the episodes over and over and over, rather than even look for anything new. (I do this with Harry Potter movies too, and songs on my iPod, and certain books. Did I mention I have an addictive personality?)
Anyway, I tell myself it’s okay to indulge in these shows because they are so fantabuloso in their voice or characterization that watching them will help me become a better writer. Is this total rationalization? Probably. But still, these shows are really reeeeeeeally good. Most of them didn’t last more than a season or two, probably because the writerly demographic who would have loved them was too busy reading and, you know, actually writing stuff to watch. We’ll just have to blame Stephen King for that.

1.      Firefly: I had to be forced, kicking and screaming (okay, really I was stuck at O’Hare with nothing to do and a Firefly DVD foisted upon me by a well meaning geek-pal) to watch a couple episodes of Joss Whedon’s space-western. Did I mention I hate westerns? Also, not so fond of space. But there’s just something about this ragtag crew of misfit smugglers and stowaways that really sucked me in. And the smoldering non-relationship between ship’s captain Mal Reynolds and intergalactic courtesan Inara Serra is one of the hottest things I ever saw on television.

2.      Veronica Mars: The hottest thing I ever saw on television was the chemistry between emotionally-broken teen detective Veronica and privileged, but misunderstood bad boy Logan Echolls. Seriously. Their dynamic is so sizzling that when I blew through all three seasons of the show in a month I went scouring the web for fan fiction. (It’s out there and some of it is naughty! I’m just sayin’.) Veronica Mars was created by YA author Rob Thomas and the dialogue is near-perfect. If your teen characters are sounding like middle-aged people, this is a must-see for you.

3.      Wonderfalls: Back before the world was ready for magical realism, snarky underachiever Jaye Tyler graduated from her Ivy league college and promptly began a promising career…at a Niagara Falls gift shop. Where the souvenirs started talking to her. Watching Jaye wrestle with whether or not she should heed the advice of tacky gift shop trinkets is hilarious, and surprisingly poignant at times. Tragically, this serendipitous find (thanks Netflix, I did enjoy it) only made it for half of a season.

4.      Twin Peaks: There’s a reason people still remember this mind-bending series from over twenty years ago. Several reasons, in fact. The set-up couldn’t have been more basic: who killed the popular girl? But everything else about the show was shrouded in mystery. All of the characters had secrets. Viewers were never certain if they could trust the FBI agent main character. And let’s not forget those dream sequences. If you want to stray from the traditional novel format, Twin Peaks is a great example of weirdness that worked.

5.      Grey’s Anatomy: I know, I know. As a part-time RN, I should despise this show for portraying nurses as only being good for on-call room sexy-time and spreading syphilis. But don’t hate it just because it’s popular. Shonda Rhimes is a modern day Euripedes. Not only does she make viewers give a crap about a bunch of spoiled surgeons who will never face a lot of the problems we regular people do, she gives us catharsis every episode. Yes, I cry. Every Episode. And I never feel like my emotions have been manipulated. That’s good writing, peeps.

Do you agree or disagree? What are your favorite TV shows and why?


  1. I didn't think I would like Firefly either, but I did, though I didn't think the movie was as good.

  2. Logan and Veronica! Yes, hot damn. Their chemistry had me in constant !!!!!!!!!!!!! mode, no lie, and I loved how they came together. Gah, love them.

  3. I absolutely loved Firefly and Twin Peaks. Haven't seen the others!

  4. Stephanie-I used to watch that episode where Logan and Veronica kiss for the first time over and over. And also the episode at the alterna-prom where Logan tries to tell Veronica how he feels and 'I Hear the Bells' is playing in the background. SO amazing.

    Melissa-look up some Veronica Mars on hulu or Netflix if you like contemporary teen comedy-drama. It's worth it for the dialogue alone. Much better than the usual high school shows.

  5. Omg! Veronica Mars! <3 Brilliant post! :)

  6. I've only watched Grey's Anatomy out of that list (though I stopped because the show just keeps going and going, haha!). I've heard of Firefly and Veronica Mars being pretty good, but don't know that they're my type of TV. Never heard of Wonderfalls before, maybe I will check it out! And Twin Peaks was mentioned in my cinema class a couple semesters ago. Small world.

    Anyway, I watch too much TV, but if I had to all-time favorites are these:

    The O.C.
    Legend of the Seeker

    The first is one of those teen dramas and I actually discovered it after it ended, but loved it! Between the music, young characters and the setting, it's a soft spot for me even now.

    As for Lost and Legend of the Seeker, both are in my opinion brilliant shows that had good runs. Lost is pretty self explanatory, but basically it made me think. I liked that. And Legend is a fantasy show which tapped into my imagination.

    But we all have our opinions and I think what's important is when we find something good and true that we can relate to and maybe even learn from. :)


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