I was watching a TV show yesterday evening that will remain nameless, and one character said to another, while explaining her sense of remorse at just sending her son to school and to soccer training but otherwise being at work:
“In ten years I didn’t make a single practice. I can’t help ……. “
Sorry. The Inception trailer sound came blaring through my head and I lost focus. Who cares how that line progressed. It was already terrible. The battle was lost. It was a badly written scene.
I’m not a professional writer. Well, to clarify: I’m not a professional writer in entertainment. I don’t know what it takes to sit down and write a screenplay of any description. I’ve never tried. I will probably never try to do it. However, like you (I’m assuming this is a safe bet, dear reader), I’ve watched a lot of television. I’ve watched a lot of film. I don’t come out of a cinema or get up off my couch and immediately start rating the script. I’m willing to let a lot of things go if the film or television show does other things well. I am very forgiving. Most people are. I have limits though. I dislike laziness and I absolutely hate aggressive laziness.
I know I can’t be alone in this. When you’re sitting in a cinema or on your couch, and a character says something that is so predictable you have figured out the next minute or two of the conversation after the second or third syllable has been uttered, it’s a frustrating feeling. Avatar was FULL of this rubbish. What an awful film. Taking aside the whole “unobtainium” issue, the film was riddled with these attempts to make a cookie-cutter heart-warming hero’s journey tale that was so transparent that it wasn’t even remotely enjoyable. You’re reading a post by someone who idolizes the Rocky films. I’m no purist. Avatar was ridiculous, bordering on insulting. Scratch that, it WAS insulting. The film’s success can be explained by whatever terrifying phenomenon explains the success of Michael Bay’s Transformers films.
So, back to this TV show. “In ten years…” How can an intelligent person write this line of dialogue? How can someone who is paid to write produce this garbage? The line itself isn’t inherently bad. I’m sure the first time it was ever used, it was a great way of expressing remorse that would resonate with viewers. Letting time go by so fast. Loving your children but prioritizing work over time with them, out of a conviction this would lead to a better future for the family. It makes a character feel more human and allows the viewer to be sympathetic but still feel superior. I’m a better parent than this incredibly successful and implausibly attractive person! Making your viewer feel superior isn’t a bad thing.
However… you sit down to try and get this scene done. Let’s assume shooting begins the next day, or something. (Again, I have no idea how screenwriting works, as an actual job). Whatever. Your deadline is sitting on the windowsill looking over at you. You’re screwed. Goosed, to use the slang I grew up with. You’re in trouble. Let’s just go with the “In ten years…” line!
No! Don’t do that!!!! Don’t DO that! How do you write those words down and not feel physically sick? In ten years I didn’t attend a single recital, practice, kiddie klan meeting, whatever…. Come ON! You’re better than that! If you can READ, let alone write for a living, you’re better than that. I can’t understand it. Just sit down and think of another way the character would express their sense of frustration, or loss, or guilt over how their relationship with the child progressed. There’s nothing wrong with taking the first line that popped into your head, but you should at least think about whether or not that line is obvious, or clichéd beyond rational use, or just plain bad. Honestly, it turned me off the show completely.
My wife still likes it though, so there’ll be more viewings, and possibly more complaints on silly writing. Perhaps it’s just a tad ironic that I am complaining about bad writing in a blog that’s put together mostly with sticky tape and rant juice, but hey. That’s where we are kids. I reserve the right to complain about clearly obvious mistakes or laziness in writing. Or decisions that satisfy a writer’s inner neuroses but don’t make sense for the rest of us. Like all of the romance in this show. Or some of the side characters. Well. All of the side characters. I like the assistant States’ attorney though. He’s pretty good. Though the actor’s performance makes up for a lot.
Ok, ok. I may have to keep complaining about this show for a while.