Saturday, January 12, 2008

Writers' Strike and Viewers' Withdrawal

by Jo Robertson

Am I the only person who’s terribly upset that the WGA strike hasn’t been resolved? I love television. I adore television. I watch far more of it than any one person should ever admit to.

But I no longer apologize for it.

You see, all those shows are fodder for my imagination as a writer. So it’s a business expense, right?

Currently, I’m disgruntled that the networks don’t validate the work of writers because, after all, where would the shows be without the brilliance of an Aaron Sorkin or Joss Whedon?

So in support of the brilliant WRITERS of television shows, I’m listing five of my favorite shows, based on the writing alone. If I based the list on the characters or the acting, the list might be different.

1. West Wing: I know. It’s now defunct and seriously went downhill after the amazingly smexy Jimmy Smits joined the team, but come all, no one can write snappy dialogue and non-sentimental emotion like Aaron Sorkin.

2. Seinfeld: Ah, the scintillation of the show about nothing! Who would’ve thought the ordinary and quaint meanderings of a bunch of friends could be so witty? Of course, this was a show that was definitely an acquired taste, and some people never got on the bandwagon.

3. Friends: No better comedy ever! Flat out. We always wanted to know who Rachael would end up with. Now this was a show that knew how not to jump the shark!

4. Rome: I’m sorry, but do you know how hard it is to write an historical show that has the epic quality of the old Biblical movies of the fifties and sixties and yet appeals to the modern viewer? One word for this show: yummy!

5. Sex and the City: Okay, this is my dirty little secret and certainly not a show I’d ever let my own children watch, but it’s so outrageously funny that I had to put it on the list.

Okay, readers, your turn. What are your top five favorite TV shows? It’s okay if you go back to I LOVE LUCY or RAWHIDE or even THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW! Let’s hear from you.


Anna Campbell said...

Haha!!! He's mine, all mine!!!

jo robertson said...

Ahhahahahah! Congrats, Anna, although I must say I'm sad that the GR has flown yet again across the oceans!

Anna Campbell said...

Jo, I had to laugh. I either really didn't like the shows you listed or hadn't seen them (Rome and West Wing). Clearly if ever we went on holiday together, we'd be squabbling over who had the remote control!

OK, my favorite shows, and I'm going to sound SOOOO Dorky here.

Jeopardy - it's on pay TV and I just love it!

Blake's 7 - not sure if this got to the States. Brilliant Brit sci fi show that really took risks - killed a major character about three eps in, just for a start. Made the antihero more attractive than the hero. Everybody dies at the end. Yeah, I'd say that was pretty risky.

Law & Order (in all its manifestations) - think all these shows are superb examples of really tight writing. And the acting from the most minor characters up is exemplary.

Upstairs Downstairs - yeah, I'm showing my age but I was glued to the TV during this one. A social history of Britain from 1900 to the stock market crash told through the residents of one house. Brilliant!

The Antiques Roadshow - Ms. Wells agrees with me about this one. I drool when I watch it and I love seeing the people's reactions, good or bad, to the news.

Can I squeeze in just one more? The Dog Whisperer! Never thought it would be my thing but it's so interesting to a woman who writes alpha males!

Great post, Jo, even if we would fight over who watches what!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, he needed the exercise after Deb fed him all that great food! He's tired so I tucked him up in bed and sang him lullabies. OK, I hit him on the head with a hammer because he was making too much noise about wanting to go back to his American friends!

jo robertson said...

Anna, too funny! I was glad you mentioned Upstairs, Downstairs because the Brits have some of the most hilarious shows.

Actually, I have so many favorites that I couldn't list them all, so I just listed ones that came to my mind first. If you haven't checked out ROME, you should purchase the only two seasons available (it's off the air now). Anyone who loves historicals will love that one!

jo robertson said...

BTW, Anna, we could settle on JEOPARDY. I adore it, but was concentrating on the writers of shows. I think Alec Tribek does a good reading of those answers though LOL. I'm always trying to see if I'm smart enough to get the answers. Usually not!

I've never heard of Blakes 7, but I bet I'd like it. I like risk-taking shows.

p226 said...

Barney Miller
South Park

jo robertson said...

Oh, p226, how could I have forgotten NYPD Blue. I came late to that show, but finally managed to catch up, starting with David Caruso to Jimmy Smits, all the way to the end. Took me some getting used to with that jerky camera work, but you're right -- Great!

And MASH!! Loved it! And Barney Miller, wonder how many people remember that one? So clever.

Gotta pass on South Park. I don't have enough testosterone in my body, but my husband loves it. What, it's a male thing, right?

jo robertson said...

