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New Summer TV

So, last week I wrote about shows that are canceled that I’ll miss and the week before I talked about shows that are returning for the summer. Today, I’m talking about shows that are new, premiering this summer (some have already started).

image from imdb.com

First up, Common Law. This show premiered a couple of weeks ago on May 11. I’ve watched the first 2 episodes and I’ll continue because it’s pretty funny. The premise is that 2 cops, who are partners, are forced into couples counseling. Of course, the idea is ridiculous, especially when you take into consideration that everyone else in the group is married. But the main characters are fascinating. We don’t have all of the backstory yet, but it is unfolding. Wes is a former lawyer who became a cop because of something bad that happened that he feels responsible for. We don’t know yet what that thing is, but we know that the career change ended his marriage. (He has shared custody of the lawn.) Travis is a player. He’s slept with too many co-workers, which causes issues while he and Wes are trying to work. Travis grew up in a string of foster homes and because of this, he has a lot of connections that help solve cases. The banter is funny and keeps me watching.

Duets airs tonight, and although I can’t say that I’m really looking forward to it, my daughters are. They got so caught up in watching The Voice, that they can’t wait for Duets to start.

Longmire is a show that I haven’t heard much about, but I think I’ll give it shot. It airs on Sun 6/3. It’s a contemporary crime drama about a sheriff in Wyoming. He lost his wife a year ago, and he’s just starting to put his life back together, when one of his deputies decides to run against him for sheriff. I’m thinking this might fill the void left by Justified. Just check out the cowboy hat. 🙂

BBC America is bringing in a BBC show called Inside Men. BBC tends to be hit or miss for me, but I might watch this. It’s about 3 security depot employees who plan and execute a heist. The story is told from all of their points of view, so that’s interesting. This has a little Leverage feel to it, for me anyway.

TNT is starting 2 new crime dramas: Perception and Major  Crimes. Major Crimes is a spin-off of The Closer and my initial reaction was that I’m not that big of a fan to want to watch a spin-off, but the main character is Capt. Raydor, who played a by-the-rules bitch in The Closer, and I might tune in for her.

Perception is about a neuroscientist with paranoid schizophrenia who helps the FBI solve crimes. The thing is, he sees things that other people don’t. Seriously, sometimes he hallucinates. I might watch just for the crazy factor.

Finally, TBS is airing a new comedy called Sullivan & Son. Now, if you’ve paid attention to my viewing habits, you’d notice that the comedies are almost non-existent. It tends to be a timing thing. This one caught my attention because it’s about a guy who goes home to visit and ends up taking over the family bar. Since a family bar is the setting for a couple of my books, I think I’ll watch just for inspiration. Plus, I was always a fan of Cheers.

What new TV show are you most looking forward to?

Don’t forget the Diamond Jubilee blog hop and raffle are still going on. Click below:

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Summer TV

I think we can all agree that I watch too much TV and the invention of the DVR has simply enabled me to watch more. But given all the vices I don’t have in my life, I think this one is acceptable. I’ve said it before — the best thing about cable TV is the seemingly never-ending supply of new episodes of something. It used to be that the TV season ran from September through May (with plenty of reruns along the way). Cable has redefined what a TV season is and I love it. Just as regular network stations are getting into reruns, favorites on cable start fresh. This summer, I have a whole bunch that I’m looking forward to.

First up, The Glades. This is another cop show. I was originally sucked into this one because the lead character, Jim Longworth, is a cop from Chicago, who moves to Florida. The cases he solves are pretty standard fare, but again, it’s the characters that draw me in. He gets involved with a nurse, who is a single mother, and still married. But her husband is in jail. Last season, the husband was released and Callie had some decisions to make. The Glades returns on June 3.

Another cop show I’m waiting for is The Closer. This is the last 6 episodes for this show. Admittedly, I mostly watch because I love Fritz. He’s too good for Brenda. The Closer will air on July 9.

Rizzoli & Isles is coming back on June 5. I’ve briefly mentioned my love for this show before, along with my girl crush on Angie Harmon.

I have 2 lawyer shows I’m looking forward to. The first is Franklin & Bash. This show feels

like Boston Legal, which is why I like it. There’s some good TV lawyering going on, but nothing too serious. The lead characters are good at what they do, but they act like kids a good portion of the time, which makes them fun to watch. Franklin & Bash returns June 5.

The other lawyer show is Suits. I love this show because the main characters are little more than conmen. Harvey is super-genius lawyer. Mike is a genius who has faked his way into a job as a lawyer (without ever attending law school or taking the bar for himself). Together they make a great team. Suits is coming back June 14.

Covert Affairs is one of my guilty pleasures. The show is not credible and Annie Walker as a CIA agent is not believable even for a moment, but it’s fun to watch. Plus I like Augie. Covert Affairs will air July 10.

