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Archive for the Category "Television"

Book Review: ‘Writing the TV Drama Series’ Feb 04

Writing For Television

Writing The TV Drama SeriesThey say film is a director’s medium, and television is a writer’s medium.

With quick turnaround times for episodes, high paying salaries, and creative control, I’d say that’s definitely true. And with more channels than ever thirsting for content of all types, there’s never been a better time to consider writing for T.V.

If you’re looking for a place to start, I’d like to recommend a great book:

Writing the TV Drama Series 3rd edition: How to Succeed as a Professional Writer in TV
by Pamela Douglas

The new third edition of her book, is a must-read for writers looking to break into (and excel at) television writing. It’s packed with incredibly valuable tips, tricks, insights and first-person accounts.

Not only does it explain fundamental concepts, like “How shows get on TV and the TV season,” it also goes in depth on such topics as:

  • How a classic script is crafted
  • Writing your own episode or pilot
  • Working on staff
  • How to break in
  • The future of TV

There’s even a section on Unscripted or Reality Television shows and the writing jobs available therein.

Each key section is anchored by first-person insights and lessons from industry veterans.

If you’re planning, or even thinking, of writing for television, this book is the place to start.

Modern Family as a Horror Movie [Video] Dec 26

Modern Family – Horror Movie Trailer

Alex Dunphy - Evil GeniusHere’s a little something to balance out all that holiday cheer. If you watch ABC’s hilarious Modern Family, you’ll know that Alex Dunphy is just a check box or two away from being an evil genius. So I decided to recut Modern Family as a horror movie.

In this extended trailer, all hell breaks loose at the Dunphy household over the Christmas holidays.

Funny? Horrifying? Both? Let me know what you think.

5 Reasons Why THE WIRE Was So Damn Good Dec 09

The Wire - Season 1The Wire, which aired on HBO between 2002 and 2008, is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest television dramas of all time.

Everyone knows it. No one disputes it. Yet, for whatever reason, I’d never taken the time to watch a single episode… Until recently, when I got sucked into its web of awesomeness.

I quickly blazed through season one, and am now working my way through season two. Having the benefit of seeing so many episodes back to back, I thought I’d take a crack at determining what sets the show apart.

5 Reasons Why The Wire Was So Damn Good

1. The Authenticity

The dialogue does not shy away from the vernacular of drug dealers or the cops. It’s so authentic that, early on, there were many scenes where I couldn’t even understand what the characters were talking about! The more episodes I watched, though, the less that happened.

It reminded me of an interview with Network director Sidney Lumet, where he spoke about how he was initially wary of all the obscure broadcast terms and lingo in that script. The great Paddy Chayefsky assured him that people may not understand what was being said, but it would make the scenes more believable. Boy was he right. And The Wire is no different in that regard.

Beyond that, every scene feels real. I watched an episode of Person of Interest last night. It’s a great show, but there was a scene in last night’s episode where a relaxed confidential informant (CI) happily accepts money from a detective in the middle of a crowded sidewalk in the area that he frequents. After watching The Wire, that just didn’t ring true.

2. Two Sides of a Coin

The Wire gives the “bad guys” as much screen time as the “good guys.” You get to know the drug dealers as people, who are often products of their environment, not simple thugs… how they got into the lifestyle; what keeps them there; what scares them; what they wish they could change; how different they are from one another.

In the show, as in  reality, there are good and bad people on both sides.

3. Cinematic Scope

There are some nice cinematic touches in The Wire. By that I mean things that are typically reserved for movies… In season one, lines said in the first episode are mirrored in the final episode to great effect. There’s one central, far-reaching case that spans an entire season…

But most significantly the characters change. Typically on a police procedural you get your stock characters that may have revelatory moments, but ultimately never truly change. In The Wire, there are multiple characters that go through major movie-worthy arcs, and surprises.  That lazy cop? Maybe he turns out to be an ace detective. That guilty felon who avoids prison because of an unreliable witness? Maybe he’s truly a man of conscious.

4. An Unseen World

Any time you can delve into a world, or aspect of a world, that audiences have never seen before, you’re on to something. We’ve seen cops, drug dealers, lawyers and politicians on shows before, but somehow The Wire pulls back the veil on aspects of police procedures and “the game” that have never been explored, or at least not so thoroughly.

Some of the most interesting battles in the show don’t take place on the street, they take place in offices at the upper echelon of law enforcement.

5. The Casting

I have never — I repeat — NEVER seen another show where as many actors exude such genuine menace. Stringer Bell? Omar? Lt. Daniels? Deputy Commissioner Rawls? Seriously, wow.

And every other actor in the show is terrific as well. There are some scenes where it doesn’t even matter what’s happening — you just enjoy watching because the actors (and their characters) are so captivating.

Unfortunately, it’s not something that you can expect when writing a script — only hope for.

If you haven’t seen The Wire yet, you can watch every episode on on HBO GO or Netflix. Check it out. It’s time well spent.

Oh, and if you leave me a comment, no spoilers please! Thanks!

