by Emily Jermusyk (@EJemily24)
I can already feel your annoyance with the below list. These are not BAD shows. They are simply getting a lot of hype, and while it is sometimes warranted, there is something lacking in the writing that needs to be discussed.
Airs on Netflix
The first season was fantastic. When it ended, the thought was Where do they go next? Well, season two answered that, albeit in the most convoluted way possible that most people still could not explain if asked. With Season Three premiering a couple months ago, though, it is now safe to say that the writers do not know where to go. While Robin Wright is always compelling and gets better with each year, the writers simply haven’t been able to match what they did that first year. The individual episodes aren’t as well structured, the emotional arcs aren’t as compelling, and now they have reached a place too high in government to build any further. The writers only option is to now write a swift downfall, but with the relationship between Frank Underwood and Claire as it is, why should we even care?
2. MAD MEN
Airs on AMC, Sundays at 10 p.m.
With only a few episodes left in the entire series and several years behind us, finishing it is really the only reason I stay. I love Peggy, Joan, and Roger like everyone else, but Don Draper has been a let down from the moment he chose Megan. I understand for some people it was later. For others, when Don took his kids to see where he grew up, they believed that was a sign he was finally changing for good. After the first few episodes of this last season, it can’t be denied anymore. Don never learns.
He is still hoping he will find a woman and it will magically change him. He is still incredibly dismissive of what the women in his wife want in general. If he was never going to change, then what are the writers building towards, and more importantly, why did it take this long to get to it? Even if they write an amazing finale as an individual episode, I am not sure that it can make up for the poor seasonal arcs of the past few years.
Airs on Starz, Saturdays at 9 p.m.
Two words: VOICE OVER. There are times where voiceover makes sense. JANE THE VIRGIN uses it as another character and a running meta-joke, and it is incredibly effective. Other shows use it as a simple introduction. OUTLANDER uses it for everything. The pilot was a two-hour diatribe. I understand that this series is based on a book and books have an internal monologue that is hard to emulate on screen. The thing is, if you removed the voiceover from the show, the show would still work. All the narrator does is state exactly what we can already see. It feels as if the writers don’t trust the story to stand on its own. That voice over is the biggest, most mind numbing waste, and the caliber of the writers room should be smart enough to know better.
Airs on Netflix
This is a good show. It is a very quotable show. From the moment it premiered all I have heard is that I “will love it.” I thought the same thing going in, and while Ellie Kemper owns the show, the writing has some issues. First, you cannot help but compare it with 30 ROCK. Kimmy is essentially Liz Lemon combined with Kenneth, and Jane Krakowski pretty much plays her previous character combined with Jack Donaghy. Second, the show really falls apart in the second half of the season. The jokes stop hitting. Hopefully season two will come back stronger.
Airs on HBO, Sundays at 9 p.m.
Before you all throw daggers at me, know that I LOVE this show. I do. I am a huge fan of the books and that does effect how I view the show, but the writing issues are not because they deviate from what has been written, it is because the writers are overwhelmed by the source material and have major structural issues. If this were a series on Netflix it would actually work better because you could watch the episodes in one sitting and that would help alleviate the pressure of the mold. They have a consistent issue after season one with the structure.
Watch the season two finale. Tyrion is on screen for thirty minutes. The moment you no longer see him, it is all about Daenerys. If you have an hour of television to fill, then fill it. SEX AND THE CITY did a better job spreading out four storylines in the time allotted, to be honest (though GAME OF THRONES wins in actual characters and themes; and it’s a tie in time wasted with nudity). Now watch the season five premier. Tyrion has two scenes. Every character in this episode is given a scene that sets up the season long goal, but no one is given a goal for the episode, meaning you can watch the scenes in this episode in almost any order. This is a slower episode structure than daytime soap operas, and while this show is dramatic, it sure isn’t a daily daytime series.
Want something better to watch? Check out Emily’s list of The 5 Best Written Shows You’re Not Watching.
Emily Jermusyk is a screenwriter and story consultant. She got her start in high school writing over 150 episodes of a soap opera parodying Knots Landing. If desired, Emily will talk to you at potentially-annoying-length about topics such as why the CW is her favorite channel, the current amazing state of underground comedy, and how she avoids TV/films about zombies because most of them do not chew with their mouths closed. Follow Emily on Twitter, and check out her website, Ruining Television.