Secret Ambitions

Do you have a secret writing ambition? Something you'd do in a minute if you could clone yourself or the opportunity rang you up on the phone? (Unfortunately, ambitions rarely if ever do this unless you're a big celebrity. Even secret ambitions require hard work in the real world.)

Okay, here's mine. I'd absolutely love to write for a cable TV drama, because that's where I think some of the best writing around has been taking place these last few years. Some of my nominees: the late, great Battlestar Galactica, Dexter, and my new favorite, Breaking Bad. (Thanks to Joni and my sister, Connie, for the fantastic recommendation.) Not to mention the prematurely canceled Firefly (though I may never forgive Josh Whedon for killing off my favorite characters in the movie version, Serenity.) I've been impressed as can be by the way the writers craft an addictive, overarching story out of episodes that have a compelling plot arc of their own. Strong story questions all but force the viewer to tune in the next week, and the characters are incredibly compelling.

The Closer's another series I really enjoy, though for me it misses the top tier because it's more episodic, which may be much better for syndication, but for my taste isn't as compelling. Great characters, though, and I enjoy the touches of humor which come out of character, something all my faves have in common.

I love the idea of working collaboratively on such a high-quality series. Or at least I think it would be fun, exciting, and challenging, though as a novelist, I'd be forced to get my ego out of the way to be able to work a part of a team instead of being a virtual goddess of my own universe. (Are we all really control freaks? Is that the real attraction?)

Anyway, I thought I'd take a moment to ask you all two things. Feel free to respond to either one or both.

1. Is there a wonderfully written cable/TV drama I'm missing? I'm not much of a TV watcher, so I normally don't "discover" a show for years, and often watch a season at a time on DVD. (No commercials! Yea! Delay while waiting for latest season to come out on vid. Boo!)

2. Better yet, what's your secret writing ambition? The one too impractical, time-consuming, or scary to pursue? We'd love to compare fantasies!

Pictured, Bryan Cranston from Season 1 of Breaking Bad.


Joni Rodgers said…
I think Breaking Bad is my favorite show in a long, long time. I'm so glad (and not a little amazed) they managed to sustain the writing for a second season. So often, something starts out great and then the accolades go to the writers' heads. A few really well-written shows I've been trying to catch as part of my ongoing screenwriting study:
Mad Men
Pushing Daisies
The Beast
Boston Legal (pre-shark jump)

On DVD, when I get the chance, I've been going back to some great writerly shows of yesteryear:
Northern Exposure
Sports Night
The West Wing
Freaks and Geeks

I watched the pilot ep of Royal Pains the other night with mixed feelings about the plotting but great appreciation for the zingy dialogue and solid characters.

As for my secret intentions...I guess I don't have any. I don't see any reason not to write whatever I want to write, and making it work is just a matter of time. I fully intend to do a mystery series, some screenwriting, and come hell or high water, I'm eventually going to find the right publisher for my dad's memoir.
William Simon said…
In addition to SPORTS NIGHT (an all time classic) THE WEST WING (the gold standard) and especially STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP (which should have lasted much longer than it did). All by Aaron Sorkin, no one does dialogue as well. No one. I'm in the process of seeing if one can wear out DVD's with those three shows...:)
Kay Hudson said…
Great cable TV writing: Mad Men on AMC. I grew up in my dad's advertising business in the 60s (although thank heavens not in New York), so this one really resonates with me, but it's a great show. I'm looking forward to the season 2 DVD set and the season 3 return.
Terry Blain said…
I agree with The Closer. I also like NCIS, especially for male dialogue as Gibbs, Tony and McGee all have differnt manners of speaking that refects their personalities.
Joni Rodgers said…
I agree, William. Sorkin is da man when it comes to dialogue. I'm excited to see his play "The Farnsworth Invention", which opens tonight at the Alley Theatre in Houston. I missed it on Broadway, and I hear it's brilliant. (No surprise there.)

