Forums: General TV Discussion: What makes a good show?

  • Avatar of Ashs911


    [1]Aug 3, 2008
    • member since: 02/17/08
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    As some of you may know I write Dramas and Sitcoms and I was wondering what it is you look for in a show? Does a drama have to be ultra dramatic like lost to keep you hooked or do you prefer light-hearted dramas such as Gossip Girl where you can pick up at any point and work out what's going on. lets face it if you skip an episode of Lost your kind of screwed.

    Also in Sitcoms what is it you like? Is it witty jokes, visual humour, hilarious storylines or even characters that you can love?

    I just think I need to do some research to find out what everyone is in to so I can make my shows as appealing as possible.



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  • Avatar of ali_tv_fan


    [2]Aug 3, 2008
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    Sitcoms - definitely wit and the characters

    Drama-lighthearted easy going is great but its more about the storylines and character driven action.

    personally i like a good concept for a show and a compelling, ongoing storyline / conflict and resolution.

    hope that helps
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  • Avatar of TheNorm


    [3]Aug 3, 2008
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    Watching 83 episodes of Lost, 144 episodes of 24, 57 episodes of Prison Break, 34 episodes of Heroes, 63 episodes of Battlestar Galactica, and 24 episodes of Dexter in 116 days taught me what I needed to know about what makes a drama great. I won't be able to offer any advice on sitcoms though.

    All of my advice is for drama:

    First off, to make a show good, the pilot episode needs to introduce something unique and innovative about the show. There needs to be elements or mysteries that recur often in a show to keep the viewers interested, as seen in the pilot episode of Lost with the Monster.

    What I personally like to see in a tv series that I watch is excellent camera work (Battlestar Galactica) and great music scoring that goes perfectly with a scene or the entire series for that manner (Battlestar Galactica). Every show should have a unique music scoring sound that no other show has. This is what most movie makers fail to understand.

    But since you only appear to be writing up this type of stuff in a script form, it's best to make sure that the dialogue of an important scene that occurs in the show is improvised with the use of literary devices. Likewise, some dramatic scenes only require words such as "Yes, No," just to make it all the more dramatic. In additon, 95 percent of the entire dialogue should be interesting to listen to. I hate getting dragged through a scene that has nothing special about it in the dialogue.unless of course its an action scene or silent scene.

    Dark tones and realistic settings are always appealing to me. Often giving characters no hope in the show or being traumatized in some way is a great way to provoke the viewer's thoughts on what will happen next, allowing you to surprise them and entertain them in an easy fashion.

    And of course, serializing is the best format for a show, bar none. Every episode in a serial, with the exception of season premiers, should begin with a "Previously on...", then follow it up with a cold open, then a title sequence, and lastly, the rest of the episode. It just works that way.

    I'll give examples of some bad experiences I've had with the shows above:

    -Heroes Season 2 realized their mistakes after the 11 episodes aired

    -Battlestar Galactica tried out a stand alone type format for half of season 3 and ratings droppped a bit. The point is, don't diverge away from what the show is notable for, acclaimed for, recognized for.

    -Prison Break's Sarah Wayne Callies left the show before season 3 as a main character. Always have a back up plan for the storyline in case an important character leaves your show.

    -Once you get successful and produce multiple seasons (should you do that), be sure to introduce some new, compelling stuff, which 24 season 6 failed to do. It's obvious you will introduce new characters and storylines, but develop them under a category of storylines you haven't explored yet.

    -Don't introduce random characters out of no where (Paul and Nikki of Lost, some in Heroes Season 2). If they don't fit, don't bother.