BTW, pp226, I love how you often do the Hemingway thing in your comments. Less is more. Brevity is the soul of wit and all that stuff.

Helen said...

Got me thinking Jo I don't watch a lot of TV now but have done over the years my favourites would be

All the Law and Orders
All the CSIs
Keeping Up Appearances (who doesn't love Mrs Bucket)
And can I add one more all of the Lucy shows

Congrats Anna on the GR I am sure he is enjoying the warmer weather again he is really tough this guy to be travelling as much as he does and to put up with all of our different lifestyles.

Have Fun

p226 said...

Less is more.

Sometimes, it really is. My writing style is kind of odd that way. I sometimes write long sentences which are possibly more suitable for a legal contract than a narrative, and then punctuate them with a short, concise summary or bit of imagery. Grammar fascists often tear my writing to pieces. But I've found that I tend to communicate more effectively by writing what I think, not what would make my fifth grade English teacher draw a smiley face on my paper. But I don't care much what she would think.

She hated me. With reason.

flchen1 said...

Congrats, Anna!

I don't currently watch too much TV, but it would be nice for them to be able to resolve the strike and get those new episodes flowing again :)

Hmm... top 5? I'm terrible at choosing my favorites of anything, but something like:
- Friends
- Mad About You
- Moonlighting
- House
- The Wonder Years

I'd probably have chosen different ones if it's what I watched most growing up though--that'd be more along the lines of The Brady Bunch, the original Star Trek, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and Chips... Now that's dorky ;)

Donna MacMeans said...

I'm rather enjoying the lack of good TV as I haven't had the time to watch it. Now I feel content that I'm not missing anything. *g*
I hate reality shows. I don't thing there's much true reality involved - except for American Idol. I never vote, but I do like to listen to the judges.

Okay, shows that actually involve scripted writing. I'm with P226 on MASH. That was a success even with the changing cast.

FRAISER- made me laugh and laugh
SEINFELD - I still marvel at the writing.
I'd add the original STAR TREK, Helen, but it would have to be placed in its era. I watch it now (it's on late at night) and it's so hokey with stilted dialogue. I never missed an episode, though, back in the ... late 60s was it?

Oh- one more - GILMORE GIRLS - Good writing on that show as well.

Donna MacMeans said...

Oops sorry Fichen1, I credited Helen with the Star Wars pick but it was you. I really shouldn't trust my memory at 2:30 AM *g*

Aunty Cindy said...

And the GR goes BACK DownUnder!

SHEESH! The Lair is busy tonight, must be because it's FRIDAY! :-) I'm just back from a "girls night" with 3 of my good friends. PAR-TAY!

The only 2 TV shows I currently watch with any regularity are Leno and Letterman, which overlap a little here in Sactown so depending on who is the guest, I watch more of one and less of the other.

I LOVED the first season of "Lost" but season 2 was BLECK! The writing went totally downhill, so I only kept watching for one reason: Sawyer. (very evil grin)

I liked the first season of "Grey's Anatomy" but by the second season, all that whining was getting on my nerves and this season FERGITABOUTIT!

JoMama got me addicted to "Rome" by loaning me the DVDs. But I've now watched them all so that's the end of THAT! WAH!

The only other thing I like to watch is "Globetrekker" on PBS, but they constantly change the days and times on our station so I never know when it will be on. :-(

off to watch the last bit of Leno

p226 said...

SHEESH! The Lair is busy tonight, must be because it's FRIDAY! :-) I'm just back from a "girls night" with 3 of my good friends. PAR-TAY!

I'm here because I'm still at work. Have been for the past 18 hours. No sign of being able to leave anytime soon either. It's looking like I'll get out of here about the 24 hour mark.


Christine Wells said...

Oh, Foanna, the GR returns to OZ. Huzzah with double knobs on!

Actually, Jo, the only time I watch TV now is when I'm feeding the baby, so it's pretty rare. Most of my faves aren't on any more.

My favourite shows are mostly English and one of the best IMO was Blackadder. To the Manor Born, Rumpole of the Bailey, Fawlty Towers and The Antiques Roadshow (of course!) I'm also a sucker for any Dickens, Austen or other BBC television series. Loved what I saw of Spooks, too.

American Shows: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Gilmore Girls (anyone who loves Jenny Crusie's writing should enjoy that show--lots of snappy dialogue and a wonderful daughter, mother, grandmother relationship) Seinfeld, which annoyed me intensely sometimes but the episode with the golf ball and the whale is a classic, Angel and (don't kill me) Ally McBeal. Not that I liked the whiny Ally but some of the secondary characters were fabulous.

