I love television shows. Before this past year, during which I’ve had more free time than I honestly know what to do with, I never watched much television during the actual season runs. I had tight schedules, lots of homework, part time jobs, etc. So I watched things on syndication during the summer, or on hulu (and now, thanks to a friend I can add Netflix to the list of things that enable my addiction), or I bought the dvd collections. In fact, a quick glance at my dvd shelves will tell you how much I love television (and that I’m a complete dvd whore). I have more tv show season box-sets than you could shake a stick at. A very very BIG stick.
I love television shows for a lot of reasons but the biggest reason is the same reason I love long book series: the opportunity to completely immerse yourself in a world/character’s life for a long period of time, and watch characters and situations develop, grow, fall apart, pick themselves up again, etc. I’m an in-for-the-long-haul kind of person, so I sometimes get very frustrated with shorter stand-alone novels (or short stories) and mini-series that get me just invested enough in the characters and then STOP. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of very good stand-alone novels and mini-series that I like and I don’t avoid them or anything, but I so often find myself wanting MORE. Hoping the mini-series will get picked up for a full series run. Hoping the author will write a sequel or two or three. It’s the way I am. So a television show with a decent running length makes me very very happy.
That, and of course, when the plots/characters are well done, tv shows are just plain FUN.
I will admit, however, that I don’t always watch a huge variety of shows. I mainly watch scifi/fantasy (shocker, I know) and crime shows. A few sitcoms here or there (though mainly older ones), and very little in the way of straight drama. Partly its just a matter of taste, and partly its because I don’t have enough time to watch EVERYTHING, so I have to stick with the ones I know I’ll be able to keep up with. (I do take recommendations from friends though).
Another thing I like about tv shows is that while I don’t know the first thing about writing specifically FOR television, the basic important story-telling elements remain the same no matter what medium you’re working in. The important things: character, plot structure, tension, dialogue, attention to detail, and so on, all remain the same. So I can learn and appreciate a lot about story telling in general while watching television.
As it so happens, July is the big month for kicking off new summer tv shows. There are a TON of premieres in July, including (but not limited to): Torchwood, Eureka, Warehouse 13, The Closer, Rizzoli & Isles, Alphas, Curb Your Enthusiasm, etc… And so it seems fitting that for the month of July I’m going to focus on talking about televisions shows.
Of course, I don’t know the first thing about writing specifically for television, though (like I said) the basics of storytelling remain the same. So, I’m not coming from a writer’s pov but from a viewer’s pov — from the pov of someone who enjoys a good story, complex characters, and snappy dialogue (and like’s to share that with others when possible). I am obviously restricted to the shows I actually watch regularly (so expect mainly scifi/fantasy and crime shows). This allows me to talk about something that I love, that is still at least tangentially connected to writing, and which is, I hope, of some interest to others (‘cause seriously, who doesn’t watch at least one or two tv shows regularly?).
So, what are you favorite tv show genres? What’s your favorite tv show of all time? Are you a big television-watcher or do you just have a few favorites you keep track of?
Check back on Friday for a discussion of dialogue in television and why it’s so damn important.