I Formally Admit That I Miss TV Writers

Many years ago the media was atwitter about a strike of TV writers.  I remember joking that it’s like the neighbor’s dog formally announcing it will henceforth no longer crap on your doorstep without a cost of living increase.  Or maybe it’s like the tagger who spray painted your car demanding better work hours?  How could a strike actually work?  TV producers could presumably scrape up whatever trust funders they found lying on the floor of an average college English department, shake them out until they found a few that were at least literate, and keep taping.

After all, this was the media with a business model based more on Gilligan’s Island than Masterpiece Theater.  At the time of the “terrible strike” TV was already out of ideas.  My rabbit ears antennae reported that the entire industry was based on 68 iterations of cop and lawyer shows; all of which were terrible.  An already worn out Simpsons was the only hint that writers occasionally crafted a product instead of hammering keyboards; and that was a damn cartoon.

I found the whole thing amusing.  TV had been called “a vast wasteland” decades ago and it had steadily declined.  I was supposed to worry about “creative talent”?  How much worse could it get?

Well I was wrong.  It got worse.  Scripts slowly went from insipid to non-existent.  Who knew I’d look back on Home Improvement and marvel that it had actors, plots, and lines?  Who knew I’d someday watch repeats of guys catching shellfish?

The suck continues.   Without steady exposure the change is more disconcerting.  I’m shocked when I quarterly turn the thing on and see that it’s dived beneath the lowest bar I’d imagined.

This is a problem because I’ve been working extra hard lately.  When the work day has been a shit sandwich even a Curmudgeon might decide to fall into the warm sedative of television.  The problem… and this is key…  is that TV now so bad that I can no longer stomach it.  I had a beer and an hour to kill.  How could they fail so deplorably?  Taki’s Magazine summed up my experience in today’s quote of the day:

“I want to enjoy TV, but every time I open my mind, a TV executive in LA takes a dump in it.”

Indeed.  I have no problem with video as a media.  I just dislike being treated as less intellectually capable than… say… livestock.

Then the article delivers the kill shot:

“Remember in Idiocracy when Mike Judge predicts that Ow! My Balls! will be the top show in 500 years? Well, about 495 years early, the ‘nut mutilation guy’ has emerged as one of America’s Got Talent’s most popular guests.”

It can’t be!  Idiocracy was supposed to be in the future.  Many generations of stupid removed from the place where I live and work.  Howard Stern and Sharon Osborne clapping with joy watching a guy taking a ball peen hammer in the shorts?  NO!  This is NOT true because it can’t be.  I live on this planet… there’s nowhere else to go.

Ugh…  guys catching shellfish really was the “deep stuff” wasn’t it?

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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10 Responses to I Formally Admit That I Miss TV Writers

  1. cspschofield says:

    I stopped watching broadcast television about 25 years ago. It wasn’t a matter of esthetics; the trend of shows with long, season-long, story arcs was beginning and I simply didn’t have the energy. It didn’t help that the first such show that all my friends urged me to see (X-Files) made me giggle. Having read Robert Anton Wilson’s ILLUMINATUS (which assumes that all conspiracy theories are true, even mutually exclusive ones), I just can’t take the spooky world of the conspiracy nut seriously.

    Mind you, I think the move to long plots and extended character development was, in the abstract, a good one. From what I can tell, the results have been a lot of shows that are head and shoulders above the episodic shows I grew up with. But I just don’t have the time and energy to put into hours of video. I read. A lot. And very fast. I read THE LORD OF THE RINGS in a single night, the first time (I also felt like 180 lbs. of condemned veal the next day). Compared to that, the data input rate of video of infuriatingly slow. If a film or a TV show has outstanding writing and acting, then I can be interested. Such shows almost always show up on DVD, and I get them that way. I have dipped into a number of modern shows that way, but I still tend to accumulate more from the years of my youth.

    Now, my impression is that there is some pretty good writing going into TV these days. At least if you exclude surreality television, which I do. Game shows, interview shows, ‘events’, and so forth are awful. But they have always been awful. The actually WRITTEN shows seem to be, on average, better. I happen to think that this is largely because the episodic shows I grew up on made character development and anything but the most rudimentary plots impossible, rather than any great merit in modern writers, but hey. Better is better.

    I think that something I have been saying for a long time applies here; We remember the popular culture of years past so fondly because, mercifully, we don’t remember that much of it.

    • Sometimes I’ve dicovered a really good show (usually years after the fact) with excellent tone, dialogue, charatcters, etc… The pilot will rock and a half dozen following episodes will fill me with hope.

      Then the show takes a nosedive into crapville. I theorize that GOOD writers work HARD on the initial pitch and a few stories to get the beast off the ground. Then the pros are off to another project while the fledgling show is farmed out to hacks who bit shovel text into the gaping maw of “just do anything to fill time”. You can often feel the visceral gear change when it’s dumped on the market. As if the writers from episode X didn’t even bother to watch episode X-1.

  2. Suz says:

    I avoid it like it has rabies. I am susceptible to it’s numbing effects and I can actually feel my brain being lulled to sleep whenever I’m near it.

  3. Joel says:

    Seriously? Damaged balls have already made it to TV entertainment?

  4. MSgt B says:

    Where’s Joss Whedon when you need him?

  5. Max Damage says:

    Beware the nostalgia — I remember liking the cartoon Underdog as a kid. Also Land of the Lost. I’ve seen these things again as an adult, and cannot fathom why I tolerated them so. OK, Land of the Lost had a T-Rex. I probably thought it was cool, hence 30 minutes waiting for his appearance was considered a good time. After all, I was 4 and life would continue forever.

    After a couple of years without, She Who Must Be Obeyed convinced me to order satellite TV again. Once more I’ll be paying for stuff I do not wish to watch. Now is that marketing genius or what?

    I wish there were a way to turn up the intelligence on tv programming. There’s a knob on the TV labeled “brightness” but it doesn’t do what I thought it would…

    – Max

  6. Joe in PNG says:

    It seems to me that the better an American show is, the worse it it treated by it’s network. Firefly and Mystery Science Theater 3000 stand out.

  7. Will says:

    That script writers strike is what killed “Jericho”. That was an entertaining show, and it could have gone on for a few years. IIRC, they didn’t have any backlog of scripts or shows when the strike hit, so the hiatus took away their momentum. They just threw a show together to end the storyline, and that’s all she wrote, so to speak.

    After that, I wouldn’t cross the street to piss on a burning TV writer. Screw unions. By coincidence, just today I dragged my bedroom TV out, and it hits the curb soon. Not replacing it. Haven’t turned it on for years.

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