October Road: When Bad Writing happens to Good Actors

So I’m not a professional writer just yet, but I can sniff out bad dialogue fairly quickly.

In our next chapter of When Bad Writing Happens to Good Actors: October Road.

Now I seriously love me some Laura Prepon (That 70s Show) and Bryan Greenberg (a bunch of movies, yadda yadda he’s Jake from One Tree Hill and while that sounds like TV blasphemy, Jake is the reason anyone gets hooked on OTH.) Read MeeVee’s Interview with Laura and Bryan. The supporting cast has yet to be tapped fully, so I’ll leave them out of this. But these two are good actors and they deserve better.

The problem with October Road isn’t the premise, the characters or the plot. It’s the dialogue. Good actors go out of their way to deliver lines believably. But when the words they use are flat, it just sounds over dramatic. On October Road, the characters talk to the audience and not to each other. Here’s four major areas of concern:

1. Repetition– Example from last night’s episode:
Character 1: “There’s got to be some kind of payback.”
Character 2: “What kind of payback?”

On the surface, it might not look like much, but out loud, it’s completely unrealistic. People don’t repeat the same words or phrases in conversation unless it’s done for an intended emphasis. I think HIMYM uses this but it’s for comedic effect. BSG uses it to increase tension, like when Helo and Sharon get into an argument and they both throw around “because you’re/I’m a Cylon”.

2. Stating the Obvious-
Goes without explaining, but VM uses this for comedic effect. Which is great because then Keith and Roni get to stretch their noir detective voices or V gets a sarcastic slam on a scooby.

3. Trying to be Quotable- “This ___ is in diapers”
I think my ears asked to bleed. Trying to be quotable is like the nerdy kid trying to be cool. Grey’s Anatomy is effortlessly quotable. Seriously. Not to mention that faux documentary we all adore. Great quotes are like inside jokes. You can’t manufacture great moments. They are just the by product of great characters interacting.

4. Recapping
“What do you mean ______ just happened?” “What are you going to do about ______”
Now, granted, sometimes these cliff notes for the channel flipping audience are a network decision (noted in TWoP as “NVMVO”), but once in an episode is forgivable. Twice, three, four times, and you start to wonder if characters are having memory loss in between act breaks.

I thought of one good example of recapping. In the FNL about racism, Tami makes Eric repeat exactly what happened and what the coach said. Eric hesitates and even says that we know what he said, but she’s making a point.

I’ll give October Road a few episodes to clean it up, just out of love for Donna.


2 responses to “October Road: When Bad Writing happens to Good Actors

  1. I applaud your effort to give it a few more episodes. My ears started bleeding uncontrollably so I decided that I could never go back.

  2. I lveo this show – particularly for hte bad writing, my friends and I talk in bad prose all the time so we love it,
    The whole “how can this be?!?!” thing and the “thats passin daffy” – hey we are a group of mostly poets and role playin fools -either they are poets or role players not both- we can’t hlep the bad dialoge.

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