A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
God I wish I wrote for TV.
Think of it: all dialogue, no narrative; actually seeing your work come alive through brilliant actor types; the chance to develop your characters beyond not just a single episode but across whole seasons; never having your audience confuse your characters with your self because they probably don’t even know it’s you who wrote them. The money (I guess? I don’t actually know any TV writers).
If I was going to write a TV series, this is where I’d get my inspiration from…
DIALOGUE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
(Joss Whedon – and about a million others, including Jane Espenson, Marti Noxon… I could go on)
The first TV show I ever watched that felt like it had been written for me. Yes, I like all the stabby vampire saving-the-world-on-a-daily-basis thing, but, as any fan would tell you, it’s the dialogue that lifts what could have been a po-faced parable about good versus evil into a teen-friendly, witty and watchable show.
CHARACTER: Friday Night Lights
(Peter Berg, wrote the book and the pilot, and ran the show, although more writers came on board)
When it was suggested that I watch a TV show entirely focused on high-school American football in small-town Texas, my first thought was Nope, nope, nope-ty nope. There was nothing on God’s green earth that could convince me to care about American football.
Except, apparently there is. Between the opening credits and the end of the first episode, I guarantee you will care deeply about everyone in this show as if they are your own children.
Scripted, but directed with the trust placed on the actors as to how to play their characters, it is a series that almost entirely relies on how much you care about the people onscreen… and you will, whether it’s Street’s tragic bright-eyed belief, Riggins’ hungover bad boy demeanour, ‘Smash’ Williams’ well-placed arrogance, Saracen’s nervy insecurity (and beautiful, beautiful face) or the immense pressure one town can place on the high-school football coach. The whole thing is immediately captivating and so compelling that you’ll almost certainly devour the first season over one weekend.
(Mackenzie Crook who I’m now in love with apparently)
I’m not a fan of being British. Too often the national identity is used as a stick to beat back anyone who doesn’t fit the 1950s white and well-to-do idyll that’s formed as some kind of delusional collective consciousness. So, for a TV show to make me like the country I live in is quite the achievement. Written, directed and starring Mackenzie Crook, Detectorists is a loving ode to the long history and beauty of the country I live in. Lingering shots of grassy meadows and ancient trees are interspersed with the kind of gentle humour that shows a light-touch awareness of itself.
The focus might appear to be on the white and well-to-do of that false idyll, but Crook’s incarnation is a tolerant one, aware of how rural Britain can look and keen to be more inclusive – the wider cast includes Divian Ladwa as ‘Young’ Hugh and lesbian couple Louise and Varde. This is a show invites people in to a country that everyone should be able to enjoy.
SONGS: My Little Pony Friendship is Magic
(Lauren Faust, Meghan McCarthy, Amy Keating Rogers, M.A. Larson and more write the dialogue… but this post isn’t about that)
There’s a depressing lack of songs in my favourite TV shows. (I hate the Buffy musical episode. Don’t @ me.) Kids get all the best theme tunes – presumably so university students all have something to discuss during freshers’ week – and in My Little Pony, they have the best songs. Fact. I know this, because I own five albums’ worth (three of which belong to Equestria Girls, but whatever, same franchise) and I LOVE THEM. The songs are lyrically clever, cover a wide-range of genres and frequently riff on real-life pop music. In Season 5 (single best season of TV you will ever watch) there’s an episode featuring Countess Coloratura (nickname ‘RaRa’) which contains an amazing pastiche of a Gaga song.
Frozen et al doesn’t hold a candle to the ingenuity of MLP and if I ever become a showrunner I’d pawn my cutie mark to have Daniel Ingram do the music.
DIVERSITY (and the rest): Brooklyn Nine-Nine
(Mike Schur and Dan Goor, although, again, there are more)
Come on, you knew this would be on here. I’m a die-hard Nine-Nine stan – there’s very little I don’t adore about this show*. I love the humour, the episodic structure and over-arching character development. I love the dialogue. I love the characters. I love the theme tune. I love the self-aware nature of its American-ness. But I love that it’s a show that didn’t set out to tick boxes, it did what every modern TV show needs to do: it set out to include more than one of a minority in its central cast. This can best be summed up by actor Stephanie Beatriz’s reaction on hearing that Melissa Fumero had been cast. I thought: ‘That’s it. The network is not going to allow there to be two Latinas in one show’ I was so used to: ‘There’s only room for one.’ Except in this show, there was.
The answer to getting diversity right is not to do less, but to do more. The shows I’ve listed are over-whelmingly white and although I love them hard, there’s nothing there that would have been lost by turning off the default-to-white casting.
SO. When you see an announcement that I’m writing a TV show, you can expect some vampire-battling American footballers on an exchange programme to rural Essex (or maybe Teesside), where their racial diversity baffles the locals who make a big effort to welcome them with a hastily organised bake-sale, set-up with a nifty little song-and-dance number penned by Daniel Ingram.