Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tell me what you don't like about yourself

There hasn't been one episode of fifth season Nip/Tuck I haven't wanted to blog after, but I've refrained as I only know writers who are watching it.

There's a really good reason for this.

I often get asked if I can still enjoy film and tv now that I know storytelling structure too well...I've seen behind Oz's curtain...

And often, the answer is no. Not because I can't be swept away still, but because what I see the most often is LAZY WRITING.

Lazy. Writing.

Boring. Trope-filled. Hackneyed. Cloying. Third draft. Obvious. Predictable. Cliche-filled choices. Agenda-pushing. Not-aware/responsible-for-writer's-own-prejudices. Lazy. Writing.

Look. A good film script takes a minimum of a year to write. A "good" one. Because it takes THAT many drafts to fix the above issues. Pistoleras is a great, award-winning script. That I spent two years and 16 drafts and two live readings on.

Writing is rewriting. Not regurgitation, not therapy, not picking the easy way out. And throw in a deep, abiding curiousity for the philosophical whys of human nature. There's a small number of people who have these skills and interests, and a large number of people calling themselves screenwriters.

It's particularly hard to find great TV writing because of the time crunch involved in creating TV. But in the last decade with the advent of auteur-led shows with less episodes... you know my feelings about some of the greatest works of art showing up on cable. FX in particular has championed audacious, balls to the wall artists.



Poor, misunderstood, red-headed step child Nip/Tuck.

I get that you don't get it. That you think it's too much. Trashy. Just trying to be shocking for shock's sake. Crude. Focused on superficialty. They've even joked about it in their series tagline: The deeply superficial series returns.


It's not true. That's an embarrassingly supereficial reading of what's at play here.

The level of craft that goes into this show astounds me every week. The interest and compassion in unlikeable human behavior. And what they've built into their mythology...

I firmly believe it's a show by writers for writers, and I am grateful for it.

Doubtful that Dirt and The Riches and Breaking Bad would exist without our McNamara/Troy antiheroes charging the way.

I have never seen an episode where showrunner Ryan Murphy and particularly writer/producer Jennifer Salt didn't take a plotline to the negation of the negation. I won't bore you explaining that Robert McKee technique here, but trust me, almost no one is brave and skilled enough to do it. And they have done it every episode for five edgy seasons.

Five seasons of surprising me in every episode. I always guffaw. I always drop my jaw in horror. Nod my head. Even the "bad" episodes. Smile at a universal truth about humans. Reversal after reversal, never the easy uneducated choice. Brilliant.

So here's the deal.

I don't care that you don't know the characters or their intricate backstories. If you have even a cursory interest in storytelling, watch this week's episode. It's the season finale called "Candy Richards", named for the great guest star character Jennifer Coolidge plays. Oh yeah. Watch it for the astonishing world-class acting, directing and editing, too.

It's an astounding work of art. Go bask in it, on whatever level you can find enjoyment. Please? For me? Because I love it and you so?

"Engrossing and utterly fearless..." - USA Today

Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. Won best series Golden Globe in 2005.
WGA nomination 2006 for Jennifer Salt for episode "Rhea Reynolds".

"Big -- reveling in the excessive and grandiose...It's the most watched scripted show in basic cable of all time." - Variety


legallyblonde said...

Still think of Troy as the half demon half human DA from the Charmed series.

Kid Sis said...

Ha ha ha ha...And I still think of him from Profiler!!!