Will Television Script Writing Ever Improve?

When Will Television Writers Stop Writing Around Commercial Breaks?

I was writing a review of a popular television show today and found myself saying the same thing as most all other television series on air in the past 10 years. 

No matter how good the series, it is unfortunate that it has to succumb to the “accounting style” of script writing that is prevalent in most all series on air. This style is very popular today as the writers are told to write each character into a die or disappear situation just before the end of each season — just before they begin the negotiations for the new season contracts. This allows the accountants to decide critical plot development based on the final negotiated actor’s salary as opposed to what is good for the show as a whole. This kills any continuity that shows could have, since they are always looking for actors who test well and get paid less to replace those who are integral to the storyline. Characters die off or get reduced to one-show-a-season as they fade into the background and only appear in flash backs or quick scenes. 

This new trend is yet another bullet in the chamber for the “art” of television script writing. The only thing worse is the 12 minute 4 Act format based around the commercial breaks. This mini-series of 12 minute episodes is like a roller coaster ride and is especially apparent when you watch some TV series on demand without the commercials. The break to commercial is so apparent that it can be annoying even without the commercial. 

Well there might be something even worse than that – and since I am on a rant… the test group syndrome – wherein a series will drop actors who don’t test well in front of test group audiences. This allows the whim of the test group to control who is in the cast and who is not. Several times a really great “bad” (as in evil) character is written and the actor plays the part so well that the test group hates the actor – before long the test groups get their way and the really great “evil character” is written out. 

Perhaps it is time for television to grow up and join the digital age – stop writing based on commercial breaks and accountant’s ledgers and create something people will want to watch. Let the bad guys be bad and stop trying to please a room full of strangers who may have never seen the show before. 

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