Friday, October 10, 2008

My opinion of Chuck

A few posts ago I listed shows I was interested in trying out this fall, one of which was "Chuck". After consulting schedules, I was unpleasantly surprised to find that it has the timeslot for Gossip Girl. I hate when this happens. I want to start watching Ugly Betty, but it conflicts with 30 Rock and The Office!

However, last Monday Gossip Girl was a rerun, so I was able to watch the season premier for Chuck. And was thoroughly underwhelmed. There wasn't particularly anything wrong with it, it just didn't have anything really special. It's kind of a hybrid between spy thriller and sitcom, but it lacks the excitement of a thriller and laughs of a sitcom. So you're left with spies talking about their feelings. Which is a little unappealing. I did think that the romance between Chuck and the spy lady was cute though. I'm not sure, if Gossip Girl has another rerun I might try it again, but I definitely was not hooked.

As for Gossip Girl, I really like how it's going so far! I feel like a fourteen-year-old when I watch it, but I still like it. I think that's one thing about writing a high school show. They always seem to be better when they appeal to both people in high school and out of high school. I know a lot of people my age who really like Gossip Girl, even though we're all out of our teens. I think it's something about the universality of it. When a high school show is just about who's dating who and what scandal's going on now then it's not broadly appealing. But when a show deals with those things, but also manages to handle the universal idea of coming of age then it becomes something everyone can enjoy.

I love the fall. Beautiful foliage and fresh tv!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Almost finished!

I'm almost done with my sitcom pilot I've been writing! I complained about it in the last post, but when I went back and read ever my script I realized it wasn't so bad. You always have to remember that when you're writing something. Writing is almost like getting dressed in the dark. You throw things together, and have absolutely no idea how they look together. Then you go out into the light, look into a mirror, and see how it really looks. So if you're writing, and thinking "Wow! This is the worst thing ever written!", just keep writing, because once you look back it may actually be really good. At the same time, if you're thinking you're writing the most wonderful thing ever written, be prepared for a shock when you go back and read what you wrote. It could be horrific.

Proofreading is always tough though. Because there's a precise amount of proofreading that needs to be done. Too little, and it will feel unfinished. Too much, and you'll lose everything that made it good. The corrections themselves are not the hard part. It's knowing when to stop making them.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Squeezing It In

I'm applying to screenwriting graduate schools right now, so the Monk spec is on hiatus while I work on pilot scripts. The graduate programs seem to have more of an emphasis on making original work instead of specs, so I figure I should have more pilots to send them. Not working on the Ragnarok pilot I talked about earlier. That one needs tons of research before I can start.

I've written pilots before, but oh, it's so hard! Writing specs for existing shows is so much easier. You have a whole universe of material already available to you. In pilots, it's all from scratch. The style, the characters, the format, and all of the background material. That's the hard part. A pilot needs to feel like you're being thrust into a world that has existed long before you got there. At the same time, you have to be able to understand what's going on. BUT, you don't want to understand absolutely everything, because there have to be a few little mysteries to keep the viewers wanting to see the next episode.

The trouble I'm having right now is giving enough explanation and exposition of the situation and characters without bogging down my entire script. And keeping it to half an hour. Getting across information by showing not telling is always more entertaining, but darn if telling isn't easier to do. It's so tempting to just take a couple of pages and go "This is Marie! This is her past! These are her motivations! Enjoy!" Of course that would make for a train wreck of a script, it'd be so deliciously easy. If only easy equaled good. Until then, it's work work work!

On the good side, I think if I spend enough time on this it could come out really well. That's another thing about pilots, is that you don't know where they're going. With a spec script, you know that in the end you want it to sound like how the actual show sounds, so you have some idea of what the final product will feel like. With a pilot you should have some kind of idea for how you want it to feel, but I think you also need to be flexible and let the project go where it wants to.

Well, back to writing! I'm almost done with the first draft, which is exciting! Wish me luck!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Saying goodbye (to a script)

It's hard to stop writing something. I'm having a hard time with my Monk spec, and I'm seriously considering calling it quits. Which sounds easy. But is surprisingly difficult. It's like that friend that you don't really like hanging out with anymore, but every time she calls you just can't help but say "sure! let's go to the movies! that sounds like fun!". I keep meaning to start working on the My Name is Earl spec, but every time I open final draft I just keep going back to Monk.

I think it's hard to be emotionally detached from something you've written. You put so much work into a project, that you don't want anything bad to happen to it. And you put so much of yourself into that it starts to resemble yourself. But when you create something, you constantly have to step back and re-evaluate what you're making. I think that's one of the hardest parts of writing, much harder than the writing itself. Anyone can just put good words down on paper, perfectly untalented people do it by accident all the time. It's much harder to look at what you've written and decide how to make it better. And sometimes, making it better means deleting the whole thing and moving on to another project.

In other news, I'm considering going to graduate school for screenwriting. Which means the next few months will be full of GRE practice tests and hunting down professors for recommendations. Also means I should try to write more scripts to show them. Here goes!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Fall TV Shows: What I'll Be Watching

I'm excited that we're finally getting new tv episodes again! It feels like ages! I was studying abroad last fall, and then I get back right in time for the strike.

