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Sunday, January 08, 2006

I'm reading scripts in the Comedy/Variety division for the Canadian Screenwriting Awards. It's an interesting exercise because I haven't necessarily seen every show that's submitting; and the scripts, of course, don't stop to explain who the characters are.

Is it true that in a well-crafted script you get who the characters are from their distinctive style of speaking, even if you don't know the show? Or do you need to have seen the show -- or be reading the pilot -- to get who they are?

In a few cases where I felt there might be something I really wasn't getting, I went back and checked out the show. And what wasn't funny when I didn't know the show, still wasn't funny. If the show's well written, you get who the characters are, even if you haven't seen it. Funny is funny.

I remember reading my friend Heidi's Roseanne spec and laughing out loud, even though I hadn't seen the show in years, and I couldn't remember who Jackie was.

So that's the standard, then. Someone should be able to read your script even if they don't know the show, and get (at least by the end of the read) what that character's about.

I don't know how you do that for a CSI, but that's one reason I'm not speccing a CSI.

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CSI's success has always intrigued me. Although superficially it seems like an ensemble show in which established characters can interact and grow, the characters are in fact caricatures (no aspersions on the actors involved). Occasional efforts to imbue these cardboard creations with personality are so ham-handed as to be instantly noncredible. And yet, the show is not only popular, but has a certain irresistible fascination even for character snobs like myself. My positive reactions, however, are usually restricted to things like "Whoever dreamed up the idea of using that music over those visuals was really clever." I never find myself thinking, "That's an interesting twist to Grissom's character." After many viewings, I still have no idea who Grissom is. I suppose it's just not that important, for me or the writers.

By Blogger Marc in MD, at 9:44 AM  

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