Kathy Fuller returns with more about the good that can come from a bad TV show. Talk about an optimist!
by Kathy Fuller
Mistake #2: Don’t just stand there, do something!
One of the main characters on Saving Hope is Charlie, played by Michael Shanks. He’s the charming, confident chief of surgery. In the pilot episode he and his fiancée (another surgeon) are heading for their wedding when wham! Car accident. After saving the driver of the other car with an emergency procedure I’ve already forgotten about, Charlie passes out from his head wound and is in a coma. The twist is that he’s suspended between the conscious and unconscious and roams the hospital still wearing his tux and dangling bow tie.
So far so good. Conscious Charlie is a hero. We’re sympathetic to him because he’s comatose and trapped, unable to bridge the gap between life and death. Not to mention he could probably use a change of underwear. Then—
Then nothing. Seriously. NOTHING. Charlie barely tries to communicate with the living. He intersects with the mostly dead and the deader-than-dead, but he doesn’t have anything but fleeting interaction with them. The most emotion we get is Shanks’ furrowed brow and his tepid voice-overs, loaded with forty-ton platitudes that do nothing but drag the show down. The only glimpses into his character are in flashbacks, which really have more to do with his fiancée, Alex. than with him.
Questions abound—questions Charlie should be posing to himself, to the ethereal beings around him, even to his comatose body. Why won’t I wake up? Why haven’t I died? Why am I stuck roaming around the hospital? How do I FIX this?
Charlie is a prime example of a passive character. Passive characters are awkward, pointless, and above all, snooze-inducing. All the characters in a story need to be doing something—saving the day, solving a problem, being an obstacle to another character’s goal, providing important advice and insight, serving as comic relief, and in Charlie’s case, maybe helping the deader-than dead pass over and the mostly dead start living again. Even if he’s unable to do any of those things, he should be frustrated, confused, angry. Instead, he’s bored, thus I’m bored and searching for my remote.
Characters should always be active. They’re doing things, not having things done to them. Their reactions to environments and predicaments should be visceral to the point where the audience is right there with them, feeling both their pain and their triumph. When that doesn’t happen you have a character like Charlie—pathetic and forgettable.
Next: Mistake #3: Get real, already.
…TheWrap.Com, of course.
Emmy vs. Oscar: Which Honors the More Substantial Work?
by Steve Pond
It’s become conventional wisdom that there’s more vital work taking place these days on television than in movies.
At some point, goes the story, a bunch of TV writers tired of the usual small-screen fare and started stretching their creative muscles. (And strangely, lots of them were named David: David Milch did “NYPD Blue,” David Chase did “The Sopranos,” David Simon did “The Wire”…)
But how long has it really been going on? And how is it reflected in the awards picture? If one were to compare the Emmy-winning drama series and the Oscar-winning movie from each year, which medium would consistently deliver the more significant achievement?
I did just that, and the results aren’t pretty for Oscar, at least not lately. Since 2000, we’ve had 11 Best Picture winners and 11 Emmy drama-series champs—and by my reckoning, the TV shows have been more substantial, and more impactful in the culture, nine of those 11 years.
By his reckoning? Who the fuck is he and how did he arrive at his reckoning? His own personal taste? Don’t get me started.
Oh-oh, too late. I’m revving. Under orders, as I am, to be cooler than I, um, may have been in the past, I’ll just go back to the basic premise of Mr. Pond’s
masturbation article: Hollywood trade organizations – cuz that’s all the TV and film “academies” are, don’t you know? – honoring “substantial work?” In your dreams, Steve-o. You know, the ones about you and the Davids in the steam bath with Revolta swapping writing tips?
Seems to me that if a site like The Wrap, which makes, like, real money from real advertising, unlike TVWriter™, which has no advertising at all because whenever we contact those miserable ad reps to get them to buy some space they in turn put on the pressure for us to buy from them so we can improve our visitor stats and attract – maybe – Final Draft or Creative Screenwriting or some other niche company that has no money and just wants to trade links anyway…
Where was I? Crap. Oh, wait – if a site like The Wrap is looking to fill up pages so people don’t notice that 90% of it is P.R. handouts, they could at the very least give us something helpful or fun, like pictures of hookers hanging with Michael Bay, because catering to my fantasies over some other writer’s definitely gets my vote.
Bottom line: Forget TheWrap. Go to P.R. wire. Or Deadline.Com because even though Nikki’s got a lot of the same stuff she’s nutsy fun.
Kathy Fuller is a hell of a writer. She’s the best-selling author of over twenty novels and novellas, in addition to several published articles. Her publishers include Tyndale, Avalon, Adams Media, and Thomas Nelson. TVWriter™ is proud to present her here and hopes she forgives us for just plain being us and graces the site with her presence again and again. (Well, until she finishes this 3-part series for sure.)
by Kathy Fuller
This summer NBC picked up the Canadian show Saving Hope and shoved it into its Thursday night line-up. Remember when Thursdays used to be must watch TV on NBC? Me either. I’ve had my fill of hospital dramas, but I tuned in for one reason: Michael Shanks. However, my love admiration of Shanks only goes so far. Saving Hope is riddled with basic writing errors—and don’t get me started on the ridiculous overuse of lens flares.
So what can writers learn from a show that’s pretty much a writing failure? Plenty.
Mistake #1: Saving or Raising?
Titles are important. They convey the show’s subject matter. Take Criminal Minds. Those two words tell you the premise: criminals and their psychology. Titles can also link to a show’s theme, such as Parenthood. These titles are understandable, relatable (for the most part) and in today’s current TV landscape, unique. Are they brilliantly unique? No, but they aren’t similar to what’s currently on the tube.
There’s nothing wrong with Saving Hope as a title per se. It’s a little too clever in that the hospital is named Hope-Zion and doctors usually save people. But there’s a really good show currently airing called Raising Hope. I think I googled Michael Shanks/Raising Hope about five times before I realized he’s not on Raising Hope. At first I thought I was a moron for getting the two mixed up, but I soon discovered I wasn’t the only one confused.
When it comes to writing, nothing is too precious that it can’t be changed, adapted, deleted, or annihilated when necessary. I understand why the producers are clinging to this ah-mazing title that ties in so neatly with the show. But when viewers get the two titles confused, ah-mazing becomes annoying.
Want your show to stand out in the crowded TV landscape? Choose a simple, creative, original title that reflects the core topic, captures audience attention, and makes people want to tune in. Even if it’s the bestest title ever, if its going to cause confusion, come up with something else.
Later this week: Don’t just stand there, do something!
Our favorite comedy writer who writes about comedy writing and who has no idea TVWriter™ or Larry Brody or any of us here exist proves his genius by actually “getting” THE NEWSROOM.
SUE ANN: Hello, union mules. I’m in a wonderful mood. Care to guess why?
MURRAY: You just learned you’re not part of the 17.8% of the population that has a venereal disease?