Wednesday, May 05, 2010

TV shows that have influenced me

Yesterday I responded to a Lucy Vee meme by wittering about movies that have influenced me and my writing somehow. Now here's the TV version: What TV programme at some point in your life made you a) understand the creative process and b) influence your own style of writing? I won't bother tagging three people, since none of the lazybones I named yesterday have yet risen to the challenge.

Let's get the obvious choice out of the way first: Doctor Who. This show has loomed large in my consciousness my whole life. I saved money from a paper round to buy a Polaroid camera just to take photos of the title sequence. I won a fancy dress as your favourite book character contest at Pt Chev library, thanks to a hat, long scarf and Who novelisation.

The show's core concept of being able to go anyway in time or space is so ultimately brilliant, so completely fluid. The cliffhanger storytelling model of Classic Who, the novelty of new worlds and new eras to explore, the levels of jeopardy and morality - all are core components of my writing. But the Doctor almost always wins, not true of most of my stories.

Just as influential - maybe even more so - was Hill Street Blues. This sprawling American police procedural with its ensemble cast chimed with me like few shows do. Characters were heroic but flawed, neat resolutions for storylines rare. Overlapping dialogue, hand-held camera work that put you into the middle of things - many things that made shows like The Wire great started here.

I see the influence of Hill Street Blues in a lot of my stories. It's probably the reason I favour TV drama over writing for film. I want to replicate the chaotic style of that great early 80s show, and movies don't love ensemble storytelling. HSB turned me into a TV writer, so a big thanks to Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll [and David Milch too]. I owe you. Onwards!


Shane said...

The first four seasons of the West Wing and the brief, but shining, light that was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Aaron Sorkin is legendary as far as i'm concerned.


If you like Sorkin, you should try and track down his first series, Sports Night. Not perfect, but it's where Sorkin cut his teeth as a TV writer and the first appearance of many things that become tropes in TWW and S60OTSS. Sports Night used to appear on a digital-only channel in the UK, or you can order it on DVD from if you've got a multi-region player.