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Technology leadership lessons from TV show writing (tlt21.com)
35 points by daniel-tlt21 6 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 10 comments





Most television writing is terrible. Dialogue seems to be written to sound cool - structure or sense be damned. Characters talk past each other constantly. Plots waver around like drunken louts. It all lacks coherency.

I can't help but think that a lot of it is to do with the collaborative writing process, with frequent fast rewriting. Films suffer the same. Shows with one writer or at least a very strong creative lead are usually much more coherent.

Television is being carried by production values at the moment. It looks and sounds great!


Bear in mind that the purpose of dialogue on television or on screen is to communicate to the viewer, not to accurately simulate communication between characters. That's why characters often tell one another things they logically should already know in universe.

And yes, dialogue is written to sound cool because it's supposed to be entertaining. Most real-life conversations are not that engaging.


> Characters talk past each other constantly.

To be fair, that is something that definitely often happen in real life.

That aside, I find HBO or netflix series writing much better then the one in movies. The movies became too formulaic over time, relying on the same simplified character stereotypes over and over. The movie plots also tend to move in predictable streamlined ways. The film writing tend to follow stiffing rules.


movies became too formulaic over time

Don't forget about the endless reboots. E.g. Batman in film: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batman_in_film

1940s (before my time)

1966 movie

1987+ reboot with 4 movies

2005+ reboot with 3 movies

2021 apparently yet another reboot

I probably got some of that wrong, because there's just too many of them. And I probably missed some. And that doesn't include the "extended universe".

Sigh. Can't they find any other stories to tell?

I think the same applies to e.g. Spider Man? Countless reboots? Don't people get reboot fatigue? Or does enough time pass that the movies simply appeal to a new audience?


Many of us would be proud to have built systems that go > 15 years between reboots.

> Most television writing is terrible.

What shows do you watch? Otherwise it seems to me to be an uninteresting blanket statement, since there's tens of thousands of people working in TV.


The scripts aren't good because they're not designed to be good. TV and movies are fleeting bouts of entertainment with little re-use value, cranked out by a system that cares more about quantity than quality. Characters, dialog and plot are the minimum necessary to allow suspension of disbelief. Good storytelling is not important if the option to profit without it exists.

Then there is a segment of the market that specializes in creating higher quality products for demanding consumers, and to command higher paychecks and respect for the actors and production brands involved. Sometimes people who care about fiction manage to sneak in here. But Hollywood has gotten increasingly good at replacing the director-auteur with schmaltzy schlock that still tickles the sensibilities of people who want to believe that hollywood is art.

For example: The problem with Game of Thrones' last few seasons was that they ran out source material from an author who cared about his fiction. TV and film don't know how to tell a story because they're designed not to. Maybe most of the individuals involved do, but the system doesn't. It's so bad that a resource-rich production shit the bed with a head of steam and plot points from a real author. They couldn't even convey "bad person is BAD" without falling back on Nazi imagery. Of course the conclusion was doomed.


>Characters talk past each other constantly.

Part of that is for brevity/interest sake I imagine


>With over 200 TV shows produced per year, the TV business could be the closest equivalent to the technology world

Why do people always oversell the equivalence of software and thing-that-is-not-software when trying to take lessons from the other thing?

They're both collaborative creative processes with scheduled product deliverables. That's where the similarity start and end.

If the author could admit the ways live action production is sharply divergent from software development and show how the translatable advice crosses the gap, then I might care what the rest of this article has to say.


With the state of scripts of recent TV shows, I am not sure this is a good idea.



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