Monday, October 31, 2011

TV shows need originality

By: Sarah Smith
Have you looked at a new TV show lately and thought, “Hey, that’s a great idea for a show! How original!”? No? I don’t blame you. It seems like screenwriters are just recycling plot premises and changing minor details. The following outline could work for just about any cop show currently on the air: [Blank] is an unconventional [cop, detective, agent, special agent] who is totally awesome and completely defies the rules of his/her profession. They have a straight-man foil partner named [blank] and a boss who doesn’t necessarily like their unconventional ways but respects their ability to get work done. There are more than 25 cop shows on the air, almost all of which follow this basic format (e.g. “Psych”, “Castle”, and “White Collar”).
Even worse are the cake shows. There are fewer cake shows than cop shows, but cake shows are more annoying and have less viable plot lines to add variety to an already original theme. Every week you can tune into “Cake Boss” or any other of at least five shows themed around cakes for 30 minutes to an hour and…wait for it…watch them make a cake. If you get lucky, they might make more than one per episode. And even if you miss a weekly premier, don’t be disheartened; the sugary, floury goodness never ends. “Cake Boss” and “Ace of Cakes” are on three to four hour blocks on their respective channels.
If glorified pastries aren’t your thing, there are other overdone show themes to bury yourself in. There are an alarming number of shows about stuff. Getting stuff, keeping stuff, and selling stuff is apparently fascinating to a wide enough audience to allow for at least six shows about pawn shops, pawning, hoarding, and finding things to pawn and keep. I don’t know who watches these shows, but whoever you are, please stop. Your terrible shows about shopping are taking up valuable time on the History Channel that could be used for actual history.
The problem with having so many shows themed around one topic seems obvious: it gets boring. You can only watch so many episodes of “American Pickers” without getting sick of seeing them make cheap deals on old stuff and talk about how awesome their van is (hint: their van really is not awesome at all). Ideally, every time you turn on your TV, every episode of a show is different in some way and every show will be different from others like it by at least two major points aside from the names of the characters. This could be accomplished by writers taking more time in finding original premise points for their shows and not just filling in a basic outline with some new names.
Fortunately, there is hope. “Once Upon a Time”, a new fantasy show set in modern time looks to be a promising, original premise. “American Horror Story” is a horror TV show, which is a premise that has only been tackled successfully a couple of times (see review on page ___). These few lights of originality will hopefully inspire other TV writers to take initiative and create original plot premise and themes. If not I fully intend on throwing my television out the top window of the tallest building I can find.


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