We’re into late September and new fall TV is either underway or about to be — and I can’t be happier. I’m a television junkie, well more like I’m a story junkie, but TV happens to be my favorite medium. And right now — between Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Cable, and network — we are in a golden age of quality story-telling. I sincerely believe that TV has never been more creative, innovative, surprising, and just plain ol’ awesome than it is right now. There’s so much good stuff on TV that my DVR can’t handle the load.
For someone who creates stories for a living, television provides a lot of inspiration as well as instruction. Various shows have taught me strong narrative elements.
The Vampire Diaries — Man, do I love this show. Some people might think it’s just a fluffy show about teenagers and hot vampires, but let me tell you, it is not. TVD is the king of scene twists and sympathetic villains. You want to learn how to shock your readers with a twist they didn’t see coming but should have? Take a lesson from the writers on this show. Also, none of the characters on TVD are all good or all bad. One episode, I’m rooting for murdering bloodsuckers and hating the good girls, and then next week, I switch. But, that’s how you keep a girl interested.
Shameless — Everyone and their mother knows how much I love this show because I talk about it constantly. But Shameless has taught me several vital lessons. The first, strong character development is a long game. Season One Mickey Milkovich is a far different person from Season Five, and I mean that in a good way. It takes time to build beloved characters. Second, characters need to suffer, but they need a bit of luck, too. The Gallaghers often get into rough situations (losing their house, losing money, losing kids), but they’re proactive enough to solve their problems — even if the solution isn’t necessarily legal. Third, Shameless manages to be incredibly romantic without being cheesy. There’s never any lame, insufferable rom-com dialogue. Characters are forthright with their feelings and sometimes that sincerity is harsh. What’s love without tragedy? Fourth, and finally, what’s heartache and struggle without humor? Shameless is funny. I’m a big believer in inserting humor into every story. Even the sad ones.
Veronica Mars — I would build an altar to show creator Rob Thomas if I could. That man is a genius. If you haven’t watched Veronica Mars, make that your number one priority. For those not in the know, Veronica Mars is a badass, sharp-tongued Nancy Drew who is hunting for her best friend’s killer while moonlighting as her California’s high school’s unofficial private investigator. This show taught me how to structure a mystery series in that it’s best to have one over-arching mystery across the series and each book focus on a smaller mystery. Also, snarky women are awesome and should be revered.
In summation, television has taught me that I’m sort of a dark person. I love villains and suffering and conflict, but then again, I write mysteries. I guess you could say crime is my major and TV is my professor.
What television shows have you learned from?