Continuing shows I can't wait to return:
30 Rock: I cannot get enough of Tina Fey! And this show is so good. Writing is flawlessly catchy. Characters are hilarious. What more can you ask for?
Gossip Girl: I feel a little dirty for loving this show so much, then I remember that none of the actual actors are high school age. Then I feel a little better. A little. But this show is so well done. The plotlines are really interesting, I often find myself surprised. And the characters are all very well developed. Everyone's flawed, but everyone has some redeeming virtue.
The Office: Part of me wants to be done with this series after last season. I like that Jim and Pam are together now, but there's no conflict anymore. And one of my favorite things about The Office had always been the side characters. But they all got so mean! The "Did I Stutter?" episode turned Stanley from lovable old disillusioned guy to angry guy you don't wanna be around. But I have hope! It will get better. Everything will be liked it used to!

New Shows I Want to Try:
Fringe: I always wanted to get in to The X-Files, but never did. And this series is supposed to be inspired by that. It all seems very mysterious. I find myself intrigued.
Leverage: Hackers and con artists take down big business. Yes. I'm not a fan of big business, so this concept makes me happy. If I were a hacker, I would totally use my mad computer skillz to take down evil corporations! I intend to live vicariously through these characters.
Life on Mars: This is based on a British show of the same name which I have been meaning to get my grubby little mits on ever since I learned of its existence. So I'm really excited that there will be an American version now! Hopefully it will be just as good. Though I heard that they had some problems making it (recasting, reshooting, then even changing the showrunner), which is ominous. But...maybe...they're just trying to make it the best it can be? Right?

Shows From Last Seaon I Want to Try:
Chuck: It looks kinda cute. I was just kinda "eh" when it first came out, but the ads during the Olympics made it look really funny. So it either has good content or good marketing. Either way, it's worth an attempt.
Pushing Daisies: The whole "guy who talks to the dead to figure out who killed them" has been done before, but this show looks like it puts a cheery spin on it. And it seems really pretty, visually. It also apears to have a chick with a bejeweled eyepatch, which is just too ridiculous for me to pass up.
Mad Men: I saw part of a rerun the other night, and it seems kind of interesting. I love period pieces, even if the period isn't so long ago. Just seems really different, and the characters are interesting. The episode I saw had this kind of creepy assistant girl, who is either really shy and sweet or a serial killer. Intriguing!

I can't wait! Until then I'll be watching Project Runway. Go Leanne!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pilot Idea!

Some people get really private about their story ideas. Me? Not so much. Here's my newest pilot concept!

Basically, in World War II a group of war correspondents stumbles onto some strange events. It soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary war; it's Ragnarok, the Nordic concept of the end of the world.

I'm super excited about this idea. Can't start writing it yet though, because I need to do a ton of research first. Need to know the ins and outs of both World War II and Norse mythology. I have a decent understanding of both (5 on the AP European History test, what what), but I want to be an expert before I start on this thing. One of my professors once said "you can't fake the research" and I intend to take that to heart. It's really annoying when a show tries to do something historical and bungles the facts.

The reason I'm happiest about this concept is all the directions it can go, and all the themes it can tackle. World War II has so much material for this kind of story. Historically, Hitler made a lot of choices that made absolutely no military sense. Like at Dunkirk, he had the English army in the palm of his hand but instead of moving forward he decided to give them time to escape. In this story, decisions like that will be made to bring about Ragnarok.

Not sure if I'll keep it historically accurate or not. I'm really tempted to kill a major historical figure in the pilot (Churchill, FDR, Mussolini), just to let the audience know that this story can go anywhere. Because let's face it, if this story is historically accurate then Ragnarok doesn't happen and the world makes it to at least 2008. I want there to be the threat that the world could end in the 1940s.

There's still a lot of concept work to be done, but I think there's a lot of potential here.

Friday, August 22, 2008

First post

Everyone seems to have a blogspot now, so I'm jumping on the bandwagon like it's a trampoline! Not entirely sure how this is going to go, so let's try this out! This blog is going to be about my quest to become a television writer.

So the last spec script I finished was for 30 Rock. It was great. I loved it. Now I'm going into my next spec, one for Monk. And of course my expectations are for it to be as good or better than the 30 Rock one. So far's not. I mean I like it okay, but it's still really raw. There's the rational part of my brain saying "it's okay! You'll revise and then it'll be just as good!" I spent a lot of time revising the 30 Rock spec, so of course the Monk one isn't going to be as good right out of the door. But then there's the irrational part saying "waaaa! No good no good!"

And then I just procrastinate and watch Bravo reruns.

That's the problem with writing something really good. When I write something mediocre, or even bad, I can learn from my mistakes and improve. But when I write something awesome and can't find any serious problems in it, I don't really know where to go from there.

But I'm hopeful! And Project Runway isn't as good this season as it was last season, so Bravo is less distracting than it could be.

So I hope people keep reading this! Enjoy!