Category: Television  | One Comment
The Walking Dead Discussion Nov 10

The Walking Dead post has legs

Coolest Walker

My vote for the coolest zombie ever featured on The Walking Dead.

There’s been some great discussion happening in the comments section of the post about my Walking Dead gripes. I can always count on my Scriptwrecked readers to provide intelligent insights, answers and counterpoint to my posts.

It’s nice to know that there are many others out there whose brains don’t check out just because they’re watching a show about zombies.

One comment in particular was so comprehensive and thought-provoking that I’ve decided to promote it to regular blog post.

Here is “Vector’s” (RRL’s) commentary on some of the logic/science issues that plague The Walking Dead, as he answers the questions I posed.

I have similar questions about the logic of the Walking Dead also. I suspect some of the contradictions are set up deliberately by the writers to cause exactly what we are doing: debating about the show. Now matter what the debate, it’s good “buzz”. Anything to keep peoples interest in a show when it’s over is good.

Okay, that opinion is debatable so I won’t go any further with it. It could be just crappy writing. (Or simply deliberately throwing out logic for cinematic effect or budget)

Here’s my 2 cents on your 3 questions.

I’ll answer them in reverse order as that way one will lead to another.

3. How do you become a walker?

I believe that isn’t the real question you meant to ask. We all know you become a walker from physical transition of the virus (it’s not airborne) it must be transmitted through saliva or blood. There are many real viruses that are spread the same way, each with different levels of how easy they can be spread. The basic rules are a small amount of either blood or saliva in your blood stream is instant infection (from a bite or contusion). Contamination through the mucous membranes (blood or saliva in the eyes or mouth) and possible contamination through blood or saliva on the skin is possible. The problem is that is has never been made perfectly clear yet in the “Walking Dead” world every possible way the zombie virus can be specifically transmitted.

Some viruses can be transmitted through a simple touch of dry skin on dry skin, (of course others are so sensitive that they can be transmitted through close proximity, (airborne viruses), or even by being carried on an inanimate inorganic object (getting a cold from touching an infected doorknob) Most viruses are actually transmitted these latter, easier ways but that would not make for good cinema, unless the point was to wipe out everyone except the immune as fast as possible and focus on the survivors living in the post apoc world (as opposed to focusing on “trying not to get the virus”). BBC’s “Survivors” is one that comes to mind that uses the more realistic way of airborne transmission to good effect. (everybody dies quickly except the immune and the extremely isolated in artificial environments.)

Becoming a Zombie always is transmitted through physical means. It would be stupid if it was airborne. That would take out the “bite” factor that is key to the Zombie genre’s success.

What I really think you were asking is “what’s with all the dead uneaten bodies?” That situation doesn’t make much sense to me either, especially if they were uninfected. I won’t even try to come up with an explanation for that right now, hopefully it will be explained in future episodes. If not I’ll come up with something to justify the crappy writing.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that zombie infection only happens with blood to blood transmission. Saliva and through the mucous membranes might not be enough. That’s the only way I can wrap my head around it. It seems ridiculous that they seem careless when smashing zombie heads when they are afraid of the blood even getting on their skin, but it seems they are realizing that skin contact doesn’t matter. I just wish they would make it more clear.

2. Are the Walkers Dead or Alive?

What is your definition of alive? Spiritual? Biological? One of the definitions of “Alive” is simply “animated”. It’s a relative question that brings in spiritual debate whether the Zombification is supernatural or scientific.

In The Walking Dead it’s made clear that the brain dies. All the synapses that make cognitive thinking and bodily functions shut down, resulting in clinical brain death. The body is dead.
Then the virus takes over the motor part of the brain and uses the body as a host. The body reanimates but is now a vehicle driven by the virus. It is alive, but not the same lifeform it once was. What makes something alive only means that a spiritual or mental or artificial force is moving a “body”. If my brain could be implanted in a car and I still had all my current thoughts, but the car was now my body, wouldn’t that make it “alive”. Is that any different than when I drive a car now? I essentially make the car “come to life”. Does “life” have to rely on biology?
It’s all relative to your spiritual believes really. Take Wall-E for instance. he’s just a robot, no biomechanics, but he’s alive.

One theory is that the zombie virus can only live in the body while it is still “alive” so it’s main purpose is to make the body find food. If the virus just sat in a dead unmoving body, after time the body would dry up and decompose and the virus would die having nothing left to live off of being primarily a parasite.

Another motivation of why the zombies want to eat you could be just for the sole purpose of spreading. Maybe eating for sustenance has nothing to do with the virus and it is just a primal instinct left over in the human brain, the main purpose being the “bite” to spread the virus. The left over primal instinct (remember dude’s wife continually returning to her house?) brings up another point. There is still something left of the “real person”. Is it just residual memories? Is the person’s soul still in the body? Are they trapped knowing what is happening, not able to control? can they control a little? Just that opens up volumes for debate.

