Six great depictions of writers on TV
Welcome to TV Squad Lists (formerly 'The Five'), a feature where each blogger has a chance to list his or her own rundown of things in television that stand out from the rest, both good and bad.
TV usually gets the writing profession wrong. I've never understood why, since shows and characters are written by writers themselves. Maybe they think they have to dumb it down for the general audience. That's why you have writers like Jessica Fletcher, who just sits down at the typewriter and the words come out fine and she mails it off to her publisher. This happens all the time on television. And have you ever noticed that when you hear the writing that a writer character has done on a show it's almost always terrible? Why is that?
After the jump are six writer characters on TV that were done correctly.
1. Rob Petrie, Buddy Sorrell, and Sally Rogers (The Dick Van Dyke Show): What I like about this team was the fact that they all worked in one small office (no separate offices or giant conference table), and there were days when they got NO work done at all. The writing would come really hard to them, and Rob would pace and Sally would knit and Buddy would sleep on the couch and they'd talk about everything else except writing. That's usually how writing works.
2. Oscar Madison (The Odd Couple): If you bumped into Oscar Madsion, you'd never think he was a writer. He was a slob, he often had a cigar in his mouth, he overslept. Wait a second, that is a writer! Jack Klugman did a great job with this role. You saw him banging away with two fingers on his typewriter, and you just knew that he was a good writer and didn't get all flowery or liteary with his words. Then he'd hand the pages to his secretary Myrna (right before deadline, of course), and you just know she had to rewrite it a bit and fix all the typos.
3. Matt Albie (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip): It's probably not a big surprise that this is a good depiction of a writer, since Aaron Sorkin writes the character and he based it partly on himself. But what I like about Albie is that you really do believe he's a writer. He paces a lot, mumbles to himself a lot, gets easily frustrated that whatever he's writing really "sucks," he smokes, he's always nervous, and he's sarcastic. Maybe it's just the fact that Matthew Perry plays him so well.
4. Dave Barry (Dave's World): Of course, I say this because the character of "Dave Barry" was based on the real life writer Dave Barry, but Harry Anderson did a good job with this, too, portraying a suburban husband and dad who was also a popular humor columnist, and his attitude rang true. I haven't seen the show in years, but didn't he have a separate office that he worked in and he wore a bathrobe a lot? Those were nice touches if I'm remembering that correctly.
5. Toby Ziegler and Sam Seaborn (The West Wing): Yeah, I know, another Sorkin creation, but he writes well. I like even though these two were opposites of each other (Toby was mumbly and easily irritated and sour, Sam was optimistic and upbeat and romantic), they had the same vision when it came to writing for the President. What we heard of their writing - and over four years it was more than you usually get on TV shows - was actually quite good. Inspirational, yet easy to understand and snappy.
6. Carl Kolchak (The Night Stalker): Actually, this guy has to be on the list because what other life did he have besides writing? And he wrote dozens of stories that he knew would never get published. That takes dedication. I don't think that most writers would be caught in the same outfit every single day (outside the home anyway). Unless you're Tom Wolfe.