For me, the worst part of being a writer is I don’t enjoy books, movies, and TV shows the way I did before I wrote fiction for a living. Now my mind is usually jumping ahead, trying to anticipate the twists and turns! And too often afterward I find myself grousing about the plot holes, dropped storylines, or unsatisfying endings. Here are a few ways I would’ve tweaked some familiar movies and TV shows:
SAVING GRACE (TV series): The love triangle between Grace, Ham, and Butch was GREAT. The series, in my opinion, started falling apart when the romantic conflict began to erode. IF I HAD WRITTEN IT, I would’ve drawn the men’s characters as more polar opposites, and kept Grace conflicted about which man to choose. They were all terrific characters, but not great foils for each other. (For the record, though, the un-romantic way the show ended was its inevitable conclusion.)
WITNESS (feature film): Flawless…except it needs a sequel. IF I HAD WRITTEN IT, Rachel and John Book would’ve conceived a child on their one night of passion. Rachel would’ve married Daniel and they would’ve raised the child as their own. But now Daniel has died, and the child (who is an angsty 18-year-old) has left the Amish community to live among the English, and has gone missing. Samuel leaves his home to find John Book to look for his brother, and John eventually gets Rachel to admit the boy is his son. John finds the boy and Rachel agrees he can live with John…or something similarly satisfying. (Although does the fact that the reboot of INDIANA JONES also has a Harrison-Ford-secret-baby plot ruin my idea?)
THE GIFTED MAN (TV series): I thought Patrick Wilson was well-cast as a brilliant but flawed surgeon. And I love Jennifer Ehle, who was the best Elizabeth Bennett ever in the BBC 5-hour version of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. BUT the whole ex-wife-is-a-ghost-who-revisits-uptight-surgeon storyline was just…unnecessary. It detracted from the real throughline of the plot, which was that an uptight, upscale surgeon does pro bono work at an inner city clinic. The ghost was the motivator because she guilted him into it. But IF I HAD WRITTEN IT, the surgeon would’ve had a DUI or something, and been sentenced to community service at the inner city clinic. Easy, peasy…and no extraneous ghost. And Margo Martindale, who was shamefully underutilized as the surgeon’s receptionist/assistant should’ve been running the clinic. A gem of an idea, but poorly executed, in my opinion.
LIPSTICK JUNGLE (TV series): I really rooted for this show and heralded Brooke Shields’s return to television, but viewers just didn’t find the three successful female women in Manhattan relatable. Personally, I appreciated the fact that the show portrayed the women at the top of their professional games, but as a writer, I felt they didn’t give the characters room enough to grow. Male OR female, who’s more interesting—the fantastically successful executive who’s fighting to keep their power, or the fantastically successful executive who’s just been downsized and has to start over? The quickest way to build sympathy for a character is to make them an underdog, and there were no underdogs on the show.
I know, I know—it’s easy to critique a show after the fact, after it failed, or after it’s off the air. And I don’t mean to step on the toes of the writing teams that married actors to scripts and sets and advertisers, etc. There’s a lot more collaboration in TV and feature film…and a lot more opportunities for the ideas to get muddied and the throughline blurred by too much input. I’ve seen it happen with my own books—editorial, marketing, and sales get involved with the content, cover, and positioning, and before I know it, my fresh, edgy idea is almost unrecognizable! And what gets put out there feels like a diluted version of my original vision. So…I get how some projects just simply miss their mark, and leave viewers (readers) wanting. Somewhere, someone is probably closing the cover of one of my books saying, “If I had written it…”
Is there a book, movie or TV series, past or present, that you’d like to tweak?