That brings up the point of why they eat? Is it just to spread the virus or do they really need the sustenance? Does their digestive system work? but they don’t breath and their heart doesn’t pump, or does it? I think it all does. Depending on how intact the body is would determine how long the zombie would live. All it needs is the brain and nervous system to move. but without a digestive system and a working heart the body would shrivel up and dry up and decompose within weeks. This brings up a whole new world of zombie debate. How much of the bodies systems that sustain life are working, what systems does the virus depend on for longevity?

Look up time lapses of decaying body experiments, it happens faster than you would think. Ever seen a deer on the side of the road dead that the DNR or DoT neglects? It doesn’t last very long (even without scavengers). In reality (a very twisted reality where there actually were existing zombies) I believe the problem would readily fix itself. The zombies would decompose very quickly (within weeks). There would be no flesh for the nervous system to control (it would all fall off the skeleton or be too mushy to pull on the bones). Animated skeletons are not zombies. Although there is plausible scientific explanation for the zombie theory (look up zombie insects and parasites(real world), it’s quite interesting) I’m sure moving skeletons can only be explained by the supernatural.

3. What are the walkers attracted to?

In the walking dead definitely smell. Pluchar’s theory of sight and sound first and smell to confirm makes sense but the plain truth is that the writers of Walking Dead are not sticking to their rules. There are times when only smell attracts the zombies. Sounds always definitely does. But there are times when smell doesn’t. Maybe it depends on the “mood” of the zombie at a given time. That’s the only explanation i can come up with for the zombies blood thirst at one moment and their indifference to scent at another. (perhaps it depends on the level of decay of their sensory organs)

Smelling isn’t only dependent on the nose either. You have to think of how smelling works. Small particles of something float in the air and land on special nerves in your nose. Those nerves send a signal to your brain”hey guess what I found in the air”. Those nerves could be anywhere. You could smell with your bellybutton if you were wired right. Some animals/insects “smell” with antenna, some with their tongue some with their skin. It all depends where the “smelling” nerves are branched out to from the brain. It could be possible that the zombie virus (being a virus that directly manipulates the nervous system, hence the walking) could manipulate the way your body smells (detects particles of something in the air). A zombie may still smell with his nose, but if it rots off he may be smelling with his eyes or ears.

just opinions, what are your thoughts?


The Walking Dead Gripes Nov 07

Safe Slaughter

The Walking DeadMy first gripe with The Walking Dead is that it’s only on once a week. Damn, that show is addictive.

My second gripe is more of an actual gripe. You know how those zombies are highly contagious ‘n junk, right? For instance, in the last episode they were worried about shooting the zombie in the well and contaminating the water supply.

Well then why in the hell is everyone so cavalier about killing the zombies and letting their juices splatter all over their faces? I’m a bit of a germaphobe, but if I were in that world, I’d be the guy in the HazMat suit. Barring that, I’d at least have a gimp mask, or something!

In the season opener. The sexy blond lady stabs a walker with a screwdriver, while screaming at it, with blood spattering all over her open mouth. In the latest episode, the black dude smashes the poor water logged zombie without even thinking about the resulting splash.

There are many more such instances from both seasons. How hard would it be to have the characters at least pull a scarf up over their mouths before Al Caponing the walkers? What’s with all the unprotected slaughter?

Obey the rules of your own universe

When you’re crafting a story, it’s so important to obey the rules of your own universe.

Say you have enchanted stone warriors in your story who can crash through solid cement walls. Well then you can’t have those same warriors succumbing to a punch by Brendan Fraser in the next scene! It takes the believability down a notch.

So here are some things I’m genuinely confused with about The Walking Dead. If there are any super fans out there, perhaps you can enlighten me.

1. What are the walkers attracted to?

In the first season, the zombies could smell the humans. There was even one scene where the good guys had to smear themselves with zombie guts to disguise themselves.

Yet in this season, whole herds of zombies can pass by a bunch of sweaty humans hiding underneath cars. Hell, they even passed by the black dude who had a gaping wound in his arm. Couldn’t they smell the blood? Isn’t it like the scent of freshly cooked popcorn to them?

The Walking Dead
Quick, hide under a car!
In Season 2 it’s like a zombie forcefield.

2. Are the walkers alive or dead?

So I kinda liked the scientific explanation of the walkers at the end of season one. There’s some small primitive part of the brain that is still alive or some such. That avoids the supernatural angle.

But then that raises all kinds of questions. If a small part of the brain is alive, then doesn’t that mean the zombies are alive?

They eat food. We saw the contents of one of their stomachs. So does that mean their digestive system is still working? Maybe these zombies just need a better PR guy.

3. How do you become a walker?

In that big traffic jam they find themselves in this season, there are a bunch of dead bodies just lying around. What did they die of, starvation? Wouldn’t the zombies have feasted on them while they were still alive? And if they did feast on them, wouldn’t that have turned them into zombies?

And if the zombies feast on bodies until there’s almost nothing left, then how come most of the walkers are so intact?

I love The Walking Dead. These are smallish issues, but they do reduce my enjoyment of the show.

Anyone else have a problem with these things, or do I just need to access more of my zombie brain while watching?

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