“I don’t watch television.”
I heard that recently from a writing colleague. While I understand it, and even admire it, I can’t share that view. For me, well-crafted television presents an excellent example of writing skills.
Right now, my can’t miss TV centers on three shows: The Big Bang Theory, Hell on Wheels, and Supernatural. As a writer, I love these shows because I think they’re excellent examples of character development and commitment to story lines.
Each series, for me, is a great example of character arc, conflict development, and the proper use of secondary characters.
On the Big Bang Theory, it would have been really easy just to focus on the girl next door trope, or the joke that Sheldon is difficult to get along with. And the show would’ve ended when Leonard got Penny or when Sheldon got too annoying. But we’ve seen all the characters change and grow throughout the seasons, adding great new characters and incredible, sometimes touching, story lines.
Hell on Wheels started as a revenge trope and, while it was great, it wouldn’t have lasted past the manhunt. Giving Cullen Bohannon something to care about – the railroad – has enriched his character arc. He’s gained and lost friends, a second family, and his freedom. He’s gone from an outlaw to the hardest working railroad tycoon in history.
Supernatural has tortured, hounded, and killed its main characters, Sam and Dean Winchester, for eleven seasons. It could have been a show about the monsters, but the creators made it a show about family – both the family you choose and the family you don’t. Each “secondary” character has a huge impact on the Winchesters and adds to the overall conflict.
Commitment to Story Lines
None of these shows have bought into the quick resolution of their main plots.
It took years for Penny to marry Leonard, not to mention Amy and Sheldon, and poor Raj can finally talk to women without being drunk. Howard and Bernadette were the quickest developing relationship on the show, and it still took several seasons. But all of the relationships are believable.
The Swede is still chasing Cullen Bohannon across The Great Plains on his own twisted mission of justice and revenge. The railroad is still a primary character, and used well. And Cullen’s “accidental” family wasn’t treated as an accident at all. Nothing is easily resolved.
The king of commitment, though, has to be Supernatural. The Winchesters have been looking for God since 2010 (at least). Six years later, they’re about to get their answer. And, thanks to excellent writing, I don’t feel like it’s the end of the series. I can’t wait to see what happens next season. (Although I am really, really worried about what’s going to happen to Cas.)
These series, for me, are great examples of good writing. While I don’t consciously model them, my own writing lets me look at them as more than just a way to waste two and a half hours a week.
What about you, what are your can’t miss shows?
Have a great weekend!