Friday, February 28, 2014

Defining "Better Television" (And Blanket Spoiler Alert!)

Reality shows, over-the-top comedies, on-the-nose dramas -- there's little subtlety in television today.

Well, except for shows like "Mad Men," "The Walking Dead," "Suits," "Downton Abbey," "Luther," "Game of Thrones," "Orphan Black," "The Americans..."

The list could go on -- possibly endlessly if one chose to include shows recently or long ago off the air, like "Friends," "X-Files," "Gilmore Girls," "All in the Family," "The Shield," "The Sopranos" etc.

That got me thinking -- what makes some television shows so much better than others? The hook? Dynamic characters? Interesting story lines? Yes. Yes. And Yes.

But it's so much more than that. 

It's the intricate layering of story beats. Scenes and shots woven together so well, you're not even aware when you witness important moments meant to prepare you for a big reveal until that reveal is happening. 

Subtlety. That's what the great shows have. It's subtlety that has viewers hitting replay minutes after they've finished their first viewing in search of the "easter eggs" that deepen an episode's meaning and perhaps even hint at story arcs to come.

It's also what's missing from bad shows and what's gotten lost when good shows go off the rails.

Actors, directors and editors all shoulder a major portion of the subtlety responsibility through their delivery and reactions, their orchestration of the action, their ability to refine the footage by assembling the best takes and important cutaways.

But there's only so much actors, directors and the rest of the crew can do if there's no subtlety to work with in the script.

So, great television truly begins in the writers' room.

As a writer myself, I can't help but to be intrigued by those subtleties. Whether a show is breathtakingly brilliant or a mind-numbing mess, I want to know why. When a so-so show manages to produce an excellent episode, I want to know why it worked. When a masterful show stumbles with an off episode, I want to know what went wrong.

But, since I don't have a direct line to the writers' rooms of all my favorite shows, I have no choice but to analyze the episodes myself. 

And that's what Subtle TV will do -- dissect episodes of all my favorite shows (the good, bad and ugly) just to see what makes them tick. 

If you're looking for straightforward recaps, this isn't the blog for you. If you're adamant about accurate spoiler alerts, move along, mister.

But, if you're a fellow writer or fan who loves to scrutinize the little details, welcome. I hope you enjoy my episode investigations. 

Will my analyses be right? You'll have to decide for yourself. But whether you agree or disagree with me, I'd like to know. After all...

I love a good debate.

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