Writing On Spec

An award caliber procrastinator discovers a new and dangerous pursuit to keep him from actually writing another script. Why another Blog? I love to talk screenwriting. I love to talk story. I live in Richmond, VA. It's almost easier to get produced than find another screenwriter here. We are the anti-LA.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

It's all William Martell's fault

This guy writes a ton of scripts and does a ton of articles. Regardless of what you think of his advice, he's definately one of the most giving individuals when it comes to sharing knowledge that I think you'll find.

I don't think there's a screenwriting magazine he hasn't contributed to, frequents festivals, visits forums & blogs and, oh, he actually makes time to write scripts too. I believe he's had a fair amount of success. I'd say for someone with his success, he's being unbelievably kind to the rest of us by sharing what he's learned.

Anyhoo - he chirps up with an aritcle in the latest Script mag (that I spoke about last post) and it's got me wondering about characters.

So here we go - here's some of the shows I watch and their main characters:

1) Numbers - main characters are emotionally unavailable. Both too scared, for one reason or another, to commit to a relationship. Both obsessed with their work.

2) NCIS - main character is obsessed with work and an extreme hardass.

3) Medium - obsessed with work (that would be *dead people*).

4) Las Vegas - obsessed with work and hard ass (sneaky spy background as well)

5) Monk - Phobic beyond belief. Obsessed with cleanliness.

6) Still Standing - Both parents are callous and selfish. Obsessed with their own needs regardless of consequences to others.

7) Smallville - Obsessed with doing good and keeping his secret.

8) Rescue Me - Good god... what an asshole.

9) It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - Bunch of selfish pricks.

10) Criminal Minds - Waaay too obsessed with work.

11) Supernatural - Again...see a theme? Obsessed with their work (as it is) and unable to emotionally connect with anybody because of it.

12) New Adventures of Old Christine - Obsessed with what others think.

13) Saved - Gambler and chronic underachiever.

14) Seinfeld (for kicks) - Another bunch of assholes.

Ok, I could go on, but you get the idea. The point is, probably the majority of characters we see on television, and film, are not really "nice" people. Many are jerks and the like. They consistently find ways to disappoint those that care about them.

They are *not* real people. The supporting cast is often made up of more realistic people, but the main characters are defective in some concrete ways. They are not people I would like. Not people I'd hang around with. Not because I feel I'm better, but if you think about it, wouldn't you find yourself saying, "Oh my God! Can you just get beyond this?" I mean, really, Gibbs is made out to be a good guy, but it's a valid history that he's been married 4 times. Who the hell would want a man who is hardly ever home and cares more about work than their family?

The comedies are funny, Still Standing, Philadelphia & Seinfeld - but, good god, if these were real people, how sad. I've always heard that Rosanne was well received because the characters were more realistic and I finally see why now. Their humor came out of everyday situations, not the outlandish skits that are written in many of the other shows. Everybody Loves Raymond and Mad About You followed similar models. These were often people you knew or wanted to know, not people you laughed at - people you laughed with.

2 Comments:

Blogger Unknown Screenwriter said...

Not quite sure about the "gist" of this post but you are exactly correct. If we made the main characters of these films and television shows flawless characters with ONE NOBLE PHILOSOPHY that is never open to change, we would be bored to death.

It's their flaws that keep us wanting to see more of them. We wonder if they are ever going to learn anything and maybe... Just maybe... undergo an actual character arc.

This is why so many television shows get cancelled... The main character has gone as far as they can go without changing.

In the older days of television, it was the writers that finally gave the main character an arc that put the nails in the coffin of that show because the audience wasn't ready for that change.

Television show characters become like the people around us whether we like it or not... We get to know them... We kind of predict their reactions to things... We may or may not be right but we're interested in them and their lives...

It's when it all becomes redundant and we've seen it all before that these shows go downhill, FAST.

Which is why I'd rather write a screenplay for a movie...

Unk

Friday, July 21, 2006 at 12:21:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Dave said...

The gist of this post was a revelation to myself - how so many characters I see are not just flawed, but basically, the kind of people I really wouldn't like.

You've Got Mail, 50 First Dates, The Abyss, Alex & Emma, Almost Famous, etc. they all have characters with flaws, but they're, for lack of a better word, "good" people.

There are some shows, Mad About You was one for me, where I hated to see it end. I really felt like I knew them and felt for them in the last episode. However, by contrast, the final episode of Seinfeld, while a letdown in some respect, didn't hit home the same way. They deserved everything they got.

For me, it's the difference between laughing at someone and laughing with them. So many of today's characters are getting our sympathy instead of our empathy.

The character of Mitch in The Firm is a great character. He's flawed, but he's not unlikable. He has an arc - he grows as a person, but he's not an asshole.

I was something that I hadn't looked at very closely before.

Monday, July 24, 2006 at 12:34:00 AM EDT  

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