You Too Can Write a Full Season of Your TV Series Using Time-Tested Tropes

One of our favorite sites is that of The Bitter Script Reader on blogspot. Dood describes himself as “a Hollywood script reader tired of seeing screenwriters make the same mistakes, saving the world from bad writing one screenplay at a time.

Last Fall, however, he wrote one of his best posts ever, and it applies to a whole season’s worth of TV. Time now for all new, soon-to-be-hot writers to settle back in big, padded, overpriced but amazingly comfortable gaming chairs and read the wisdom:

by The Bitter Script Reader

A new fall season is upon us, and with it comes many new (and returning shows) that have to fill 22-24 episodes. It’s a heavy chore and you can’t help but notice that there are plenty of familiar tropes that shows rest on while finding their way. Plenty of these also bubble to the surface as the staff’s energy might be spent enough for them to need an easy week to recharge.

As a public service not just to the viewer, but to those beleaguered writing staffs, I’ve complied a list of some of the most common ways these trope can be deployed throughout the first season. I came up with nineteen, so long as the show’s a genre show that can take advantage of all of them. (In other words, some of these won’t work on NCIS.)

With everything below, you could write almost an entire season of TV. I just don’t promise it would be a GOOD season. And without further ado, an episode guide composed entirely of these tropes:

1. Pilot – You’re in luck! This one’s already done if you’re a first season show! For later season shows, this is basically a reset ep. Standard case of the week, dressed up with explanations for character arrivals/departures, hairstyle changes, new sets, and foreshadowing the big plots of the season.

2. Do the Pilot Again – On a first year show, you’re gonna be repeating the pilot dynamics for the first few eps, only with less money. If you have ANY kind of procedural element to your series, this is gonna be a case-of-the-week thing.

3. The Naked Time riff -This is mostly a convention of genre TV. The entire cast gets hit with a drug or a spell that removes inhibitions. I’ve named this one for a classic episode of Star Trek, which used this concept to get at the core of several characters. Most uses since then have been about getting the characters to act drunk and horny with each other. (TNG‘s “The Naked Now,” Lois & Clark’s “Pheromone, My Lovely,” Buffy’s “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.”) So pick your poison – hint at buried depths to your characters, or get them mostly naked and send them to bone town.

4. Shady Character Loyalty Tested by Crooked Friend from the Past – You don’t have a character with a shady, possibly illegal past? Get one! Every show needs at least one morally ambiguous player. This is the ep where you hit and their past sins while they get a chance to affirm to the team that they’re on the side of angels now…

Read it all at The Bitter Script Reader