Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 8: Awful Writers

This is a problem of most of the stories I have followed, regardless of the medium. But bad TV writers hold a special place on my list.

I got into certain programs because their debuts were brilliant and the characters had interesting personalities. However, with each season, some of the longer-running series have managed to lose me half way. The marks of bad writing include what I have complained about thus far in previous posts, poor character development, the overreliance on clichés or tropes, and poor romantic development. These often overlap.

Awful Writers Will Mishandle Characters

My disinterest in a show is mainly due to how the characters are treated. My biggest complaints aimed at fictional stories thus primarily revolve around character development. Awful writers want to put plot before characters. Unfortunately, any character that is controlled by the plot will soon lose his or her identity. That ruins a story for me. Also, some characters may take over a series that was based more on another character, one family, or even an ensemble.

This is an ongoing problem with General Hospital. They should just call this show “Everybody Loves Sonny,” because it revolves around the mob. Basically, this is like what happened to Naruto with the Uchiha (and the Ootsutsuki clan mess). So anyway, I started watching that show to see certain actors and now, I don’t care to watch it much anymore.

In the process of shifting focus in a show from one character or group of characters to another, the first person or group is neglected and the show has a different feel to it. Also, the plot may actually go in circles, as plot points are exhausted.

Writers need to find a way to use a reasonable number of characters at one time and give a reasonable focus to all regulars. For weekly shows, there only needs to be a few main characters and they should be given enough depth. When a character is developed well from the beginning, the story may seem to write itself at some junctures.

Awful Writers Will Rely Heavily on Tropes

The overuse of tropes might just be what annoys me most after poor character development. Some of these include:

Racial Stereotypes

Racial stereotypes may perhaps be the biggest issue here. We are often shown the closed off, smart Asian, affable Latino, and the serious, angry Black Guy. White characters are more often shown to have a range of emotions — and an interesting history.

Writers should do their best to stay away from these stereotypes. I recognize that is it hard to write for “minorities,” and that may be because society portrays them a certain way.

I think “Grey’s Anatomy” has done a great job with portraying men and women and characters from different ethnicities. Their personalities precede their race or gender. It also helps that medical dramas are often effective at introducing day players and pull the viewers in to care about characters who will only stay on the canvas for a short time. Shows like these focus more on the human condition than what separates us.

Good/Bad Cop Tropes

There is often a marked shift between what we see on some comedies (including cartoons), other fictional daytime programming, and what we see and nighttime dramas. The former will showcase corrupt, incompetent police officers. The latter will have human, passionate, and dedicated officers; and those who investigate them are often written in a negative light.

Given how I feel about real police officers and the abundance of news items about corrupt ones, I would like the see these characters portrayed in an overall positive light. Allowing the viewers to believe in justice, if only for an hour at a time, trumps convoluted plots to allow certain villains get away with murder.

Good Girl/Bad Boy Trope (and the reverse)

I really hate this trope. This is often paired with the tedious love triangle or quadrangle or tetrahedron. All the characters involved are worse for it.

Awful Writers Will Ruin Romance

I mean, if they’d already messed up in other areas, why would they be able to write good romance? Really, romance is one of the most difficult things to write, regardless of one’s expertise in real life. This involves character development and if one can’t get that right individually, they have no hope of balancing two or more personalities to develop this relationship dynamic.

For one thing, I really find it annoying when I am introduced to two nice characters who are attracted to each other. That’s because they often are kept from hooking up for no good reason. Either the girl hooks up with a conniving bastard or the boy hooks up with some scheming bitch. Or both could happen at once! Now, by the time the couple I wanted to see finally happens, my interest in it has waned considerably. These two characters would have changed entirely too much and I might be interested in another potential pairing [that might also get ruined anyway].

This is made worse when this all happens in that love triangle or tetrahedron I mentioned above. What I hate more than not seeing my preferred couple happen is for one character to be wishy-washy. Even worse is a head writer’s “need” to create a false sense of mystery. “Who will end up with whom? Stay tuned.” No. Just pick a fucking couple and stick with it until all the chemistry is gone at least.

Now, do writers think they are being original with some of these “twists” or that these tropes are “tried and true”? They would be wrong on both counts, because these types of angles are overused.

Next up, I will talk about product placement.


One thought on “Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 8: Awful Writers

  1. sarahbruso

    I second this. Bad writing has kept me from watching shows beyond the first episode. And, very recently, dull romance has made me stop watching a movie not even twenty minutes in. The formula for a boring flirt scene that’s supposed to show you how much “chemistry” the main couple has? Coy girl who smiles a lot and has lots of “clever” little quips + guy who THINKS he’s clever but clearly isn’t as “cool” as the girl and so obviously he becomes instantly smitten with how lowkey cool she is. (I may or may not be disappointed in The Ides of March.)


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