Claudia Dain said...

I love watching TV, too. Glad it's okay now to come out of the closet!

South Park
All the Law and Orders

brownone said...

Congrats Anna on nabbing the GR Anna!

Okay, I'm a confessed TV Addict. They can show someone sleeping for hours and I'd probably sit and watch. :-) I'm also a reality TV show addict...American Idol, Survivor, Dancing with the Stars...and now Dance Wars!

Favorite shows are (in no particular order):

House - The character is so sexy and I don't know why. He's so obnoxious but I find it hot.

Grey's Anatomy - ducking while tomatoes are thrown. I KNOW, I'm sick of Meredith and McDreamy too, but for some reason it's like watching a train wreck! Heck, I'd probably watch the show if they just paused that scene where McSteamy comes out of the bathroom with the towel draped around his waist for 24 hours!

ER - I've just always loved that show. (Do I sense a pattern developing here? Medical dramas?)

I Love Lucy - Man that chick can make me laugh! I LOVED the one with Lucy and Ethel working at the chocolate place and they start stuffing thier faces. And a close second is when they go to Italy and she mashes the grapes!

Two and a Half Men. For those of you who have seen it..enough said! It is hilarious!

Gillian Layne said...

Yeah, he just wanted more of that Australian wine, Anna....:)

Jo- I love TV!!!!

Nero Wolfe
Robin Hood
Battlestar Galactica
Andy Griffith

and I could go on and on....

Kate Carlisle said...

Oh dear, I'm afraid I'm a reality show slut! I love American Idol and can barely breathe knowing it's starting up in just a week.

Love all the dance shows, but So You Think You Can Dance is my fave.

And I love the Discovery Health Channel. I know it's sick, but I can't get enough of plastic surgery shows and Big Medicine.

My favorite current show is Boston Legal. Absolutely fabulous writing and James Spader just gets better with age.

Love CSI and Law & Order in all its forms, but especially love CSI Miami. Not sure why, but the arrogant David Caruso works for me!

Two and a Half Men is probably the funniest show of TV right now.

My fave Golden Oldies are Man from UNCLE, Columbo, and Ed Sullivan.

Is that five?? LOL

Congrats to Anna on snaring the GR once again! And thanks, Jo, for a fun post!

Kirsten said...

I'm not much of a TV watcher myself. I've actually lobbied to get rid of ours, but the husband couldn't watch his sports then. ;-)

My aversion to TV isn't moral/ethical/pretentious/artistic. It's practical. Any time I spend watching TV is time I don't get to write. And as pleasurable as TV may be, I like writing more. So once the kids are in bed, dh settles down for a little tube and I pull out the laptop and sit in the next room and write.

When I did watch more, long ago Before Writing:

Survivor -- I obsessively loved the first few seasons, but it went way downhill when they started to split up the men and women and sex-ed it up. Yuck.

Ally McBeal! Christine, I wouldn't have thought about it but I loved that show! Hated Ally herself, but all the other characters were hilarious. John whatshisname, with the waddle, the nose whistle, etc. etc. Brilliant!

West Wing. Also an obsessive favorite for a few seasons.

Gilmore Girls. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Dukes of Hazard. I bring this up only because I loved it so much in my youth. Haven't seen it since then, but I remember counting the hours till it was on. Why? I have no idea. I think I just liked the car chases. I would put Knight Rider in the same category. Oh, and Beverley Hills 90210. There. I said it. And I'm not ashamed.

jo robertson said...

Helen, nothing more classic than the queen of comedy, Lucy!

But I haven't heard of Keeping Up Appearances. What's the 411 on that?

Oh, yeah, p226. The grand thing about leaving school is you can't totally break all those rules the English teachers said you had to wait until you're A WRITER to do!

Sounds like you do a kind of stream of consciousness.

jo robertson said...

Flchen1, I adored Mad about You, Helen Hunt at her best, I think.

And I always used clips of Wonder Years in my classes, so many life's lessons and stimuli for writing exercises. Shhh, don't tell the copyright Nazis!

Donna, I'm with you on reality shows. I HATE them! Now, Joanie, don't throw your dancing shoes at me!

jo robertson said...

AC, yeah, girl Rome is YUMMY in soooo many ways!

Claudia, yes! So much chemistry between Bones and Booth. Makes you wonder why some real-life partners make TERRIBLE chemistry on screen. I'm thinking Ben Affleck and J.Lo.

jo robertson said...

