I’m going to start this post off by saying that I know I probably shouldn’t watch as much TV as I do. Darn you, multiple streaming services that give me access to all my favorite procedural and true crime shows at the click of a button! But sometimes, at the end of a long day or week, you just want to veg out and take a break from all the stress and massaging your temples that writing and editing and trying to be creative can bring.
However, being a writer, we’re more observant than most people. We’ve studied storytelling formulas and the best way to plot short stories and novels. So, what should be a relaxing and passive exercise can be even more stimulating for the following reasons.
You are probably more apt to notice continuity errors in the show. I remember watching the TV series “Parenthood” when it first came out. The main character, Adam Braverman, owned a shoe factory. It was the family business and most episodes featured him interacting there with employees and customers. But when the second season started, he all of a sudden had a jerk boss that had never been there before. I realize this character was added to show tension, but to me I felt like there should have been some explanation as to the Braverman shoe company being bought out by an investor or something. Either that little detail was left on the cutting room floor, or a new set of writers weren’t briefed on the first season details.
You notice when an actor shows up more than once on a TV show, but is playing completely different characters. While watching a re-run of “Law and Order: SVU” one day I realized the sleazy bad guy of the episode was actually the actor that now plays one of the regular detectives on the show. I scratched my head for a few minutes before putting together that the seasons were years apart and sometimes actors rotate in and out of shows as different characters. Or maybe I’ve seen too many episodes of the show, but in my defense, it has been on the air for 20+ years. It’s also exciting when you notice a now-famous actor was a guest star in a TV show when they were a young child or teenager. Everyone has to start somewhere, right?
You fail to suspend disbelief when plot holes happen. I’ve been re-watching the series “Crossing Jordan” lately, which focuses around the shenanigans of a medical examiner’s office in Boston. First of all, I’ve never seen worse security than in this morgue. In one episode, a man with a gun showed up and gunned down a woman who was there to identify a body. There are constantly random people showing up in autopsy rooms, leaving me to wonder if just anyone is allowed to stroll into the building, get off the elevator and duck into whatever room of their choosing. I’ve also been having a blast watching old episodes of “The X-Files.” I’m still scratching my head over the episode “Native,” where Scully couldn’t seem to figure out a character she was hanging out with was about to turn into a werewolf (even when he disappeared into a bathroom, screamed as he transformed, and then burst through the bathroom door and attacked her). After the attack, she told Mulder she didn’t know where they guy who had turned into the werewolf was. Really?
You can logically explain why a character just simply vanished (otherwise known as “Death by Focus Groups.”) I always love it when a character disappears from one season to the next—especially if the previous season had an entire arc built around why that character was even there in the first place. It becomes obvious that a character either took a better offer on another TV show or the focus groups decided the character was pointless. As a writer, I can also usually tell that a show must have been cancelled and picked back up by another network (this happened to the country-music drama “Nashville”). It was obvious when new writers took over because it took a much darker turn and a few key characters just sort of dropped off the face of the earth with no explanation.
Don’t even get me started on watching movies.
Do all these reasons make me want to quit watching my old favorite TV shows? Nah, not a chance. I’m curious to know if being a writer has affected how you watch TV and films.