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Home » Archives » September 2006 » Staying off the Links
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09/01/2006: Staying off the Links

Hi all! I'm visiting my parents and their new puppy this weekend. While Zia the Tiny Fuzzy Bundle slept, we ended up watching two episodes of a British sitcom called "My Hero," on BBC America. I hadn't seen the show before, and it was quite by chance that the first episode that was on tonight was the series pilot. The second episode was clearly from a later season. I'm guessing from the hair length of the lead female that it was perhaps two years later.

The show is about a relationship between a normal woman and a superhero. Already I'm smiling. The pilot was nice. Superhero approaches woman and woos her in his goofy naive non-hero guise, charming her, winning her. Then, he loses her when his Superheroism is revealed, and has to convince her that he's not as "super" as she fears. Simple, sweet, romantic, silly. And it was about something; about recognizing the person you're meant to be with no matter what the obstacles are. Not Earth-shaking news, but it was relatable as a metaphorical mismatched relationship.

But the later episode was a mess! They're married now, and have a freaky talking baby that needs to eat more vegetables, so Super-dad brings him alien radioactive veggies, which makes Wife think he's not concerned enough about the environment, which leads Superdad to enter into wacky proenvironment activities, which all backfire on him until he, out of desperation, is led to move the planet farther from the sun, thereby eliminating global warming. (I know, I know. We shan't even discuss the science of that.) And that's not even bringing the B stories into it! Yikes! It felt like there wasn't an outline, like the writers simply jumped from joke to joke, from scene to scene, without a sense of telling a coherent story. Imagine a chain, zigging or zagging with every link. That's what the structure felt like. What were the writers saying about environmentalism, the force of public opinion, or the loyalty and support of a spouse? These were all touched on. Picked up, held into the light, and then put back down as the chain linked off in a new direction.

I suspect it wasn't the writers' fault. Time pressures, notes, rewrites, and the inevitable empty story well that you can fall into on a show with this kind of premise... I sense all of these were at work. However, as the writer of a spec script, you don't have those excuses.

When you come up with a story for your spec, try very hard to contain it. Make it about something. Don't make it about nothing. Don't make it about everything.

When you describe the story of your spec, try to come up with a single, complete sentence that says what it's about. A single sentence to ensure simplicity. A complete sentence to ensure coherence. It'll keep you out of the chain gang.

Lunch: chicken salad sandwich with cranberries mixed in. A nice surprise!


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