I love television. This is no secret. Sometimes I find TV comforting in a way that real life could never be, and I always find myself thinking of “tv vs. IRL” possible outcomes for a situation. I usually use TV in a way that most people use music: I put it on while I study, or read, or clean, or cook. I watch TV right before bed. I love many kinds of television, from shows with critical acclaim (Dexter, Arrested Development), to classic sitcoms (Friends), to serious guilty pleasures (Glee, Gossip Girl). The problem with all this, however, is that I have noticed a lot of things about television that, to me, pierce my brain like Gilbert Gottfried’s voice. Here are what I find to be the ten worst crimes perpetrated by even (and sometimes especially) the television show runners whom I have come to love. I have listed them from least to most annoying for your reading pleasure.
10. Selecting Wardrobe Pieces for Characters Way Too Poor to Afford Them
Miss Fabray is one of the most well-off characters in Glee, but she still goes to public school in a one-horse town in rural Ohio. These boots, spotted by the kind people over at Fashion of Glee, cost a cool 358 dollars. Many of the other characters like Rachel and Kurt (whose father owns a tire shop by the way) aren’t as upper-middle class as the Fabrays, and yet they wear equally expensive clothes. They never mention the clothes being pricey on the show, but fashion savvy viewers can spot a Marc Jacobs jacket or an Alexander McQueen scarf from a mile away. This is especially annoying on a show like Glee, where youngish girls emulate Rachel Berry and Quinn. In one episode Rachel claims to shop at Kids ‘R’ Us. Last time I checked, they don’t tend sell Versace flats. I understand that TV is different from real life, but why do they have to dress them like that? Most of the shows guilty of this aren’t even about fashion. None of these characters would wear this stuff. It may seem trivial, but it’s details in props and set dressing that make a huge difference in production quality. Seriously, what is the fucking POINT of putting characters in designer couture fashions when the brands are not differentiated nor mentioned? It doesn’t make a lick of sense.
9. Choosing Actors For Flashbacks Who Look Nothing Like Their Current Selves
“Dear Emily and Richard” is one of my favorite episodes of Gilmore Girls, but that doesn’t stop me from cringing every time I watch these two talentless wastes of space portray young Lorelai and Christopher. Are you telling me, that out of the millions upon millions of young, desperate actors out there that Amy Palladino couldn’t have found a girl who doesn’t look fricking LATINA to play a famous character on national television? Seriously. This happens over and over again. Another noteable examle happens in Supernatural, when Dean and Sam revisit their previous high school. Something I’ve noticed: people’s entire skulls don’t normally change shape between age 18 and age 27. Los Angeles and New York are heavily populated with young people who would leap at the chance to be on national TV like dogs for a bone. How hard is it to hold up a picture of your star and glance back and forth a few times between the auditioning actor and the head shot? Also, why do they coach these younger actors to try to imitate the voices of their present-day selves? Why? It sounds so forced, and horrible, and awkward. Newsflash: sometimes people talk differently when they are children.
8. Fucking Up With Extremely Basic Props
If I were being extremely self-indulgent (even more self indulgent than I had to have been to co-create a blog where I bitch incessantly), this one would be number one on my list. I put it up here, however, because I feel like you might not notice it the first time around watching a show. Still though, It bothers me like little else in this world, and some shows (Gilmore Girls: I’m looking at you) are so bad with it that sometimes I can’t even focus on the scene at hand. I’m talking about when women are walking around with purses that are flapping in the breeze because they are so obviously empty. I’m talking about to-go coffee cups that are also obviously empty. I don’t understand why they can’t just fill the cups with water or marbles or rocks I don’t care, but no one fucking waves their cups around like people do on television. I want everyone to picture their last trip to Starbucks. You just paid for your Venti Pumpkin Spice Latte, and you are now walking down the street, having a conversation with your friend. How are you holding that cup? Are you whipping it around while you gesticulate? Not unless you want 2nd degree burns all over your knuckles. Forget that, are you even holding it with one hand? Probably not at first. Do you tip it at a complete 90 degree angle when you take the first sip? FUCK NO. You squint into the little slit as if trying to use your eyeballs to determine if it is a safe drinking temperature. You then stick your tongue in the slit and inhale, getting a minuscule drop on your tongue. It seems safe, so you take a teensy, delicate sip, tilting the cup so slowly it’s as if you’re trying to tip coffee into your mouth one molecule at a time. I’m not sure on the statistics here, but I feel like there should be enough people working on a fucking television set who have drunk coffee before that at least one of these lazy ass prop-making motherfuckers could coach the actors, or suggest filling the cups. Come on, people.
