TV gets a bad rap. Parents say it will rot your brain, and Ray Bradbury depicts it as causing a nuclear holocaust. But I say it can improve your writing. Okay, not ALL TV improves you writing, but the good shows do. I have listed five shows that will get you that much closer to becoming the new J.D. Salinger (who probably also thought TV was "phony").
Freaks and Geeks
It is THE show on high school. It is not even a case of "arguably." My So-Called Life? Dawson's Creek? Beverly Hills 90210? NOPE! There hasn't been a show on television that can so accurately and honestly depict the pains and joys of wandering down a high school hallway. The parents aren't absentees, stupid, nor cool; they are simply normal adults doing the best they can to raise their kids to be good human beings and not accidentally wander into a plot line like Breaking Bad or Dexter. As for the kids, they are neither purely good or bad; they all are wonderfully complex humans who sometimes do the right thing and sometimes mess up. And no, with the exception of one really terrible episode about drugs, there are no after-school special cheesy lessons. The best part? The soundtrack is incredible, which inspires me to incorporate songs into my writing. Basically, if you want to write a good young adult novel, this should be your inspiration.
The best show on television. Hands down. I am not sure we can be friends if we disagree (ok, we can be friends, but we will agree not to discuss TV). The show has the best writing on television. Witty dialogue? Check. Awesome protagonists that love books and pop culture? Double check. Wonderful love triangles? Multiple checks. As if that were not enough, the town and the locals are amazing. If you want to learn how to create a place that feels real and is so wonderful that people want to book a plane ticket to go there, watch this show. I am still dying to run through Stars Hollow and play a trick on Kirk during one of the crazy local festivals.
How I Met Your Mother
What I really like about this show that I think all writers can learn from is that it keeps track of running jokes. No matter how many episodes ago an event happened, they can revive it in a later one with a successful comedic effect. What I really hate about this show that I think all writers can learn from is how to write a really terrible ending. SPOILER ALERT: Ted should never ever have ended up with Robin. She clearly belonged with Barney. The problem was that the show creators did not let the story develop organically and, instead, were slavishly married to the original ending.
Nobody captures how messed up my generation is quite like Lena Dunham. The characters are pretty twisted and spend a lot of time awkwardly naked, but I keep watching anyway. While the characters do make horrible mistakes and are often terrible people, I find myself rooting for them. It is probably because they are so honest and, in the spirit of that honesty, resonates with me on a certain level. I think we all feel pretty lost and confused in our early twenties, and the show captures that feeling perfectly. Want to write New Adult fiction? Definitely add this to your watch list.
I could be biased because I live in DC, but this show is a must watch for anyone who wants to write satire. The characters are deeply terrible (as is so often the case in satire--hello, Thackeray), but it kind of is what makes the show great. It has the most inventive insults, and it effectively lampoons the ridiculousness of DC politics. If you want good examples of biting or dark humor, check out this show. You may hate everyone, but you will be falling off the couch laughing. Once I pick myself up off the ground, I inevitably run to my computer to write a moment of tension or a battle of the wits between my characters.
Any shows that you think are well-written? Let me know in the comments!