Friday, 25 January 2013

A spot of TV criticism

Because my brain hurt last night and I lacked the mental energy to change channel, I found myself watching The Big Bang Theory. Now, I've already rehearsed my objections to the show: basically, it's 1950s mother-in-law and ' 'er indoors' jokes disguised by super-hero t-shirts and equations.

But last night's episode hit rock-bottom in writing terms. A young couple are at the dinner table with her parents. An unappealing social event is proposed, and the young man says to his partner 'But what about that thing we're doing?'. She replies, 'The thing? I cancelled it', and he's trapped.

A small thing (literally) you might think. But it isn't. It's the sound of barrels being scraped. How many times have you heard the phrase being used in poor quality TV and film dialogue? I'm very surprised to learn that there's no TV Trope devoted to it. Time to start one - your submissions welcome. Seriously, if your script leaves you with no other option than to reach for one of the most familiar clichés in popular culture, throw it away. Start again. Ask someone else to start again, in fact.

At least Family Guy tries to add some energy to it with minor transgression:
Brian Griffin: Uhh, I don't think that's going to be a possibility, uhhh, I have plans, with Chris! Chris and I have plans this afternoon!
Chris Griffin: [Chris walks by] We do?
Brian Griffin: Yeah, yeah! We're doing that thing, we're doing what you usually do on a Thursday afternoon!
Chris Griffin: Masturbate?
Brian Griffin: That's it, that's what we're going to do together.

Here's a tip, scriptwriters. If you find yourself typing 'you know, the thing' or anything similar, consider buying a ticket to Switzerland and a Dignitas voucher. Because artistically, you're already there.


sigil said...

As a fairly regular reader, I'm usually content simply to enjoy your writing and your photos, but on this one, um, thing I must disagree. Whether it deserves to be labelled trope or meme I'm unsure, but in US TV comedy "thing" in this sense is well-established shorthand for "I can't think up a good enough lie to get out of this situation". Also, if you have time, dig out the West Wing box set and listen to how often characters like Sam and Josh use it for whatever important, uh (again), thing it is that they're working on.

The Red Witch said...

I do agree though, Big Bang Theory is very overrated and seldom ever funny. I only watch it because my kids want to.