Leverage is coming back July 16. You gotta love the bad guys who are the good guys. Think A-Team without blowing things up (usually).

The show I can’t wait for, however, is True Blood. It’s heading into its 5th season. Honestly, it’s a fluke I started watching. I’d heard a lot of buzz when it premiered. Then one night, I had laundry to fold and it was on, and I never looked back. I watched the entire season and then for Christmas, my husband bought me all of the Sookie Stackhouse books which are the inspiration. I like the books (at least the first 8 or so) but I love the show for entirely different reasons. It’s sexy and suspenseful and mysterious and just plain great stuff (unless blood makes you squeamish).

Here’s a little taste (no pun intended) of the vampires:

Here’s the trailer for season 5:

What summer show are you most looking forward to?

Trusting the Audience

I think as writers there is a fine line we travel between trusting our audience and not revealing enough. I’ve talked about this before when I talked about my love for Leverage. In that post I talked a little about showing versus telling and how a little goes a long way. Today, I’m going to take it a step further and talk about trusting your audience.

image from MikePedersen.com

As I mentioned in that Leverage post, as a writer, I tend to under-inform my reader, especially in early drafts. I don’t want to bore anyone with an info-dump of backstory. Sometimes that means that I confuse my reader. I have a critique partner that considers herself a lazy reader. She wants the author to come out and just say things instead of implying it or leaving it for her to figure out. I, on the other hand, become irritated when an author feels the need to tell me the same things multiple times. Once is usually enough.

My TV example for this is Criminal Minds. I love this show. I’ve been watching from the very beginning and have never missed an episode. Nothing beats watching the BAU (FBI’s Behavior Analysis Unit) develop a profile for a serial killer and then go after him. In developing their profile, the team often brainstorms with each other either in the conference room or on the plane en route to the killer’s city.

For those of you who haven’t watched the show, Spencer Reid is a genius with a photographic memory. He can remember everything he’s ever read. This, in addition to the genius status, makes him somewhat of a know-it-all. I don’t mind when he spouts off random facts. I find it entertaining. What irks me is when he tells the team something they probably (or should) already know. For example, as a regular viewer of the show, I know that rape is not about sex; it’s about exerting power over the victim. If I know this, shouldn’t the entire team know this?

Here’s a clip where Reid feels the need to tell the team about arsonists (it comes in at about :43):

I think that the team would know this basic definition of an arsonist. I would be offended if he did this to me at every meeting. I know that the writers of the show are adding that information in for viewers who might not be aware of the BAU basics, but for those of us who do know, it ends up being what’s known as a “You know, Bob” conversation.

On Twitter last month, Carina Press editor Angela James made mention of the use of “You know, Bob” conversations as a means of giving backstory to the reader without it being a straight info-dump. Things like “You know when my dad took off my mom was crushed, Bob,” or “We’ve been friends since the sixth grade, so you remember the first girlfriend I had broke my heart.” As a reader, these conversations annoy me. And that’s what leads me to leave details out of my writing.

If my heroine is talking with her girlfriends about her cheating ex-husband, she’s not going to use his name and then remind them that he cheated. They should know this. Now, it’s not that I’m trying to keep things from my reader. My heroine might have a thought about how hurt she was to see him hanging on another woman because it brought back bad memories. To me, that’s enough of a hint.

As a reader, I don’t need the whole backstory, just give me enough to know what’s going on and let it come out naturally.

What do you think? Do you prefer to have things spelled out, even if it’s not a natural conversation? Do “You you, Bob?” conversations bother you?

The Anti-Hero and House of Lies

A new show started on Showtime this past Sunday. It airs right after one of my favorites, Shameless (which I posted about last week), so I decided to give it a shot. The show is called House of Lies and stars Don Cheadle as a management consultant. The show’s pace is fast and the characters are interesting, but I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll continue to watch and here’s the reason: I’m not sure I can get behind Marty (Cheadle’s character). Here’s a trailer for the show, but it is not safe for work:

For me, TV is mostly about falling for characters, so this is a sticking point. I spent some time thinking about it, which led me to decide that Marty is an anti-hero. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, I sought out what I thought would be the best definition. This comes from LearnHub:

Defining the Anti-Hero

The definition of an anti-hero can be subjective. He is usually the protagonist or a key character. Generally, an anti-hero will have the following qualities:

