Thursday, November 15, 2007

Brothers and Sisters

by Felicia Donovan

I rarely (and I do mean rarely) watch TV. It's not that I'm in anyway morally opposed to TV, I just don't have the time. If I watch an hour a day, that's about it. On weekends, I try to catch up on a few shows I've digitally recorded, but there's one show I never, ever miss.

It's Brothers and Sisters on ABC starring Sally Field and Calista Flockhart. I don't know what compelled me to start watching this show, but two episodes into the ongoing saga of the Walker clan and I was completely hooked. My fascination with the characters and storyline keeps me glued to the TV every weekend as I replay the previous week's show. And now here I am blogging about it.

What makes the show so intriguing? The characters are well-acted and the scripts are tremendous - a blend of drama and comedy that can only manifest itself in an extremely dysfunctional family with love at the core. My beloved show may now languish with no new episodes due to the writer's strike, but that's okay. I'll hang in there and not complain in support of the writers.

But in the meantime...I can't stop thinking up new plots in my head. What if Nora and Holly fell for the same man yet again? What if Nora had a cancer scare and needed to not be so strong for once? It goes on and on and I can't seem to shut it off.

I'm attributing this near-obsession to an overactive imagination. Trouble is, I've got the next book in THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY series to finish and somehow the characters on-screen are getting in the way of the characters in my head.

Am I the only one out there that has television episodes floating around in her head? Does anyone else rewrite episodes? Would I be cured by forcing myself to sit down in front of the screen for hours on end subjecting myself to the painful medicoracy known as prime time? Do my fellow authors even watch TV? If so, what shows are "must sees?" I remember reading one author's interview in which she declared that most of her inspiration for her books came from TV. Maybe I'd better watch more...


Nina Wright said...

Felicia, like you, I have very little time for television, so I pride myself on being selective. Recently I savored every single moment of Glenn Close's FX series DAMAGES. I also enjoyed WILL TRAVELER.

I try not to miss what I swear is the best-written and acted ensemble comedy on the air, TWO AND A HALF MEN (essentially, THE ODD COUPLE with a kid). John Cryer, Conchata Ferrell, and Holland Taylor make Charlie Sheen look good! It's a double joy watching young Angus T. Jones mature as an actor in that fine company.

Watching television, in moderation, is helpful to writers. Good TV can instruct us in dialogue, story arc and pacing. And Bad TV can induce sleep, or at least make us feel superior.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I totally agree with Nina that TV can help us with our craft. I often will watch a show and say to myself "Wow, that's great dialogue!" Of course, on the flip side, I sometimes say, "Who wrote that garbage?"

Recently I was at a luncheon featuring the lovely and talented Gayle Lynds. Gayle said that part of her "research" is watching TV and movies.

If I had the time, I'd be a TV junkie, but limit myself to an hour a night during the week and just a couple hours a day during the weekend. And thank goodness for On Demand... I can watch my favorite cable shows/movies on my schedule without having TIVO.

Must watches for me, in order of adoration:
Two and a Half Men (I'm with ya Nina!)
Cane (I'd watch Jimmy Smits sit in a room and clean his ears)
I also just finished watching the HBO series Five Days - fabulous!

And I love certain reality shows, although they don't contribute to my writing: Amazing Race, Survivor, Top Chef and Project Runway

But to return to Felicia's question: No, I don't rewrite episodes in my head.

Anonymous said...

I'm at the other extreme. If I allow myself, I can watch movies, esp. Lifetime TV movies and Hallmark movies, all weekend long. I tell myself I'm doing research for my writing. Yeah, right! LOL

I, too, like BROTHERS AND SISTERS. I didn't want to watch it. I seem to have a show every day of the week that I watch. But, I got hooked when GRAY'S ANATOMY used to be on Sunday nights. I didn't want to watch Gray's either, but it was after DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. :)

But back to B&S, I like the Walker clan. In some ways they remind me of my family - we get together and wait forever to get seated at restaurants because there's usually 9 of us and we all talk at once and if we tell one person something pretty soon the whole family knows!

Yes, ditto on Jimmy Smits! He's the reason I watch CANE, though sometimes I don't like the character he plays.

TV is a great distracter, but since I write I, too, truly enjoy a well-developed and well-written show.

Keith Raffel said...

Gee, Felicia, I was going to say that, yup, you were the only one, but I guess not! :-)

Mark Combes said...

Occasionally, while I'm writing, I find myself humming the Magnum PI theme. Does that count?

Candy Calvert said...

I'm a TV fan--selectively, because I think there's a lot to learn from "writing tight", a must for TV. Shows like Law and Order, Without a Trace, The Closer (I love Kyra Sedgewick's character)must accomplish the impossible in 1 hour (minus what--20 min or more in commercials, thank God for Tivo):
Continued development of main characters, introduction of new characters, a progression of plot that solves a mystery, for some (particulary Law and Order) the presentation of some evocative social question. And they do it almost completely by dialogue!
And then, I'm a huge fan of comedy--not so much the new ones, but old classics like: Seinfeld, "Moonlighting" with Cybil Sheperd and Bruce Willis. Perfect pacing, comebacks, parrying.
"Boston Legal," IMO (though over the top much of the time) has brilliant writers. As does the team responsible for "Psych."

And how about "House"--they've managed to make millions of viewers find a man who pops Vicodin and hurls appalling, insensitive insults, a hero.

It intrigues me. And it makes me all the more supportive of the TV writers' plight.

I've avoided Brothers and Sisters because I don't want to risk further addiction, thank you. ;-)

Felicia Donovan said...

Well don't I feel better for all the people who admit that TV is a great source for character development and tight plotting...

But Mark, I don't think humming the theme song to Magnum PI counts, not that I don't mind thinking about Tom Selleck, who actually makes a "guest" appearance in THE BLACK WIDOW AGENCY.

I have a feeling we'd all be sitting in front of the TV a lot more if we had the time.

Welcome, Lupe, and here's to big families that fill restaurants! We make quite a crowd as well.