Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Good Writing

One thing that makes TV superior to movies (at least to work in) is that in TV, the writer has all the power. The writer plots the course of the show, tells the director what to do, and so forth. Movies would be so much better if they followed this format.

I bring this up because my colleague at our sister paper in Minneapolis, Neal Justin, listed his Top 10 TV writers of all time. His list omitted Joss Whedon ("Buffy," "Angel," "Firefly") among his 10 best, so needless to say, our lists diverged quite a bit. Here's his list at http://www.startribune.com/459/story/784521.html. A fair list to be sure, especially since he made a point of leaving David E. Kelley off.

Here's mine:

1. Rod Serling
2. Aaron Sorkin
3. Joss Whedon
4. Larry Gelbart
5. Jimmy McGovern
6. Steven Bochco/David Milch (I saw Milch at the Austin Film Festival, he's hilarious to listen to)
7. Ron Moore
8. Larry David
9. David Chase
10. Shawn Ryan

Of course, it's all very subjective, but all of the above both created series and wrote great episodes of those and other series. Other than Serling at No. 1, I could rotate the order of the rest of the list, but you get the gist of it. Of course, most writers labor out of the spotlight, making this debate relatively moot.

ELECTION NIGHT RETURNS: I'm guessing I'm not the only one sick to bloody death of the current election and the blanket advertising from the candidates, each more negative than the next.

This is why people don't vote. The last few days, I've come home to phone messages from the President himself, urging me to vote for Mac Collins, along with about two hundred pieces of junk mail. Muchos gracias, Senor Mac.

Anyway, for those of you who love all this political stuff, you may want to catch the hour-long special on Comedy Central at 11 p.m., featuring Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Dan Rather. (Seriously, Dan Rather). As for me, I just hope they don't break through too many of my Tuesday favorites with early election results which tell you nothing. Seriously, don't pre-empt segments of "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 8 p.m.) to tell me about a judge's race with 1 percent of the ballots counted.

For those who want a take on the local races, check out The Telegraph's own Charles Richardson from 9-11 p.m. Cox Cable's Channel 15.

IDOLATRY: Fox announced "American Idol" will debut Jan. 16, replacing the need to develop quality TV programs.

IF YOU LIKE BORAT...: CBS will broadcast "The Papdits" from "Da Ali G" co-creator Ant Hines online at the network's Innertube site. "The Papdits" was a pilot that was never picked up, but CBS is hoping to make a quick profit now that "Borat" has done so well in theatres. I didn't see "Borat," so I likely won't be logging on. You can check it out at CBS.com/innertube.

TUESDAY'S PICKS: David Morse continues his guest turn on "House" (Fox, 9 p.m.) as a cop whose lack of charm rivals that of House. Meanwhile, the doctors tackle the case (hopefully not literally) of a 600-pound patient.

I don't watch "Gilmore Girls" (CW, 8 p.m.) but I couldn't help but note tonight's bittersweet episode title, "Go, Bulldogs!" Oy. Not a good year to be a Georgia fan, though I'm guessing this episode has little if anything to do with UGA's gridiron follies.

I haven't written a tremendous amount about "Veronica Mars" (CW, 9 p.m.) this season, but it's rebounded from what I thought was a weak season a year ago. If you begin watching now, there's still time to catch up on the season's storylines.


Zodin2008 said...

Sorry for the late response. I was honestly distracted all of yesterday and last night with election craziness. I admit, I do get into the politics but I am with you 110% on your criticism that these nasty political ads and robotic phone calls are turning people off.

I know it's not completely over as I type this as there are 2 major Senate races in question: Montana and my home state (and a race I voted in) here in Virginia. Between voter irregularities (intimidation, dead people voting, etc.) I was saying last night that what happened to the good old days when 1 vote meant 1 vote and there was no "question" the next day about results?

By the way, I was extremely annoyed that the first 2 minutes of "Friday Night Lights" was cut but thank goodness it was only during the recap part of the episode. Still, things like that can't help the struggling NBC though this news can:


Amidst all the "bad" news in Television such as the continuing dominance of Reality Television and boring CBS crime procedurals, there's a "Ray of Light" for the rest of us as "Heroes" continues to become an even bigger hit on Mondays.

NBC really struck gold with this show and considering what a creative mess "Lost" is to the majority of us these days, "Heroes" is getting it right. Hopefully "Heroes" will avoid killing all its favorite characters right off the bat for the cheap type ratings stunts that "24" and "Lost" like to pull...I don't know why they think that's a draw because most people I know dislike when you kill a beloved character.

Thanks for the mini shout out to "Veronica Mars" but I actually felt last night's episode was one of the weaker ones (though still better then most Television). I liked seeing that the normally 'perfect' Keith Mars was fallible and a powerful scene when he was in a car accident and went back to the Hotel realizing how short life was. I have no doubt that Enrico Colantani is also enjoying working with his old "Just Shoot Me" co-star, Laura San Giacomo.

Finally, I would rank Joss Whedon as the #1 writer of all time on Television but I am STUNNED that you left "Homicide" writer Tom Fontana off of your list. Wow. As for Shawn Ryan, I call him into question...how does he go from sheer brilliance with edgy genius like "The Shield" to making sheer crap like "The Unit"? How does this happen?

Then again, a lot of writers who seemingly are brilliant, like JJ Abrams (for making "Lost" and "Alias") also has made some of the worst shows on Television like the current dregs of ABC ("What About Brian" and "Six Degrees").

I suppose that's what makes Joss Whedon so good...even the best writers also make steaming piles of crap but not Joss. 3 Winners. TV misses him.

Phillip Ramati said...

It's not just a list of creators, but of writers in general.

You are right, however, Tom Fontana should have found his way somewhere on some list. If I sat down and thought it out more thoroughly, I might be able to come up with 10 names on second list equal to the first list, but I stand by the first list as being pretty good.

Thinking about it later, I also left off Ricky Gervais, Matt Groening, John Cleese and a host of other great comedy writers, so maybe I should cheat and do two lists, one for comedy and one for drama.