7. Failing To Do Basic Research About Your Settings Before Deciding to Set a Show There
Sometimes you can’t film a television show where it’s set. Some of my favorite shows, like Supernatural and Fringe, are very expensive to produce, and are thus filmed in not-so-desireable filming locales, like Canada. I understand this. I don’t expect the episode of Fringe that takes place in South Station that the set should actually be identical to South Station. I do expect, however, that before spending millions of dollars producing a televison show that people could do a fucking google search. “What do people in Boston call the subway?” “How do you pronounce these crazy town names?” “Are these places anywhere near each other?” “Is that big fucking glass building in the middle of Boston where the FBI field office is located?” “Or better yet, what is that big fucking glass building even called?” Seriously. The Hancock Tower is probably the most famous building in Boston and it is PRIVATELY OWNED. IT’S ALSO NOT CALLED THE FEDERAL BUILDING. Like seriously, wtf. In this day and age there is actually no excuse for this. Judging by the product placement/commercial break tie ins, I think every person who works on that set owns a Sprint Smart phone. Why do none of these people know how to use google?
6. Having Characters Drive in Reckless Fashions While Having Conversations With Each Other
Okay, so the above picture might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I really don’t understand why directors don’t coach their actors to keep looking forward while talking to each other in the car. I know it’s Television and we have to suspend our disbelief, but let’s be real here. Seeley Booth from bones literally NEVER looks at the road. He is always deep in conversation with Bones, and his eyes only ever so rarely flick towards the windshield. I don’t think the scene would suffer that much from the characters being shot in profile. If anything, it allows for more challenging acting! No one could drive like this and live for very long, especially because most car scenes in shows like Bones are high speed emergency chases. Booth is careening around DC streets, racing towards a crime scene and not ONCE is he looking at the cars, small children, shrubberies and cafe tables he is no doubtedly swerving in and out of. Just once I would like this to be adressed. Just once, I would like someone on TV to accidentally crash their car, or smash into a woman pushing a stroller, while having a long, poignant conversation with the person riding shotgun.
5. Letting Characters Spend Way More Money Than They Should, Especially When Money Problems are Often a Plot Point, and How Much They’ve Been Spending is Not
In this hilariously detailed Thought Catalog post, Stephanie Georgopulos guesstimates how much debt Carrie Bradshaw would have spent vs what she would have earned at the start of the show. SATC is probably the show that most famously does this, but my favorite show, Gilmore Girls, is pretty guilty too. Lorelai and Rory get takeout every night, eat at Luke’s diner once per day (and multiple times per episode), and many times they just leave the food, or throw it out. It’s not until season 4, when Lorelai is trying to get her Inn off the ground that she actually acknowledges this unhealthy spending. Rachel Greene s also afflicted. It is part of her character to be really into shopping, but for the first two seasons she’s a waitress at a coffee house. All the friends eat out a lot, and obviously buy coffee and breakfast all the time at Central Perk. Occasionally Joey, Phoebe and Rachel discuss their money problems but it really doesn’t affect their spending habits at all. It’s really frustrating because no one could expect to live like the Friends, or the SATC ladies, or the Gilmore Girls without going completely flat ass broke, or tens of thousands of dollars in the hole. A lot of these scenes are nothing but filler. It pisses me off mainly because I wish I could work a low paying job and afford to buy takeout almost every night, and shop whenever I want. It makes me bitter. And I hate being bitter; it’s bad for the complexion. IRL money is a bitch.
4. Creating or Preventing Romantic Entanglements For the Sake of Dramatic Intrigue But Without a Ring of Emotional Truth
The “will they, won’t they” trope is a time honored television tradition. Some shows do it well: Ross & Rachel, JD & Elliot, Jim & Pam, to name a few. However, some shows keep their main love interests apart for basically no reason whatsoever for way longer than any two people interested in each other would stay apart in real life. Bones and Booth, for example, are probably the worst. They spent five years without either of them having a serious relationship, making up excuses and supposedly Bones wouldn’t risk it because “she was a scientist and didn’t gamble like that” WTF. Did that actually ring true to ANYONE? In one earlier episode, Booth holds off telling Bones about his feelings because he was afraid that if things didn’t work out, Bones would take a long time to get over it. WHAT. In what universe does anyone actually care about that? None. I’ve found that for the most part, people do the opposite. We are ultimately a very selfish species: we want something, then go for it. Period. Many of my breakups, and friends breakups have taught me that if nothing else. If I liked, nay, loved, a friend, and I knew beyond reasonable doubt that he or she loved me too, no way in hell would I wait SIX YEARS before broaching the subject. It’s fucking exhausting as viewer. Similarly, when shows are near the end of thier shelf life, I think the staff writers get together and start pulling characters’ names out of a hat and pairing them up. “Hey, have we tried Rufus and Chuck Bass as a couple yet? No? Perfect. Let’s get cracking.” Yawn.
