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5 Writing Decisions That Ruin TV Shows

By on March 10, 2017
The cast of Galaxy Quest | 
Photo Credit Dreamworks Pictures (1999)

The cast of Galaxy Quest | Photo Credit Dreamworks Pictures (1999)

We may live in an era of Peak TV but that doesn’t prevent us from being loyal to a small handful of weekly TV shows.

From sweeping genre fare such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, to procedural detective dramas stuffed with witty banter (Lucifer, Bones), to big juicy Thursday night offerings like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, and Spy thrillers like Taken, the Americans, and The Blacklist, there really is something on TV to cater to almost every taste, and settling in for the long haul with a new favorite has never been easier than it is right now.

When, as fans, we adopt a show, we make a tacit agreement with you, the show’s creators. (And yes, show creators, we are talking to you. please feel free to consider this an open letter.) We will agree to watch your show (and even sit through the adverts) for 20 + weeks. In return, we expect fascinating but relatable characters, high stakes, well written dialogue, and a juicy finale payoff for our investment.

Is that too much to ask? We don’t think so. Your pilot was successfully picked up to series after all. You may have even made it past that unpredictable first season. You’ve proven you’ve got what it takes to get your show on TV. You can totally keep doing this if you stick to the clever things that interested all of us at the outset.

While the delicate unspoken agreement between viewer and TV writer is one that is not easily upset (ask yourself how many substandard episodes of your favorite show you’ve sat through, knowing you’ll tune in again next week), there are some cardinal sins that just cannot be forgiven.

Below, we’ve listed the 5 common writing decisions that test the patience of even the most ardent fan, and prompt us to strike your show from our viewing list.

Celebrity Cameos

Is there anything worse than seeing a washed up recording artist you haven’t seen in ten years, a faded TV reality star, or retired sports personality appearing ‘as himself’ on your favorite TV show?

Inevitably, the excruciating cameo lasts about as long as it takes for you to register something is amiss. Who is that person awkwardly inserted into this scene? Wow, that’s some bad acting. Why are all the characters all just standing around smiling self-consciously? Way to suck all the dramatic tension from the episode. What the hell is actually going on here? How does this even serve the plot? Oh good, they’re gone. Now we can get back to the story — are all thoughts that will pass through your mind while suffering through the dreaded celebrity cameo.

In the words of our lord and savoir Ryan Reynolds, but why? I thought you knew me, Broadcast Networks. I thought you knew how I liked to be touched, but now I’m starting to think this whole relationship is a sham, and you don’t know me at all.

 

 

Forget being jolted out of that delicate suspension of disbelief; what’s far worse is the depressing thought that somewhere out there a middle-aged, out of touch TV exec has uttered the words “Book what’s-her-name. She’s popular with the young people of today!” and that’s why you’re looking at retired mixed martial artist [insert name here] on next week’s episode of [insert show here].

A meaningless celebrity cameo is like finding a surprise raisin in your chocolate chip cookie. If I wanted to eat raisins, I’d go eat raisins.

I’ve nothing against former sports personalities, used-to-be TV reality stars, or even raisins, but all TV is not the same. You can’t just throw Snoop Dogg and Nicole Ritchie and Snookie into the mix and expect us to roll with it. That’s not what we signed up for when we agreed to watch 20 episodes of your show this season in return for that promise we spoke about earlier.

 

Raisins

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