Getting to know Aaron is one of the luckiest strikes of my professional life. He's a genius and a genuinely nice guy. I can't begin to summarize what I've learned from him.
mamele said…
i didn't LOVE the Farnsworth Invention (it has that sorkin-y pontificate-y problem) but i liked it. and yes, total agreement that sports night is one of the all-time best shows on tv.

among current shows, i admire Weeds (i lurve that they aren't afraid to let nancy be utterly unsympathetic!), SALIVATE for True Blood (so hot! so funny! such a rare combo!) and enjoy Dexter, Burn Notice (terrific old-school storytelling, a funny action show, and hello, bruce campbell!) and Party Down on the starz network -- jane lynch, sadly, has apparently left the show for Glee, which based on the pilot will be a don't-miss this fall (pilot's still on hulu, i think) but i will continue to adore it without her -- writing is SO good and i love the combo of naturalistic and over-the-top that this show finesses. i too am mad for Mad Men (and loved Pushing Daisies, boo hoo, tho for me that love was much more about performances, costumes and production design than teh writing). i have been briefed that my life is incomplete because i did not watch The Wire and do not watch Friday Night Lights and Southland, but too bad, i need to read books occasionally.

best-written show ever in the history of the universe: buffy.
Suzan Harden said…
LOL - I guess I'm in a league of my own here. Not that the shows everyone else has mentioned aren't great, but my taste is weird even by most geeks' standards.

Only two shows I'm currently watching religiously - The Simpsons and True Blood. Past shows - similar to Will, I'm testing to see if I can wear out the DVDs for the late, lamented The Dredsen Files. Anything by Joss Whedon or from Star Trek (except seasons 2 & 3 of Enterprise) and I'm a happy camper.

The absolute coolest writing gig before I die would be Marvel's Uncanny X-Men. Hey, if Jodi Piccoult can write Wonder Woman. . .
Teri Thackston said…
I totally agree about NCIS...wonderful characterizations and interesting stories. These days I'm hooked on a BBC program called Primeval. It's a sci-fi program that's just a lot of fun. And I'd love to write for a TV series. The collaberation would be such fun.
Jessa Slade said…
I don't know if I'd have the cojones, but I'd love to at least sit in the room with Peter Jackson & Fran Walsh while they write the script for THE HOBBIT. And then we'd do DUNE right, finally. And then we'd take on The Dragonriders of Pern. And then, well, I suppose we could squeeze my book in :)
Oooh, Jessa, I'm with you on all three of those! The Hobbit, Dune, and the original Dragonriders of Pern are three books I wore out with frequent rereading. Dune in particular really influenced me as a writer. Talk about your world-building.
Try the late, great "six feet under".
Anonymous said…

You need to rent the first season of Damages!! Then the second. We're waiting for a third.

As for sitcoms (which I'm actually not much of a fan except for Sports Night and Remember WENN), I recommend The Big Bang Theory.

My Secret Ambition is to have my favorite authors name ME as the writer they read, when they read something just for the sheer enjoyment. And then have my books turned into TV series where the writing is done by Colleen. :grin: You know what I mean-- a team of writers who do that magic thang whereby becoming our favorite shows that we then blog about.

Rhea said…
My secret ambition has always been to be able to write a straightforward philosophical text. No application to a story arc or set of characters, no pseudo-lit short stories with moral questions: just plain, flat-out, pull-no-punches philosophy.
Joni Rodgers said…
Six Feet Under seconded! Loved it.

Damages is fabulous, but it's so complicated and my TV time so sporadic, I can't keep up.
Now, I want to rent and watch all of these great shows, but alas... Michael Connelly's latest is sitting on my nightstand waiting for me to finish the books I'm currently reading: Donald Maass's new THE FIRE IN FICTION and my first James Lee Burke novel, LAST CAR TO ELYSIAN FIELDS -- how have I missed Burke all my life?
jennymilch said…
Don't have TV (we have two preschoolers in the house, so it's been better for us to go without) but my secret and not-so-secret writing ambition?

Get an offer on my novel :)
Amie Stuart said…
Definitely going to have to check out Breaking Bad! Love LOVE LOVE Saving Grace (on TNT). The characterization esp of Grace is amazing....though it's very much a shades of gray show (which honestly, is my fave type). Also discovered The Cleaner with Benjamin Bratt this week and I've been watching Season 1 on OnDemand (it's about a recovered drug addict who does interventions).

Really enjoyed Royal Pains too. Which is odd becaues normally I don't like sitcom-like shows.

Also Burn Notices (yes I watch WAY too much tv) and Leverage which comes back next month (with Timothy Hutton).

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