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Fun with TV!

February 3, 2010

So as you (may or may not) know, I am a little bit obsessed with television–in what I think is a good way. 🙂 I like to watch it, I like to talk about it, and I like to dissect it. And maybe some day I would like to put some together. In hope of this, I am pursuing the previously-mentioned TV development workshop, and doing a little bit of preparation.

Last night I went to one of the lectures being given by the workshop leader, Stephen Garrett. He gave those of us in the workshop a small assignment: take your favorite TV shows and break them down into their component parts.

His example: For the show “Spooks”,



setting=modern-day London/MI-5,


central struggle=who can you trust?

That’s part one. For part two, you basically put them all in a hat, pull them out blindly and see if you come up with something good. (He didn’t so much assign this as suggest that it would be the next step–so naturally I did it.) I made a spreadsheet of about 40 shows, identified their various parts, wrote them on color-coded flashcards and drew randomly from the deck. (Yes, I am this crazy.) While I was making the spreadsheet I noticed that most shows have several heroes or they have heroes with several levels of identity (take Mal Reynolds–he is a captain, a veteran and a smuggler, and he is only one member of the ensemble cast of Firefly); they also generally have a primary genre and one or more sub-genres (like “Life on Mars,” which is at once a police procedural, time travel, and psychological show). So in my experiment I picked several hero cards and several genre cards and mixed them at will. I also admit that what follows isn’t always random–for example, when I drew “alien” for a hero card, I searched the location deck for “other planet.”

That being said, I think I managed to come up with some damn good television!

NB. Heroes can be any gender unless otherwise specified, or any race. Also, I was listening to the Florence and the Machine album “Lungs” while doing this, so consider the song lyrics as either inspiration or gloss to the story that could evolve from the listed parts.

1. (Be careful of the curse that falls on young lovers)

Heroes: Brothers, students/wizards
Genre: fantasy, family, existentialism, romance
Setting: high school in the deep south, present
Antagonist: zombies?
Heroes’ struggle: grief, fitting in

2. (There’s a drumming noise inside my head, it starts when you’re around)

Hero: captain/vigilante
Genre: post-apocalypse, heist, crime
Setting: near future in the suburban west coast
Antagonist: paranormal creatures
Hero’s struggle: murder, addiction

3. (No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight)

Hero: spy/scientist/specialist
Genre: paranormal, time travel, military
Setting: mid-Atlantic university in alternate reality
Antagonist: robots
Hero’s struggle: standing out, trauma

4. (Beggars and liars, gypsies and thieves, they all come to him ‘cause he’s so eager to please)

Hero: alien pilot, thief
Genre: steampunk thriller
Setting: spaceship in the distant future on another planet
Antagonist: their boss
Heroes’ struggle: justice and sanity

5. (You can’t hold me down ‘cause I belong to the hurricane
/But I like to think at least things can’t get any worse)

Heroes: young woman writer, paralegal (sisters), con artist
Genre: ensemble cast, domestic front
Setting: urban east coast (New York?) during WWII
Antagonist: Nazis
Heroes’ struggle: sex and success

6. (No more dreaming of the dead as if death itself was undone)

Hero: lesbian detective
Genre: espionage, workplace, underdog
Setting: small town in the UK during WWI
Antagonist: criminals
Hero’s struggle: career vs love, finding proof

7. (Happiness, it hurt like a bullet in the back)

Heroes: a doctor and a cop, both supernatural creatures
Genre: black comedy, psychoanalysis
Setting: hospital and police station in pacific northwest (Portland?)
Antagonist: the government
Heroes’ struggle: survival, fitting in

8. (I’m not calling you a ghost, just stop haunting me)

Hero: teenager
Genre: mystery, adolescence, paranormal
Setting: high school and restaurant (diner) in 1950s Midwest
Antagonist: serial killers
Hero’s struggle: violence, life after death
(There are ghosts here. The hero can see them. Don’t think “Ghost Whisperer” or “Dead Like Me”-more like “Six Feet Under.”)

9. (A kiss with a fist is better than none)

Heroes: a teacher, a salesman, and a secret agent
Genre: detective procedural, flatshare, ensemble
Setting: Western US (Austen, TX?)
Antagonist: criminals
Heroes’ struggle: trauma, addiction, money

So my shows all turn out to have elements of sci-fi or fantasy, and they are all pretty dark. Fine by me! I’d watch ’em. The one Florence and the Machine song that I didn’t get to use was “You’ve got the love,” which I guess is entirely too cheerful for my perspective. 🙂 Which makes me wonder–why does writing this stuff make me so damn happy? I think that question is probably better left unanswered.

But seriously people. This was so fun! I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Richard Sedano permalink
    February 10, 2010 2:46 pm

    Fun And Nutritious!

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