Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Problems with Television Shows

My husband (T) my older daughter (M-age 11) and I are always looking for TV shows to watch together. It's really difficult to find anything that pleases all three of us. Not too scary or too "adult" for the 11 year old, not too dull or hackneyed for the adults. T and I are not easy to please with television. We have little patience for cliche or poor writing. We are a pretty critical audience.

So, we've been watching Castle for the past couple of seasons. The violence and sex are within M's comfort zone. It has Nathan Fillion, an actor we all enjoy (Dr. Horrible, Firefly). It has been clever, but not over my M's head. When it has fallen into predictable patterns (like when the killer several times in a row was the person you met early in the story but thought wasn't important), it righted itself quickly.

We just watched the first episode of season 3 last night. My husband and I, and to a lesser degree, our daughter, had been really disappointed with the ending to season two. For my husband and me, the issue was all the cliches. The show had successfully avoided falling into a lot of traps, but suddenly in the end of season two, we had a main character turn out to be a traitor and one character's personal tragedy morph into a major conspiracy. We thought "Oh, no. There's been a focus group." The disappointment continued into the start of season three. M felt cheated by the love plot line. A lot was promised, then it was snatched away at the last minute.

As we talked about it afterward (the best part of watching TV--talking about it afterward!), I wondered if maybe the problem is with the medium. The writers need to build a long arc tension in the romance department, but ratchet it up enough episode by episode to keep us involved. That push and pull of when to get the male and female lead together (if at all) has been the bane of many a TV show. Shows have just fallen apart when the leads get together. No one seems to be able to write through that transition from "should we?" to "we shall" and beyond.

So, I think it's about pacing. In a movie, or a novel, the writer knows how long she or he has to play with. In a TV series, the writers don't know if the show will run half a season or twelve seasons, so if they let the couple get too close too quickly, they have to keep pulling it back and if they don't go quickly enough, they might not get there at all. They have to create new roadblocks and believable complications, sometimes in the space of just an episode or two, when the build-up took an entire season.

Sometimes, it's smooth. At the end of season one, Kate almost told Castle how she felt, only to find him on the arm of his ex. Opportunity lost. Poor timing. That played well for me.

Season two into season three, however, we had her nearly die. He confesses his love when he thinks he's going to lose her (cliche!) and she pretends not to remember it and doesn't talk to him for three months. In face, she behaves so badly, that all of thought that Castle should dump her. Kate was crossing that line from "I've got history" into "scary damaged goods." Castle is too good a guy for that.

So, Castle, you've got two more episodes to win us back. Or we'll move to other shows. We're worried you might be damaged goods.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Let's try this again

I like the idea of a blog. As someone who aspires to be a novelist, I should be writing all the time. In a way, I am. But the kind of writing I do in my teaching (lesson plans, explanations, classroom website, etc.) doesn't touch the same parts of my brain as my creative writing.

I like that part of my brain. I'd like to be in contact with it more often. It's a nice place, where unexpected connections pop up and fill me with a glow of epiphany. Like when I realized that Kirk and Sherry (protagonists in my novel--working title: His Other Mother) were dealing with many of the same issues that ended my first marriage. I had no idea, until I read a scene aloud to a group of writings I was spending a weekend with and was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness for Kirk and Sherry, the kind of sadness that is more personal than fictional. See, I don't need therapy--just some writing time!

Obviously, I have not, thus far, written much here. I'm hoping to change that. It's nearly Rosh Hashanah. A new school year has begun. This is the time of year that I feel the urge for new resolutions and self-improvement. So, here's the goal this year: write once a week. Here. About anything.

It's not like I've lacked ideas. I just haven't blocked out the time to do anything with them. I have always believed that the key to success in any endeavor is time invested: practice. So, if I want to get more out of my novel-writing time (a few hours every couple of weeks, assuming everyone in the house is healthy), I need to exercise that "creative writing" part of my brain, keep it strong and functioning.

I like me better when I've been writing. I bet other people do too.

So, let's try this again.