  • it is clear that he has human frailties; he has flaws
  • he is more accessible to readers because he is more “gritty”
  • he is often disillusioned with society, or increasingly becomes so
  • he often seeks redemption or revenge for his own satisfaction, and sometimes for the greater good of society
  • unlike the classical tragic hero, he doesn’t always think about what the right, moral thing to do – he often thinks about what’s right for him
  • he is often misunderstood by others in his society
  • he could perhaps be called a noble criminal or a vigilante
  • qualities normally belonging to villains – such as amorality, greed and violent tendencies – are tempered with more human, identifiable and even noble traits
  • their noble motives are pursued by breaking the law; a.k.a. “the ends justify the means”
  • increased moral complexity and rejection of traditional values

Now, I have absolutely nothing against the anti-hero. One of the best anti-heroes on TV right now is Dexter and I adore Dexter. Dexter is a serial killer who targets those who escaped punishment for their wrongdoings. He is a vigilante, but you see a softer side to him when it comes to his son and his sister. Also, he lives by a code where he needs to prove (to himself) that the criminal deserves to die.

The cast of characters from Leverage would also be considered anti-heroes. They steal. No matter how you slice it, what they do is illegal. This is mitigated by the fact that they commit crimes to help those in need. They fund their entire operation themselves, but it is with money gained from the first job they pulled together. Money from ill-gotten gains.

In looking at Marty and comparing him to the list above, I think my problem with him is that I don’t find much to like about him. I don’t see the bad qualities being tempered with good ones. I think the rest of the list suits him perfectly. I don’t see “increased moral complexity,” just amorality. And I’m not sure that’s enough to keep me tuning in.

Did you watch House of Lies? What did you think? How about anti-heroes — love ’em or hate ’em?

Good Bad Guys

Leverage is a show that is successful in what it does, but I’m not sure it has the following it should. Sure, it’s been on for 4 seasons now and new episodes are airing on Sunday nights, but there never seems to be a lot of buzz about this show. For anyone who has ever enjoyed Robin Hood or the A-Team, Leverage is a winner. In fact, when someone asks what the show is about, I describe it as a modern-day A-Team. Outlaws band together to help the underdog. The main difference is that instead of a physical threat, it’s usually a monetary loss that the team is trying to recover.

Here’s a trailer:

The high-tech gadgets and complex cons that the team pulls are fascinating, but the real draw for me is the characters. This is not a show that follows the characters into their personals lives. You really only get to see them as they interact with each other and the marks. We see where Nate (the leader/Mastermind) lives because his home is the base of operations for the team. Other than that, we don’t know what goes on for each of the characters outside of the jobs they complete.

Instead of making the characters boring or uncomplicated, this tactic makes them that much more intriguing. We get glimpses of them and their beliefs and fears and hang-ups based on how they react to certain jobs. The way each character interacts with a mark shows you a little more about that person. It’s fascinating to watch the characters reveal themselves in small ways.

For instance, Parker is the thief. She’s small and pretty, but she’s a tomboy. She has no fear of jumping off a building or flipping over lasers to get around an alarm. But her social skills suck. She doesn’t know how to make friends. We’ve learned that she grew up an orphan and bounced from home to home, which made her who she is. It explains a lot, but when the team takes on a job that involves an orphanage, we see the impact it has on Parker. She refuses to leave without saving the kids.

Another example is Eliot. I love Eliot; he’s my favorite character. And it’s not just because he’s nice to look at. Eliot is considered the hitter, or the muscle of the team. He beats up anyone who gets in the way. He almost never uses weapons. He prefers to use his hands. He’s a soft-spoken guy with a really nasty temper.

image from Google images

But he has a strong protective streak that pops up when a kid is involved. Also, in one episode, he asked for the team’s help for an ex-girlfriend. We got a glimpse of Eliot from another lifetime. A softer Eliot.

I could go on with a lot more examples, but I think I’ve made my point. What makes this show so enjoyable for me is that the writers are masters of showing instead of telling. Each of these characters are damaged and carry some unique baggage. We are only given a moniker for them that they use to define themselves: thief, grifter, hitter, hacker. But through the small things, we begin to see them as real 3-dimensional people.

As writers of fiction it’s what we strive for in our writing every day. We want to reveal the living, breathing characters that live inside our heads, but if we just offer a laundry list of descriptors, no one will be interested for long. Learning how to parcel out the information is one of the more difficult tasks we face.

Choosing how and when to reveal character traits and backstory is hard. We want readers to know what we know so that they can understand and love our characters the way we do. The problem a lot of writers have is that they dump a character’s entire life story on the page and expect it to be necessary.

I tend to go to the other extreme and in order to avoid info-dumping, I leave too much out. Things I know and think make it onto the page aren’t really there. I try to trust my readers to figure things out and follow along without me spelling everything out or repeating myself. The problem with that, however, is that sometimes, I end up confusing the reader.

How do you prefer your characters to be written? Do you like the slow reveal, or do you prefer the writer to lay it all out at once?