One of the things I do as a writer is to justify watching hours of live-streamed television by claiming it’s a way to study my craft. I’m not totally off the mark — television shows today are incredibly well scripted, acted, costumed, and filmed. We’re truly living in a golden age of television.
With that in mind, here are the shows that seriously tick me off because when I finish an episode there’s no way in hell I’m not going to watch the next one even though it’s 2 a.m.
Breaking Bad – it’s a perfect example of an intense character arc spread over five years. The writer, Vince Gilligan, wanted to create a show where the protagonist becomes the antagonist making the character’s transformation the fundamental drive of the series. It’s brilliant.
Better Call Saul – is a prequel to Breaking Bad with lovable attorney Saul Goodman (it’s all good man) skating the law with his sharp wit and fast tongue. His brother Chuck is a truly hateful villain.
Modern Family – comedy at it’s best. Self-deprecating and heart-warming but not overly sentimental. Still, I find myself wiping my eyes at the end of most episodes. I’m a few seasons behind but my daughter tells me that even this season, the tenth and last, is as good as ever.
This is Us – the ending of the season-opener is one of those “WHOA” moments. Actors Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia are so good, Mandy Moore – not so much. But the dialogue is smart and the plot twists in this family drama keep me watching.
The Haunting of Hill House and Castle Rock – of these two horror shows, I prefer Castle Rock (by Stephen King and J.J. Abrams) because of the plot twists. At the end of one episode, I said, “Wait, what?” and then attempted to piece it together. I’m okay with waiting for the next season to see how it plays out. Having said that, The Haunting of Hill House (based on the novel by Shirley Jackson) had the scariest moment of any TV show or movie I’ve seen. I screamed not once but twice.
7 Days Out – this documentary is brilliant, showing the preparations leading up to a major event. The first episode is the Westminister Kennel Club Dog Show. I watched it at my dentist’s office (yep, they stream Netflix for me) and told the dental hygienist not to worry if I started to cry. The other shows include the opening of the best restaurant in the world (Eleven Madison Park in NYC), the intentional crashing of the Cassini spacecraft into Saturn, the Kentucky Derby, Paris Fashion Week, and the League of Legends Championship Series. I can’t wait until they produce more episodes.
The Crown – my favorite historical series. Amazing casting, dialogue, costuming, and cinematography. It’s wonderful to watch it with my mom who remembers so much about this era. The Crown also gives me a new appreciation for the royals and Winston Churchill. I was a fan of Downton Abbey, but the ending of the third season was just too much to take.
And of course:
Game of Thrones – epic fantasy at it’s best. Yeah, it’s gory, bloody, brutal, and pornographic but it’s got dragons. Oh, and characters you root for even if you hate them. I was lucky enough to see Ramin Djawadi, the composer of the Game of Thrones music, when he performed with an orchestra and choir at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois while scenes from the show were projected on giant screens and fire breathed from the ceiling. Can’t wait for Season 8!
If I’m not struggling to discover what Paul’s up to in my Devil Particle manuscript or reading the latest Stephen King novel you can bet I’m watching one of these shows. What are you watching these days? Please be sure to tell me your favorites — I’ll add them to my list!
Where you can learn more about me:
THIS MONDAY, January 21st – Listen to my interview with Author Rex Owens during his My World and Welcome to It radio program on Sun Prairie’s 103.5 The Sun when we talk all things writing. Tune in at 10:00 a.m. or live stream it at www sunprairiemediacenter.com. The Sun is an amazing radio station. If you’re a citizen of Sun Prairie, you can host your own talk show on whatever strikes your fancy — free of cost!
Where you can find me in this new year:
TONIGHT — Do to the snow storm, I’ll miss the Eighth Annual Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Awards at The Book Cellar in Chicago’s Lincoln Square. If you’re in the area, you should definitely check it out. It’s a wonderful night to celebrate amazing authors!
Just Write! An Uncommon Writers Conference 2019 – March 16 – 17, 2019, Warwick Allerton Hotel, Chicago. Great workshops on the craft of writing, plus book signings and a live lit event. I’m looking forward to teaching my cliffhanger workshop and curating the live lit event.
UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies 30th Annual Writers Institute – April 4 – 7, 2019 Concourse Hotel, Madison, WI. Workshops on everything from craft to marketing to pitching to publishing. I’ll be on the “Celebrating Your Book: Festivals and Readings Panel” with Author Shannon Henry Kleiber, helping writers hone their pitches, running the book day events, and judging the Live Lit Event with Author Silvia Acevedo.
Novel-in-Progress Bookcamp and Writing Retreat – May 19 – 25, 2019, Cedar Valley Retreat Center in West Bend, Wisconsin. I’ll be on a self-publishing panel with Authors Nicole Pierce and Melissa Haag and presenting my workshop titled “The Formula for Settings Agents, Editors, and Readers Love”.