"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

TV is good for me

I was one of those kids who was raised in front of the TV set, so it never occurred to me to call it a "vast wasteland". It was my friend, my window to the world of other lands and people and beliefs and cultures and... well, you get the idea. My own family, God bless 'em, was littered with conservative, fundamentalist, racist views; if I'd grown up in only their company, who knows what a hot mess I'd be today? Yes, I also read plenty of books. But on TV, I got to see decent families of all colors, exotic countries, and cooking that didn't involve oil and flour.

So now I watch a lot of shows, mostly dramas these days, always mysteries. From Cold Case to NCIS, Medium, and the L&O and CSI franchises, I'm always trying to figure out whodunit. Lately, I've been trying to figure out more. I've been watching the story arcs and how they're set up. They all do it slightly differently, but I've learned a lot of interesting things I can apply to my own plot lines. For example:

CSI - I only watch the original and NY (I admit it, Caruso is too creepy for me), but I've noticed that the first person they interview is usually the killer, especially if they look benign and act helpful. Cold Case follows this formula also; the one person you discount as being innocent usually did it.

L&O - In this show, the first interviewee is usually NOT the killer, and their theories on the motive will shift at least three times during the hour.

NCIS - I don't notice as many red herrings in this show, altho I may be wrong. What I do notice is the chipping away, bit by bit, of the evidence until the killer is narrowed down. And I notice that I've got a crush on McGee(k), who wrote one thriller and is now a recognized bestseller, and buys expensive clothes and cars. Ah, the romance of the writer, through the eyes of the media (who should know better).

Medium - The fun part of this show is trying to figure out where Allison's dreams/visions are trying to lead me. Should I take them literally this week, or figuratively? If I was writing paranormal, I'd want to do it like this.

Recently, I've been conscious of the soundtrack. A sad moment may be well written (and have all the right camera angles), but if it didn't have that poignant music behind it, would I still be weeping at the TV screen? Which made me think...

What if e-books came with soundtracks? The Kindle, iPhone, eReader, etc are all getting more sophisticated. They know what page you're on - why couldn't a clever person program music to accompany the words? As your main character cradles their dying best friend, the music swells appropriately. Or perhaps, for the savvy and independent reader, they are allowed to program their own soundtrack? How cool would that be? I wonder if Amazon/Apple/Sony would be interested, and more importantly, would pay me for their interest. It could be the next great app!

See, TV didn't rot my brain at all.


Nocturnal Intellect said...

I grew up with two black and white channels, and where cartoons were only available on one of them for about 10 uninterrupted minutes before 'bed-time" at 6:50 pm till 7 PM. Saturday night "adult time" at 10 PM was always playing either Charlie's Angels, Kojak or Columbo ( translated) and it was considered a Movie Night.
Now, my fav's are pretty much the same as you just listed. I would add Lisa Williams and Forensic Files to the list, and with that, I can spend whole day watching tube.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Wow. I don't watch any of those shows. Now I'm ashamed to admit what I do watch--but it ain't reality TV, if that's what you're thinking.

Helen Ginger said...

Wait a minute, is Caruso that guy who cocks his head to talk to anyone? I totally do NOT like him. I quit watching CSI Miami because of him. He's weird.

It's enlightening to analyze TV shows in the genre you like to write. Watch movies, too. You'll see the structure. If you do it often enough, you'll get to where you can look at your watch and know just when the first turning point is going to take place.

Gayle Carline said...

Nocturnal - we had more channels in my youth (the 3 networks and one very fuzzy PBS), but I was no longer a child when Kojak and his buddies came along. I spent many nights at my grandparents' house, watching Hawaii 5-0, Barnaby Jones, and Mannix with my grandpa while Grandma was at work (Central Supply at the county hospital). Good times.

Gayle Carline said...

s.s.a.s. - gee that's kinda cool, it's "sass", backwards - ha ha does that mean you're sass-backwards?

Sorry, I digress. I just wanted to say, now I'm intrigued about what you DO watch. Comedy? Daytime drama? Oprah?

Gayle Carline said...

Helen - yes, Caruso is THAT guy. I loved him in NYPD Blue, then he went all serious and weird, with the head-cocking and sunglass-method acting crap.

You're right about the timing. Each show has its rhythm, but I just know in the pacing when the big reveal is around the corner!

Teresa M Burrell said...

We didn't have television when I lived in Minnesota...something about needing to have electricity first. California, however, brought us the screen, but when everyone else was watching cartoons I was doing homework and playing with tadpoles. I still don't watch a lot of tv, but I do love the movies. And I'm with you Gayle, I love to try to figure out whodunnit. My sister gets upset with me when I watch tv with her because I can usually tell her within the first fifteen minutes (sometime less) who the bad guy is. I like the shows best when I can't figure it out. Go figure.

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