A Few TV Thoughts

Lessons from Old TV

Retro TV setTelevision as a writing medium intrigues me. I love the potential to delve into a character’s life and explore in detail different themes and situations on an episode by episode basis. There are nuances that can never be touched on in a movie setting – there just isn’t enough time to set it up and execute it. Mad Men makes the perfect example.

To explore Don Draper’s extreme popularity yet his total unhappiness could never be explored in film. It would be an injustice to the man wasting him on what would be a shallow rendition of the deep character. Books are great for internal journeys and could possibly be a way for us to experience Don Draper up close and personal. One of the strengths of Mad Men, though, is being able to see the effect he has on others, many others, and how they try to adopt his ways for their own. With that many characters to keep straight a visual medium works best. Television has its own space in the story world with tons of potential for the right stories.

In order to teach myself about writing for television I completed a project during the 2011-2012 television season to further those efforts. I tried all of the pilots of any show that I could possibly be interested in. Let me tell you, it was a lot of television. My intent was to see what worked and what didn’t. Using my knowledge of story, where were the basic building blocks used to an advantage and where were they neglected. Television with its episode format is a great medium to reinvent old ideas and to explore different characters from the overtly serious to the comedic. The best thing about television writing is it doesn’t matter that the show ran a couple of years ago or last week these lessons are timeless.

There were eight of these shows, from that year, that made my cut but didn’t score with the networks. In this series I’ll explore why I felt they had potential yet explain the pitfall that caused the show to stumble and die.

The River - Header

The horror genre is rich with source material. It’s one of the most popular genres for movies, every year many new titles are added to the pool. Any problems with the show could have been overcome with this one story building block.

The 9 Lives of Chloe King - Header

Dangerous and magical abilities, secret groups hidden with in our society and clever villains who will use any power to stop the protagonist. With the supernatural a popular premise in television today, one story building block has become essential for the success of such plot.

Chuck - Header

Everyone loves to laugh, it’s what makes comedies such a hit with audiences. For a short period of time we can watch our favorite television people do crazy stuff we wouldn’t be caught dead doing. This one story building block should be the number one priority of every television show.

Memphis Beat - Header

A great premise. A great cast. And they mix together well. When everything works, why does a television show still fail? A whole lot of promise can’t overcome this one production fault.

Alcatraz - Header

Anticipation is a powerful emotion. It builds expectations that can carry a television show through an entire season. When the audience is ready and willing to be engaged, why does a television show not meet expectations? This one story fault kills any momentum with the audience.

Protector - Header

What makes celebrities, well, celebrities? An X-factor. That powerful hard to describe quality that makes them, them and only them. When an actress headlines a television show with a powerful X-factor what one production fault can stand in the way of success?

Against the Wall - Banner

Developing a television show starts with the writing. Without a solid base to jump off from getting off the ground can be difficult. If written with this one story building block in mind development of this television show would have created a popular genre star.

The Finder - Banner

At the core of a television show are the writers and producers. If they don’t work together well it doesn’t matter how well a cast works the show won’t. This one story fault is created due to faulty writing and faulty producing, much to our loss.


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