3. Creating Unnecessary Spin Offs
I really never understood the need for showrunners to make spin-offs that don’t atcually make any sense as spin offs. They introduce the cast in what is known as a “back door pilot,” as a way to get the “new” show going. It’s essentially the same show template but set in a different location, with a different cast, or with a slightly different format. Sometimes the shows are good, like SVU or criminal intent. Sometimes they’re terrible and get canceled in due course, like The Finder, and sometimes they last way too long like friggin Horatio Cane. I really don’t get why they can’t just make a new show. Even if it has a similar premise, it doesn’t actually make sense to frame it as a spin off. Whenever I see this, I feel like I’m being patronized. Like I’m too dumb to accept an entirely new show, so I have to be spoonfed the premise by a show I already like. It’s infuriating. The only other, and equally likely, explanation is that it is a shameless plug for ratings. For fuck’s sake, let your damn show speak for itself. I guarantee it’ll say a lot more.
2. Fucking Up Their Own Continuity
I’m not talking about in one scene there’s a magazine on the table and the next shot it’s mysteriously gone. That’s understandable. I’m talking about showrunners forgetting important plot points and ret-conning them well after the fact. Many shows are very guilty of this, especially when they run on the longer end. This drives me ape shit. Do you know how much work goes into producing an episode of television? There are days, maybe even weeks, of writing the script. Then there are table reads, and then the actors have to memorize all the lines. Then there are dozens upon dozens of takes of every scene, and then of course there’s editing. Are you seriously fucking telling me that the writers of Gilmore Girls “forgot” that they established that Richard’s mother was dead in one of the first few episodes? Or that Rachel had supposedly never met Chandler before the pilot of Friends? Or that Rachel originally only had one sister, and later had two? Or that Spike’s age was changed multiple times throughout his tenure on Buffy? They seriously can’t take a quick glance at old scripts, or old reels? Really? They should keep a fricking bio cheat sheet on each of their main characters that they can take a look at from time to time. That should be some bitch intern’s job, to maintain a spreadsheet, or lie a time line graphic, of the basic events and facts of the world within the show. I think this’d be much more useful than getting coffee or sleeping with the producer.
1. Create Plot-lines with A lot of Potential That End Up Going Nowhere
To me, there is nothing worse than this. In fact, I was considering doing an entire post about this, and still might. It infuriates me to no freaking end. As an addict of television, I have watched many of my favorite shows from beginning to end ad nauseum until I know them (clearly) much better than the creators ever did. The one downside to this is that I am repeatedly exposed to the things that could have been. Pictured above is WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALT from Lost. He is introduced as a potentially telekinetic wunderkind, and a lot (and I mean a L-O-T) of screen time is devoted to developing his back story, and how he might have freaky weird powers. It is then NEVER ADDRESSED AGAIN. Lost is probably the worst offender of this phenomenon, at least that I can think of. I also never forgave them for neglecting to tell us why Aaron was so special, too. Another huge offender: Friends. I maintain that Ross & Rachel was a perfect use of the will they/won’t they; however, Rachel and JOEY was one of the most disappointing realizations of a ‘ship in television histrory. With nearly two seasons of buildup to their amazing kiss in Barbados, Rachel and Joey remained a couple for TWO. EPISODES. wtf. They could have (should have) done so much more with this. Aniston and Le Blanc had amazing chemistry together, and they completely squandered it. Other bad ones: Spencer Reid’s drug addiction “story” on Criminal Minds, the ZFT group on Fringe, the Santa Muerte Killings on Dexter, and the ever so slightly less offensive Marty & Rory’s relationship on Gilmore Girls. I know that realistically, shows can’t really do everything during their time on the air, but really, why even broach the subject? Just to piss of your fans? That’s a great strategy.
And there you have it folks, a cool 3000 words proving beyond reasonable doubt that I seriously need to get out more.