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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)

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.

Crossover Episodes

Crossover episodes are a little like my aunt Maureen’s 3 bean salad in that they’re things that are often thrust upon you without your consent.

With very few notable exceptions (the CW’s Arrow, Flash, and Supergirl), crossovers rarely live up to their promise. They don’t elevate what’s great about either show, nor do they expand either universe in any meaningful way.  Instead, they serve as lame promotional stunts, cynically designed to bolster one another’s ratings, or to force fans to watch a block of unrelated shows (we’re looking at you, Bones and Sleepy Hollow).

Asking a viewer to agree to watch your show once a week for 20 weeks is a big ask, especially in this current landscape of Peak TV where there are literally hundreds of shows vying for our attention. Inviting us to also tune in to a completely different show just to learn what the hell is going on in next week’s episode is expecting a lot from the average jaded viewer.


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