What Writers Can Learn from Saving Hope (Part I)

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!

Ken Levine on THE NEWSROOM

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.

We think.


Aaron Sorkin is back!  I loved THE NEWSROOM.  It’s the perfect vehicle for his whip-smart dialogue.  (It was also nice to see the wonderful Emily Mortimer finally not in a thankless role.)
But essentially THE NEWSROOM was BROADCAST NEWS as written by Aaron Sorkin.  James L. Brooks wrote that terrific movie along with co-creating THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW.  So that got me thinking — what if Aaron Sorkin wrote THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW?   Here, with great affection for Mr. Sorkin, is how I envision what a scene might look like:INT. W.J.M NEWSROOM – DAYMARY AND MURRAY ARE WORKING AT THEIR DESKS. SUE ANN ENTERS.

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?


THE NEWSROOM: A Minority Report

by Larry Brody

Once upon a time there was a new series called THE NEWSROOM. Its reviews were so terrible that even I had trouble making myself watch it.

All the BigMedia critics panned it.

All my friends panned it.

All my colleagues here at TVWriter™ panned it.

But a funny thing happened when I forced myself to rev up my DVR and have a look for myself. “Self,” I said, “we’ll just watch for 10 minutes, enough time so I can join the crowd and weigh in on everything that’s wrong with this show.”

I didn’t just watch for 10 minutes. Or 15. I watched for 72 minutes, and for every single one of those 72 minutes one thought was uppermost in my mind:

The BigMedia critics, my friends, and my colleagues are morons. totally missing the point.

This show is good. Good in ways that no television show has been good in 50 years.

Because it’s not a television, not really. At least,  not as we know television today, which is as mini-movies with, maybe, a little more point but much less imagery and imagination than the real thing.

THE NEWSROOM is television from the era of PLAYHOUSE 90. Live and wonderful – except, of course, for the live part.

But it’s shot as though it’s live. Acted as though it’s live. And, most importantly, it’s written as though it’s live.

THE NEWSROOM is NETWORK’s shining, eager, idealistic younger sister. And even though it was a movie, it also was shot, acted, and written like a play.

This show is the victory of words and intelligence and the need to demonstrate the very best that words and intelligence can create. No one talks. They sing. Gloriously and unrealistically, after the manner of live television masters like Rod Serling and Paddy Chayefsky. And Broadway geniuses like Clifford Odetts, Arthur Miller, and Tennessee Williams.

The characters in THE NEWSROOM all speak from their souls. They say the things that, in life, we all struggle to hide. They say them effortlessly with words that soar off the screen, the way the characters in great stageplays do. None of this movie-style, “I’ll say it with a look” crap.


In the early ’60s there was a war on for the hearts and minds of the television business as well as the audience. On one side we had Hollywood. On the other we had Broadway. What was it going to be? Pictures or words? Stars or actors? Speed of light car chases or speed of soul meaning?

Hollywood won.

But now Aaron Sorkin is here to fire one last salvo. Writing a series about the need for intelligence and heartfelt belief. And demonstrating everything his words advocate by giving us exactly that on the screen.

For that he and those who are backing THE NEWSROOM will have my eternal thanks. For bringing television back to life. For bringing my love for TV back to the forefront of my brain.

Hold on. Now that I think about it, THE NEWSROOM does remind me of one particular film after all.

To me, what I saw today was THE AVENGERS, with all the pulse-pounding heroic moments, one after another after another.

Illustrated not with action, but with language.

Time to flick on my 56″ plasma and watch it overwhelm even that perfect screen – again.

munchman: Things You Didn’t Know About Larry Brody

  1. The first producer to ask LB to pitch him is still in orbit.
  2. In 1976, a William Morris agent turned LB down. The agency is still waiting for all his body parts to turn up.
  3. LB won’t read your damn script because he’s already written it.
  4. God calls LB for notes. And LB’s plenty pissed off because He’s not implementing them.


Anil Sees BRAVE

Another mighty review from TVWriter™’s veteran Saskatoon correspondent, Anil Sthankiya.

Wait, did we say “veteran?” Producers, agents, no, don’t get the wrong idea, please. He’s young, he’s still young and vibrant and silly and immature and all that important stuff…oh, and he’s moved to L.A. Did we tell you he lives in L.A.?

Now, what we doing? Oh, right:

by Anil Sthankiya

After years of fellow animation studios producing technologically impressive but empty films, Pixar returns the favour, stealing their competition’s weak formula.