Thursday, September 27, 2007

Writing for TV shows

I watched Bionic Woman last night; I'll admit it. But I didn't like it.

It wasn't because it was cheesy (it was) or that the lead girl was awkward (she was) or that the blond questionably evil gal who showed up was wholly inappropriate for the part (she was neither sultry nor attractive). It was because the writing was transparent, ineffective, and off-beat.

None of the dialogue was well versed. Rather than establishing characters or background stories or, heck, just letting the show run it's course -- it is rather action packed -- the writers seemed intent on giving themselves all kinds of facets, alleyways, and straws to grasp at later. Mysterious whispers of people's fathers, hints at alliances within alliances, not-so-subtle clues to inner turmoils were all included in the minefield of television story arcs usually reserved for daytime soaps.

It just led up to a clunky, confusing, distracting hour long mess. The best part by far was the car wreck that sent the lead character into oblivion.

Shining examples include the ambiguously evil girl telling Bionic Woman "you look too innocent to be a bar tender," Bionic Woman asking Dr. Keanu-Ben (see below) "why are you with me?" and, of course, the obligatory Asian martial arts trainer telling Dr. Keanu-Ben "you scare me because you remind me of your father".

Do writers live in real life? Do they ever actually listen to how people talk to each other?

The blond and the lead doctor guy represented a growing trend I've seen in television, one I call "knock off" or "cheap version" actors. The girl was the bargain bin Angelina while the doctor looked like Keanu Reeves playing Ben from Lost. (Another example of bargain bin actors is the psychiatrist in the departed -- she's the cheaper version of Sarah Jessica Parker). That distracts me from the show, but that may be more a personal failure on my part to give these up-and-comers the benefit of the doubt.

At any rate, I don't think this is me being hypercritical. There are well-written shows out there. And there are shows that use up-and-comers without stuffing them into shoes that they just don't fit in. The Office's pilot was picture perfect -- all the characters were well-written from the start with no awkward surprises later, something rare to see. Arrested Development, though only airing for three seasons, lived and died by it's wonderful dialogue and fast-paced acerbic wit delivered by characters who were new and delightfully astereotypical.

Summary: Bionic Woman was bad. The show's writers should