    -Scrap pointless episodes. Seasons don't have to be 20 plus episodes (example: Lost episode where Jack got his tatoo, and the episode Fire/Water)

    I might think of more later, tight on time

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  • Avatar of joag95


    [4]Aug 3, 2008
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    I love dramedies. No need to pick comedy or drama. I love something that can make me laugh and cry in the same episode. Developing the characters is paramount. To love a show, I have to really know the characters. The fastest way to bore me in any genre is to tell a story, but not let me know the characters. That is what makes me care. They have to have depth and dimension. Even the best characters have to be flawed in some way. And write smart - don't talk down to me as a viewer. Expect me to be intelligent. If I miss a couple of things, no big deal - I'll get the rest. Think Sports Night or Gilmore Girls. Those were incredibly well written in my opinion.
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  • Avatar of CWHunter


    [5]Aug 4, 2008
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    There is a difference between a good show and a great show. If you merely want a good show all you need is characters that people care about and stories that are interesting and should be easy to follow (This doesn't mean it can't be intelligent or challenging, people should just be able to tell on their own how you got from point A to point B)

    A GREAT show needs all of the above plus a "wow factor". Something that makes it stand out, and always reminds it's fans why they watch it. It could be any genre, even overused genres like the crime drama can still produce a great show.
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  • Avatar of poprunna


    [6]Aug 5, 2008
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    It's all in the charactrers. For both drama and comedy. You can have great plot and wish washy characters and the show is awful. Or you can have no plot and great characters and it's a hit. Like MASH. Or Seinfeld. All your Law & Orders and CSI are the same stupid plot, with different characters.
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  • Avatar of barrybuttery


    [7]Aug 6, 2008
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    I believe its not only the characters but the writing, the directing, the editing. all of these things effect how good a television show is.
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  • Avatar of IsisDaWonder


    [8]Aug 10, 2008
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    Good Character Development+Solid Writing+Continuity *keeping up with the history*=GOOD TELEVISION.
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  • Avatar of raygoshay


    [9]Aug 12, 2008
    • member since: 05/04/08
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    It seems quite obvious the writing, directing and acting should be good. I thought I'd offer some additional points...

    My advice for Drama TV series:

    1. Excellent 3rd character... quality deep in a cast goes a long way to guaranteeing a variety of story lines as the series progresses, the leads don't have to carry the show.

    2. Stay within the characters. It's fine to have an arc based on growth, tragedy or even an unexpected epiphany but a role should not suddenly and inexplicably alter with no reason or gain - as in the X-Files season when Mulder became the skeptic and Scully became much more open to bizarre theories.

    3. Lay in depth to the series' "universe". Fans love it when they recognize recurring motifs that aren't brought to the forefront in plots for some time.

    4. Get a music composer suited to the material. A shows theme might be important, yet definitely not moreso than the episode scores that set the mood and also appropriately disappear in sequences where the lack of music can actually become "a part of the soundtrack". The original Twilight Zone used the balance of music and lack thereof to great effect.

    5. If nothing else, remember: no talking chimpanzees. There were no talking chimpanzees in 20 seasons of Gunsmoke.

    My advice for a Sitcom:

    1.- 4. Same as above.

    5. If nothing else, remember: no Michael Rapaport in the regular cast. There was no Michael Rapaport in any good show... for that matter you'll do better installing a chimp in a major role in a drama or a comedy.

    Edited on 08/11/2008 11:27pm
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  • Avatar of iskabibble07


    [10]Aug 12, 2008
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    A show has to tell a good story and a story that people can relate to and understand. The plot cannot be so complicated or filled with side plots that we never figure out what is going on or why we should care. A good show also has characters you like and can connect to. To want to come back each week, you must see the characters of the show as members of your family or freind group and people you want to hang out with each week. Good shows have strong ensemble acting or comedy and not depend entirely on one talent. Also a show should take us somewhere we don't go ordinarily. With Seinfeld, we all got to be New Yorkers for a while. And yet the characters were warm, likeable and it had a strong ensemble feel. I also read that any show to make it, especially a situation comedy must ahve a family structure with a male and female lead that are sort of the mom and dad and then other characters who are the nutty children. The show also must have one or two "home base" locations that we like to see our characters in. The show can go other places, but the characters should frequently "go home" and take us there too.
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  • Avatar of vkristen


    [11]Aug 13, 2008
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    For me, it's the storyline, flow of events or pacing and good acting to give justice to the good story.
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  • Avatar of Dulcinea1978


    [12]Aug 14, 2008
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    IsisDaWonder wrote:
    Good Character Development+Solid Writing+Continuity *keeping up with the history*=GOOD TELEVISION.
    I think that sums it up perfectly!
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