Food for thought



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  • Food for thought

    This is an excerpt from a rather compelling article in today's LA Times:

    John Ridley, a producer on the NBC series "Third Watch,"
    says that after working in TV, "I look at writing studio movies the way I look at shining shoes." He once found himself working on a film for which there were 12 people in a room, all giving him notes. "You get notes from the producers and the actors and the actors' fitness trainers," says Ridley, who wrote the original script for "Three Kings." "In TV, the writer is in charge, so you have a singularity of vision, which is why you can see hours and hours of great TV but maybe only two or three great films each year.",1419,L-LATimes-TV-X!ArticleDetail-45614,00.html

  • #2
    Wow, very interesting.


    • #3
      :lol :lol :lol :lol

      jeeeezus christ i haven't seen 3 good hours of TV in my entire life.



      • #4
        I think Mr. Ridley, believe it or not, is compensating. Aside from West Wing and Soprano and occasionally, Law and Order, drama on TV is not very well written.

        I've not seen Third Watch. How's that????


        • #5
          Think ER meets Law & Order.


          • #6
            I'm with travis, I can't remember three good hours of TV this year with the exception of Curb your Enthusiasm


            • #7
              there was this one show where some guy fell down into a plant. the stick holding up the plant went into his hip, through his body and out his neck.

              the show is called "OUCH" on TLC. very amusing.

              also, the news documentary on MSNBC called "black hawk down" was excellent.

              but as far as an original work of television... nothing that i can get with.


              • #8
                Oh, tv ain't all that bad...

                When I was in my "tv writing phase" I watched just about every episode of just about every "hour long episodic" on television, plus the Sopranos on HBO, for more than a season. I immersed myself in the medium (and the mindset to appreciate the medium, which is somewhat different from features)- in the characters, the storylines, the variations on similar themes, the different genres...

                My findings? The overall quality was actually pretty damned high (of course, it's all relative). Higher than I'd expected. However, I'm convinced, for this little experiment to work, you HAVE to watch as much as I did (or at least pick a couple of shows you may be interested in and watch EVERY episode of them for a season or, better, two). You can't judge a television show based on a couple of episodes. One of the positive attributes of a tv series is that the characters have room to grow, and storylines and character arcs unfold over weeks, months, seasons and even years, and thus the writers can take their time developing things, instead of trying to force a drastic character arc/development and a compelling storyline of "universal importance" into two hours*/**. You get to know the characters better. If the show's well written, there's a lot of emotional involvement on the audience's part...

                The downside is that there's a lot of repetitiveness, whether it's different shows "echoing" eachother's storylines, or a single show running out of new ideas and thus doing variations on what it's done before. Television is also more "dialogue driven", so that all of that discipline many feature writers develop for using visuals and actions to express character and develop storylines, rather than dialogue, must be "loosened up" to some degree (depending on the show). Plus you'll sometimes have a good deal of "expository dialogue", especially on hour longs with a semi-serial or true serial format (where storylines continue from week to week), where characters are rehashing things already shown/done/talked about, with the idea of enabling any of the audience that missed a couple of episodes to "catch up".

                I didn't watch sitcoms during my little experiment (other than the few I normally watch), so I can't really comment on them, other than to say that dialogue factors into that particular expression of the television medium even more than with hour long episodics.

                My favorite show on television right now is... gasp, gasp, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. The writing is generally anywhere from above par to spectacular on it.

                Just my $.02,


                * Please don't get me wrong here, features are my first and primary (and current) love.
                ** Then again, I've seen some wonderful storylines written for one episode (approx. 47 min sans commercials), where the discipline to hit just the right notes in that short of time was absolutely AMAZING. However, most of the characters are already well developed...


                • #9
                  Three Jokers

                  Ridley is bitter. David O Russell turned Ridley's hackneyed gulf war action flick(which was nothing more than a contemporary Kelly's Heroes), into a searing examination of America's involvement in the War and the abandonment of those who stood up to Sadam's regime.

                  So... I can't really take this comment to heart. Besides, good writers have always been able to juggle those "notes". Half of a writer's success in Hollywood is the ability to keep control of the project whilst giving the impression of submission.

                  I watched the first few episodes of Third Watch, and was not in the least bit impressed. It viewed like an awkward amalgamation of ER and Hill Street Blues. I guess the show could have improved by leaps and bounds since I gave up on it... but seeing as how the same "talent" is there, I doubt it.

                  The Moonlightings, and Twin Peaks, and Sopranos are few and far between. I'm not convinced that TV has a deluge of quality content in contrast to film's trickle.

                  If anything, there's a drought of quality in all mediums: TV, Film, Literature, Music, and the Internet.


                  • #10
                    I'm going to give Tony some support on this, so he doesn't feel totally alone against the pack. I watch a lot of TV, too, and I think that some of the writing is good. Of course, much of it is terrible. I cringe during certain sitcoms, because the writers put in some really weak, silly jokes that should be an embarrassment to anyone.


                    • #11
                      You Guys Know Where I Stand

                      I love TV. There's some darn good writing on tv these days. No one's mentioned Six Feet Under yet, the best darn show on tv right. I'm also a fan of the Sopranos, Sex And The City, and Buffy. Everybody Loves Raymond is another great show.

                      The great thing about tv is how quickly it can move from first draft to produced episode.



                      • #12
                        Re: You Guys Know Where I Stand

                        don't forget girlfriends.


                        • #13
                          Re: He's not bitter; he's right

                          Ridley's not bitter. Writers *do* have more creative control on TV. That's part of the reason excellent writers like Sorkin, Alan Ball, and David Chase are doing TV instead of features.

                          It may be an exaggeration to say you'll see hours and hours of great TV in a year and only a couple of great features -- but I'd put any year's best episodes of "West Wing" and "Sopranos" up agaist all but the very best two or three features of the year.


                          • #14
                            TV vs TV

                            TV is was and always will be TV -- a limited storytelling venue -- built around a season, dialogue and characters who in sitcoms aren't supposed to change and in dramas like NYPB Blue/ER go thru changes but essentially remain very very familiar. When most major characters really change on a successful show it's because it's their last season. Major Network TV can really only be compared to Major Network TV because of its precepts, it's bottom line and in the end the general public watches. I don't know why IMHO most of it is canned crap. But Seinfeld, the Simpsons from 1992 thru 1996 (PS does anyone know what happened to the idea of irony in the Simpsons episodes as of the past three years? -- I'll try that post on the proper board) NewsRadio -- I've laughed more while watching episodes of those shows than while watching a number of comedies made for the big screen.

                            Does it offer more creative freedom than working in the movies? I don't think I'll ever know. Both mediums need fresh ideas, both mediums tend to take the fresh ideas and make them into formulas.

                            IMO we should be most thankful that most of Major Network TV is bad. Viewers turn to cable, to PPV, and eventually go to the movies.

                            But TV vs movies is not really fair. Might as well compare Michael Bay vs. Terence Malick. After all both made movies about World War II.


                            • #15
                              THE WEST WING
                              THE SOPRANOS
                              LAW & ORDER
                              N.Y.P.D. BLUE
                              THE SIMPSONS
                              MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE
                              THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW
                              THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW
                              THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW
                              THE X-FILES
                              THE TWILIGHT ZONE
                              HOMOCIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET
                              BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER

                              Is every episode of these brilliant? No. But most of them are better than a lot of the crap in movie theatres in the last year.