Lesson #7: Natural Conflict
Television 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. 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. There were eight of these shows 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.
I really like to see cable channels branching out and trying to get original shows that aren’t reality television off the ground. I try to support them by at least trying the shows and sometimes you find hidden gems. I insisted we try Against the Wall and even I hated Abby, the protagonist! Rachael Carpani is not a favorite of mine and I found her extremely overboard in this, which is her weakness as an actress. As I watched, met her partner and got the low down on working in Internal Affairs I quickly rewrote the show and included a bit of The Protector in it as well.
Marisa Ramirez rocked as Lina, Abby’s pregnant partner. You loved her attitude and she carried off the working mom and wife angle as well. I know I wanted to know more about her character! The Hispanic demographic is huge and a culture that could use some more exploration done right. I know the problem lay with the actors already chosen: Kathy Baker and Treat Williams as mom and dad. Great actors but they don’t fit in the new format. We can even see Lina’s husband’s work at times where it conflicts with hers. Bring family into the picture on both sides as well. As a writer I love the mixed race angle and all of the natural conflict and highs it can bring to the story. The IA angle is great too showing a side to law enforcement we don’t often see and her skills have to come out to deal with the buddy system.
So back to the real show…Abby did win me over by the end of the season. The story had neat angles with the family dynamics, the new partner in IA and the wannabe boyfriends. The friends with benefits relationship she had with Brodie, her brother’s partner, didn’t feel like it fit the actress at first but after more exposure to it I came to accept Brodie and actually enjoy the conflict it created.
The thing is who has such endurance to get to the end of a season before you like the protagonist? I have to say there aren’t many like me around! By starting with a background with natural conflict the audience doesn’t have to wait around for the writers to contrive conflict within the protagonist’s life.