Won’t mention the show or which episode or the writer by name, but recently I rewatched A Classic Episode of A Classic Show by a Famous Writer, and holy shamolley, was it badly written. Standard TV tropes of the era, several delivered ham-fistedly. Bad, clunky, overwritten dialog. Not a lot of logical sense to the story.
Where it does work -- much to the chagrin of the Famous Writer, I’m sure -- is in the direction.
Lordie, it’s beautiful and striking and dramatic, and yes, the plot works well when you don’t actually listen to what’s being said, and the location used is truly inspired, and if the Famous Writer called for that location, more power to ‘em.
But it exemplifies a trait of most visual media sci-fi / fantasy, which is a trait shared by opera: It doesn’t have to make logical sense, it just has to make emotional sense.
Mute the volume and The Classic Episode plays like gangbusters. It looks and feels right.
The Famous Writer’s attempts to logically explain everything all fall flat, and the dialog sounds like a bad parody of said Famous Writer.
It’s not even as good an episode of The Classic Show as other, lesser known episodes. Those are workmanlike and show more polished professionalism.
What The Classic Episode offers is a goofy concept that straddles the boundary between abject silliness and awesome surrealism.
When the characters aren’t talking about the story’s central premise it looks pretty cool and compelling.
When they open their mouths and the Famous Writer’s words come spilling out…oy.
So who do we credit? The Famous Writer put in enough good stuff for the director and actors to work with, but also saddled them with a lot of bad stuff that worked against them and the story.
The direction is freakin’ brilliant, even the cheap bits that don’t really work, but could the director -- a reliable journeyman not known as a stylist – have achieved the high level he did without the Famous Writer’s groundwork?
I don’t think so.
Some of you may have pieced together enough clues to guess the show / episode / writer (if so, please don’t discuss those specifics on social media; that ain’t my intent here), and if you’re fans of same, you might be ticked off at my assessment.
But if ever there was a example of how a genuinely collaborative effort can raise all levels, this is it; I can’t imagine a more faithful interpretation of the Famous Writer’s script being any better.
Sometimes creators in general and writers in particular are their own worst enemies, and it takes someone outside of the writing process to make sense and find quality in the work.
© Buzz Dixon