Brownone, will we have to do an intervention on you? LOL. My husband refuses to watch 2 1/2 Men any more, says it's too dirty. It is, but I confess it cracks me up! And who isn't sick of Meredith, but McDreamy has certainly come into his own. Remember all those geeky teens he did?

Christine, I confess my main impetus for nursing my babies was so I could sit down and watch TV without much guilt LOL. Can anyone say two years???? JK.

jo robertson said...

Kate, those Discovery medical shows absolutely freak me. I remember when I saw a heart one once and realized that's what they did to me when I had bypass! Yikes! If I'd known, I would've never gone under the knife. And liposuction. Just plain horrific!!!

Claudia, sounds like a lot of people are getting outted today. Come on, readers, you can't say you don't watch much TV and then list a whole bunch of stuff you watch! Mawahahahahah!

jo robertson said...

Kirsten, this is why I spend so much time on the treadmill, so I can watch my taped shows and feel I'm actually doing something good. Hey, it works for me. Also, I've learned really well which shows I can watch with half a mind, writing with the other half.

OTOH, it really helps that I DO have a wife. Shhhh, don't tell Boyd I said that; he already feels like he's growing breasts, poor baby!

jo robertson said...

Oh, Kate and Boston Legal, so clever and over the top. I loved the epi where Denny Crane fired a woman b/c she was fat, claiming that it was catching. I'm telling AC that -- we're both . . . uh, amazonian-type women. Is it catching??????

Kirsten, Gilmore Girls was one of my can't miss shows, but I did not like the way they ended the series!

Off to lunch with AC -- See I told you it was catching -- Mawahahahah. Back later!

Helen said...

Jo Keeping Up Appearances is an English comedy her name is Mrs Bucket but she pronounces it Bouquet she tries to be very high class English I am not very good at describing the show but I think it is one of the funniest shows that I have seen.
Donna although it wasn't me who mentioned Star Trek I always enjoyed the original but I am not into the newer ones although my husband loves all of them.

Have Fun

catslady said...

I'm a total addict and like a lot of the ones listed - I'm going to mention an oldie but goodie - The Twilight Zone (if I had to pick just one).

Christie Kelley said...

Some of my favorites:

Supernatural (really I just like watching Dean)
Ghost Hunters (because who doesn't want to see a ghost?)

Suzanne Welsh said...

Hmmm...I've loved TV forever...

Law & any form
CSI's...all of them, right now my favorite is NY because of the love interests going on.

St. Elsewhere...I don't watch too many medical shows, because I pick them apart

The Closer..LOVE Kiera Sedgewick

The Highlander TV series...Adrian Paul anyone?

A&E's Pride & Prejudice series...(by the way, on PBS this Saturday they're starting a series of Jane Austin works...begining with PURSUASION. If you're a JA fan and haven't seen or read this one, check it out!

Nancy said...

Anna wins! Congratulations, Ms. Campbell!

Favorite TV shows, huh, Jo? You picked a fun topic. In no particular order mine are:

The West Wing, also for the pacing, dialogue, and plots;

Digging for the Truth (Josh Bernstein version only) because it made picked up historical detail without being condescending about it, as well as including fascinating locations;

Heroes for having cool-o superpowers, an intricate plot, and intriguing characters. And speaking of the strike, I hate that this show's season got cut pretty much in half;

Stargate SG-1, which I much prefer to the Atlantis version because I relate more to the people and think they had better chemistry (writing plus acting, I guess);

Boston Legal for the writing, quirky characters, and great acting.

I also admit to watching Top Chef even though I'm not much of a cook, Workout even though I'm out of the habit (is that vicarous virtuousness kicking in? hmm), and Project Runway even though I don't like some of the people. We also watch a lot of news.

Donna, I also love original Star Trek, as well as Anna C.'s pick, Antiques Roadshow(British version peferred, partly for the locations), Flchen1's Mad About You, p226's M*A*S*H*, the multi-picked Frasier, and oldies The Man From U.N.C.L.E., (Hi, Kate--don't you think David McCallum has held up well?) Magnum P.I., Hill Street Blues, J.A.G. and the ever-obscure and thus short-lived Honey West. Not to mention a soft spot for the original Batman show.

Anna C., Blake's 7 made it here, but it was gone before most of us had a chance to discover it.

Yes, I probably do watch entirely too much television. *sigh*

jo robertson said...

Gillian, forgot to say I adore Moonlight. Hope it stays around for a second season. I'm in love with Mick St. John (is that his last name?). Anyway, don't know the actors, but I love the way he talks -- something about his voice!

