We've taken to having Friday afternoon trivia quizzes here at AWC HQ, through the amazing power of Zoom and Google Docs – and of course a virtual cheers or two. One of last week's topics was ‘television' and it's amazing how diverse our range of knowledge is (Nat = 3/10, Sarah = 10/10). It got us talking about the best television shows around and what makes them awesome.
For Rah, one of the best shows ever made is How I Met Your Mother. The long-running comedy, which won dozens of awards, uses a clever narrative structure to show the adventures of a bunch of friends in New York in a unique way. The writers, Craig Thomas and Carter Bays, decided to tell the story from the point of view of the main character Ted who is recounting to his kids in 2030 how he met their mother.
“It's the greatest arc in TV history,” Rah says. “They sustained this amazing story for almost ten years. That's some pretty clever writing.”
For long-running arcs, Nicole prefers the teen classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Running for seven seasons, Buffy wasn't afraid to take risks with its characters or storylines.
“I loved Buffy growing up,” Nicole says. “All of the strange twists and turns and arcs. Even though it was about good versus evil, characters were never black or white. An evil mayor could show acts of kindness, and good characters made mistakes. I also loved Firefly.”
Both Buffy and Firefly were created by Joss Whedon, who also created the TV shows Angel, Dollhouse, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He went on to the big screen to direct the first two Avengers movies.
“I second Nic about Firefly,” says Amy. “It’s action-packed, quick-witted and was a really interesting look at a futuristic world that was still based in a reality we know and understand.”
For a reality that's not quite as close to our own, Sarah looks to BoJack Horseman, an animated series about a washed-up horse actor.
“I love BoJack Horseman,” Sarah says. “It’s quirky and clever and dark and raw.”
The best-loved TV shows all start with great writing. They have flawed characters facing challenges that you believe in – even if the setting is in a fantasy world or outer space. Like in all creative writing, a good script needs conflict and drama to drive the action forward.
For AWC's CEO Valerie Khoo, that is exemplified in Succession, the comedy-drama series about a media mogul family.
“They have constructed flawed characters that either intrigue, entertain or appal,” Valerie says. “And I can’t stop watching.”
Another compulsive view is Messiah, streaming on Netflix, which Abby loves. “It has been splendidly filmed and you are constantly questioning if he really is the Messiah,” she says. “Plus, I also love Inspector Rex (Kommissar Rex to be totally correct). It's full of corny action scenes, good ol' fashioned crime-fighting fun with the cutest cop – Rex, the German Shepherd, of course!”
Inspector Rex is one of those shows that seems simple and formulaic – but even the cheesiest TV shows need strong writing and fun stories. That's what makes them so popular.
Sarah agrees that some of her favourite shows are the ones that are more like dessert than a complex main meal.
“I’ve rewatched every episode of Gavin & Stacey and Sex & the City countless times since my late teens,” she says. “They’re my go-to cheer up series.”
If you've ever longed to create your own memorable television characters, now is the perfect time to try your hand at Screenwriting for Television. Offered by writer and script producer Holly Lyons on our Online Live platform, you'll have the amazing opportunity to workshop your ideas with like-minded creatives and an industry professional. You'll learn the steps to create an original series and receive feedback on your pitch and understand the current trends in Australia’s television industry.
“Holly is an extraordinary presenter,” says AWC graduate Cheryl Bawhey. “She's fun, vibrant, understands her craft and can explain it clearly. She encouraged us to push hard and I achieved more than I could have believed.”
Fellow graduate Ashleigh Peploe agrees. “Holly was fantastic! She was extremely knowledgeable about the television writing industry and had lots of insightful tips to offer. She was also very welcoming and friendly, and clearly loved what she taught.”
This is the first time the Australian Writers' Centre is offering our Screenwriting for Television course online via Zoom. Held over five evenings starting 23 April, this is an unmissable opportunity for anyone wanting to break into the television industry.