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The Best Writers In Hollywood

Tags: movie writer
There are so many writers for everything we watch nowadays that it's pretty easy to categorize their abilities based on which type of visual entertainment they write for. Now given, a lot of how good or bad a show or Movie might be isn't based purely on the writing. Acting 'plays a major role' in it (pun very much intended). Aside from acting, production value, budget and setting also make these much better or worse than other ones. I see 'production value' and 'budget' as two different entities, because you can produce a lot of value out of a small budget with a good amount of creativity; money doesn't always buy you a blockbusting hit (i.e. The Matrix Revolutions: the third of the Matrix trilogy had an estimated $110 Million budget...the plot was mediocre at best, the CGI could have re-blinded a blind man, and any movie that portrays Keanu Reeves as Jesus is a shameful waste of film).

Really? I can hardly buy into him as a surfing cop. Messiah, he is not.

My roommate and I were discussing our favorite shows, and it became blatantly obvious that most of them were of a certain variety. Before I divulge which ones made our list, I'll split up the different scripted types as much as I feel it needs to be. Here's the breakdown:

  • Half-hour sitcoms
  • Reality shows (go ahead and act like that shit isn't at least half scripted)
  • Hour-long drama/action series
  • Documentaries
  • Full-length motion pictures (movies, for the slow people)
  • Premium-channel series
There are sports shows, kids shows, cartoons (which I've already posted about...they're garbage), cooking shows and an abundance of other random stuff that doesn't necessarily fit into my brief list, but you get the point (...I hope). I'll try and sum up a few of these together because they somewhat go hand-in-hand.

The majority of half-hour sitcoms and reality shows are mindless drivel. Sitcoms (short for 'situational comedies', in the most literal of meanings no less) are all the same. They may have different themes, settings, actors and writers, but in the end, they are interchangeable and unoriginal. Why is that the case? For starters, jokes used in these shows are only original if they are based on extremely current events. Most of these shows repeat after each other, even in subtle ways that you might not notice (i.e. 'Family Guy' and 'How I Met Your Mother' - amidst average dialogue, random segways to some moment in the past of little to no relevance to what's happening at the time). Both of these shows have their moments of hilarity, but in the end they're really feeding off of similar material. As for reality shows, they might be funnier than sitcoms, yet they usually don't intend to me. Even if they do, you're hardly laughing with the overprivileged jackasses on them. I can understand your skepticism, but hear me out. Think about how rigid a format these shows stick to. There is a pattern that develops, and it's done for one reason: to keep you in suspense. They strategize their commercial breaks, the moments they drop a big surprise on you, and even the way the people act/what they say so they keep you hooked for the next episode's arrival. Most of these reality shows wouldn't be worth watching if they were told to live their everyday lives. Remember the movie 'EDtv' with Matthew McConeaughey? The film crew followed his ass around throughout the most mundane of daily tasks, and the show didn't become a hit until he started acting out. That film was a genius representation of how it is, except the shows you watch have more influence from actual script writers. They know what will draw in viewers, so they will milk it as much as possible. These are the lowest of the low on our list.

Matty and Woody...such a good movie.

Hour-long series on standard channels (such as any type of 'Law & Order', forensics-geared 'CSI' type shows, or something like '24' or 'Lost') have a little more to offer. Not much, but they are slightly better. A lot of these shows follow a pretty standard pattern as well, but it takes a whole lot more creativity to keep you interested for a full hour when you know there's a pretty telegraphed flow of what happens in each episode. They have to throw in a few more twists and socially relevant references for it to keep your attention. They have the ability to be a little edgier and perhaps controversial, but they still need to censor themselves for the sake of FCC standards. That means they have to emphasize emotions without cursing or any other form of explicit material. It doesn't always improve the show, but you could argue that some shows would be better with a few f-bombs laced in them. Then there are documentaries, which are arguably the best-written shows on television because of how detailed and well-researched they are required to be, but they also need to be censored to an extent, and they provide entertainment to only a particular group of people per subject. I likely won't watch any documentary about how cheese is made or the evolution of women's purses because I don't really care to know about the production of either, at least enough to sit through an hour of dissecting them. That's not to say that they wouldn't be well-written at all, I just wouldn't have any interest. If you talk about some military bombing planes, looking into the mind of a serial killer, or mob/organized crime-related documentaries, chances are I'd be able to focus a little better. These are topics I have some level of curiosity in, and because I know there is a ton of research and in-depth, previously unknown (to me at least) info, there is a lot to be learned, and I'm all for some new knowledge.

My personal favorite: 'Crime Scene: Scene of the Crime'

Then there are movies. Movies are ultimately hit-or-miss when it comes to writing, but censorship gets thrown out the window (depending on what MPAA rating they are aiming for of course). So the restrictions that exist are easier to work with:

  • Movie rating based on desired audience
  • Budget for setting, props, talent, etc.
  • Time allotted
The first two were already mentioned, but the third is something I have yet to really hone in on. Keep in mind that all shows are in a series of episodes, which also span multiple seasons (depending on how successful it is, of course). They may last a half-hour each episode, but seasons total up to several hours of potential entertainment. Movies are different. You have anywhere from ninety to one hundred eighty minutes to cram in a huge storyline, make it interesting, suspenseful, funny, scary...whatever they're going for. That's such a make-or-break concept. All of the time spent making a movie, which could take a few weeks to many months on end, yet it has to fit into a neat little two-hour-average package on a big screen. It really comes down to writing for a lot of that to work out well. Think about it...if the plot is poorly written, you won't care for the story no matter who is acting in it. If the lines are poorly written, even the best actor can't recite them no matter how good the plot is. If the writing is great all around, then it's all on the performers to deliver the goods, and considering that's their job, that should be the easy part.

All of this brings me to the last on the main list: premium-channel series'. They are brought to you by what I believe are the best writers in Hollywood. It sucks that you have to pay so much to be able to watch the likes of HBO, Showtime, Starz and Cinemax, but for some of the things they air, it's truly worth it. It combines the best of all worlds of what any writer could ask for:

  • Censorship is just about nonexistent
  • (What seems like an) Unlimited budget
  • No time constraints like movies
  • Quality actors want to be in them
  • No commercial interruptions
There are so many shows on these channels that are phenomenal. They hold your attention without leaving you in suspense while they interrupt it with a dog food ad, followed by a denture cream ad, followed by a car commercial. Two or three of these episodes equals that of a good movie, and yet the story only continues. The fact that they have the production quality of movies, yet each season equals that of five movies in succession, the money seems to be pouring in for good settings, effects and props. To top it all off, it's no-holds-barred on the language they use, the graphic nature of particular scenes, and the amount of times they do either of those things to enhance the story. When you combine all of these attributes, what good actor wouldn't want to be on a show like that? Here are some examples:

  • Dexter
  • Shameless
  • Boardwalk Empire
  • The Wire
The first three are current series', while The Wire is one that only ended a few years ago, but was considered by critics to be one of the greatest series' ever made. I have only watched a little of it, but there's no doubt that the bit I've seen lives up to its hype. Either way, the factors don't lie...and neither do I. Well...I have lied before, but not about this.

Perfect picture to represent Dexter.

My suggestion to you: upgrade your choice of entertainment (if you're willing to toss a few extra bucks to our cable/satellite provider). I assure you it's worth it if you can work it into your budget.


This post first appeared on Life Lexicon, please read the originial post: here

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The Best Writers In Hollywood


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