Helen, Keeping Up Appearances sounds hilarious, wish we had it over here. And what's cool about Star Trek is I liked the second series with Patrick Stewart, only bald man I ever thought was gorgeous, did a mean Shylock on the stage.

Catslady, I was raised on the old Twilight Zone shows. Remember the one called "To Serve Mankind?" I think it was, about the aliens and the switch at the end with their book being a COOKBOOK? Dumb aliens, but I still liked it!

Christie, I'm a sucker for those teeny/young adult shows and I love both Sam and Dean on Supernatural. Their repartee is so clever.

jo robertson said...

Suz, thanks for the plug on JA; I'd forgotten about that marathon.

Anyone remember the Boston Public show by David Kelley? I know what you mean about medical shows, Suz, because I tore that one apart whenever they went over the top about the high school. Of course, DK is ALWAYS over the top!

Nancy, where DO you have the time to have all those favorites?? LOL. And I watch NCIS solely for David Callum and Mark Harmon, whom I've been in love with forever, mainly because he's still married (I think) to the Mork and Mindy woman.

Joan said...

Late as usual...I was AT St. Elsewhere...ALL DAY

The Triumverate of all GOOD TV I Love Lucy, Andy Griffith and Dick Van Dyke.

Golden Girls
The Cosby Show
Original Star Trek
and...Reno 911 (Sick, sick show but I LMAO)

And Rome....dear, Lord how could that NOT be one of my favorites...wish I had the DVD (sniff)

doglady said...

Just got in from the bakery. !@@!%#@ Okay, I feel better now. CONGRATS Anna C! The GR LURVES YOU! As well he should. Tim Tams and a he always gets more than a tipple when he visits you. I watch entirely too much telly. I am trying to limit myself so I can write more. (I hear you, Kirsten!) The only blessing/curse is that I live so far out in the boonies I only get basic channels - no cable, no satellite.

Favorite shows? Hmmm

Keeping Up Appearances is a riot!! And you can see it in the States. Here it comes on public television on Saturdays at 8:00 PM. I just finished watching it, in fact.

Another favorite Britcom is Are You Being Served? Also on public tv on Saturdays at 9:00 PM

Loved Black Adder and Fawlty Towers!

I LOVE Moonlight!!! I am keeping my fingers crossed that it gets another season.

CSI the Vegas version

Law and Order SVU

Reality TV - The Amazing Race

Criminal Minds

Any of the Court TV type programs when I have access to them.

Antiques Road Show - British version especially.

Any PBS series based on Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters or any other decent writer!

Laura J. said...

1. Pysch!!
2. M*A*S*H
3. Scrubs
4. The Bob Newhart Show (all versions/forms)
5. I Love Lucy! (until they moved to the country)

I also love: Keeping Up Appearances, Are You Being Served, Waiting For God, As Time Goes By, Fawlty Towers (John Cleese), and Monty Pyton's Flying Circus (those are my favorite British shows). There are a couple of other British comedies that I like, but can't remember the name of them. One is about a police station and has Rowan Atkinson.

jo robertson said...

Doglady and Laura J. where are you finding those scrumptious-sounding British shows in the states? On PBS? You've mentioned ones I've never heard of, but I love John Cleese, so I've gotta check that one out.

LOL, Joanie, trust you to connect the television titans to your Roman boys' triumvirate!

Gillian Layne said...

Am watching "Pearl Harbor" the movie on TV right now (sob), while re-writing a scene....and the writing's going maybe TV isn't the bane of a writer's existence.

Christine Wells said...

Kirsten, I could happily live without TV too, although I do like to get out a DVD now and again. I don't get to the movies much because any babysitting is used for writing time, or at a pinch, going out to dinner at a nice restaurant. Think DH could live without it if it weren't for sport. Darn sport!

Caren Crane said...

Late to the party, as ALWAYS these days:

1. The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.

2. Dead Like Me

3. The Black Adder

4. In Living Color

5. The Love Boat

I almost have to put Sex And the City on the list, but it had a few too many head-slap moments. *g*

Caren Crane said...

Christine and Kirsten, I no longer watch TV, but will try a series on DVD at a friend's recommendation. That's why I often start to watch after it's been cancelled! *g*

Also loved: Star Trek, the Next Generation; Frazier (hey, they were crazy Cranes!); and Cheers.

Angela said...

caren crane said: 1. The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.
I second that emotion! I loved that show, until they yanked it off the air..
But, my number one favorite tv show would be the soap opera, Days of our Lives.
#2 would be Psych
#3 House
#4 A game show, called Deal or no Deal
#5 Smallville