John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: And my name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Episode 286 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Today on the podcast, well, way back in Episode 37 we discussed dialogue. Today we’re doing a follow up on that. A part two on dialogue. The ways in which characters communicate with each other and let us know what’s inside their heads. Then we’ll be discussing two terms often applied to screenwriters and I will be urging people to stop using those terms.
Craig: Yeah. That’s a great idea.
John: Plus, we’ll have a chance to answer some listener questions if we don’t run out of time, so we should probably get started. Craig, last week we asked How Would This Be a Movie, and several of our listeners wrote in to say that was already a TV show.
Craig: Yeah, who knew? So, this was the Alexis Manigo story. This was the girl who was stolen from her parents when she was born, from the hospital, and raised by an entirely different woman. And then comes to find out when she’s 17 or 18 what the truth is, and it was an interesting story. So, she was born Kamiyah Mobley and then was raised as Alexis Manigo, and I guess now she’s back to being Kamiyah Mobley. Regardless, many folks wrote in, including – do you remember this guy, Stuart Friedel? [laughs]
John: Vaguely. I think he was a producer early on on Scriptnotes. That’s maybe how we knew him, Stuart.
Craig: Only for the first 98% of the shows. Regardless, Stuart and others wrote in to direct our attention to an MTV series that was called Finding Carter. And that show was about – we’ll see if this sounds familiar- a teenage girl whose life is turned upside down when she discovers that the woman she thought was her mother had abducted when she was a child. That’s the exact same story. And it was created by a writer named Emily Silver. So, yeah, looks like I guess life has imitated art there?
John: Perhaps. Or Emily Silver was ahead of the game. Perhaps she traveled through time and she saw the story and went back in time so she could be the first one there with that story.
Craig: That’s the most likely explanation.
John: That is absolutely. Occam’s razor suggests time travel is clearly what was at work here. It’s a good idea for a story in general. So that was a fictional version of that story. I kind of remember a promo for it, because I don’t watch a lot on MTV, but I watch MTV’s The Challenge and I would see promos for Finding Carter back in those days.
Craig: I got to tell you, I have forgotten that MTV even exists. I mean, look, when we were kids MTV came out and it was the bomb. Right? We all loved MTV. The astronaut dancing around. Videos were this new thing. We were just thrilled.
John: We also said words like The Bomb.
Craig: Right. Like that’s how old we are. And then MTV stopped playing music videos and started doing other stuff. And we were like, meh, I don’t know. But then they had MTV’s The Real World. And that became the new hotness. Right?
John: I loved The Real World. I probably watched the first six seasons of The Real World.
Craig: I don’t know how long I stuck around. I think I probably checked out after San Francisco, which was kind of the height of drama. At least as far as I could tell. And then I stopped watching MTV. I don’t even know where to find it. I don’t know what’s on it. And I’m not sure that’s necessarily a function of me being an old dude. My son is 15. My daughter is 12. I don’t even know if they know that MTV is a thing.
John: I think MTV is still a thing, it’s just because channels have become much less important, networks have become less important, and programs have become more important. So, like Teen Wolf is a big MTV show.
Craig: Ah, OK.
John: And so that is a big scripted show. And so that is sort of what they do now. And Finding Carter was a series, like Teen Wolf, but it didn’t break out in the way that Teen Wolf broke out to become a phenomena.
John: Yeah. I think you can still make some sort of movie version of that story, but I kind of feel like we were – obviously we weren’t going to know about Finding Carter. We’re just not in that demographic. But I think a TV series is actually a really interesting way to go with that idea, because it’s an ongoing journey. It doesn’t have to be a one-time situation to discover that you’re kidnapped. There’s a lot of story that you can stretch out ahead there. And so a TV series is a good way to do that. Congratulations, Emily Silver, your time travel seems like a great opportunity for narrative.
John: Silver! Next up, we talked about sea monkeys. And, again, there was a TV show. I have no idea there was a TV show. There was a television program that ran for 11 episodes in 1992 called The Amazing Live Sea Monkeys. It starred Howie Mandel as the professor. The show was created by Howie Mandel, along with Stephen Charles and Edward Chiodo, who I looked up and they are like puppeteers. They are puppet makers. And so this was a live action show. The sea monkeys had sort of puppeted faced. I mean, they were like makeup faces. And so they were full size people.
I should probably just read the Wikipedia summary. “The plot revolved around the notion that the Professor had accidentally enlarged three sea monkeys to human-size, and plotlines followed their ensuing comical ineptness in the world. Each Sea Monkey displayed a certain odd character trait: Aquarius could not keep a secret, Bill was afraid of an Imperial, Dave would grow excited at the sound of polka music. They occasionally come into contact with their next door neighbors the ‘Brentwood’s, whose daughter Sheila becomes the Sea-Monkeys best friend.”
Craig: First of all, what is happening? I mean, we’ve talked a lot about what it means to build a character. This is a good example of what to not do. “Dave would grow excited at the sound of polka music” – not really a solid substitute for verisimilitude in a living creature. But, what the hell does “Bill was afraid of an Imperial” mean? What?
John: I don’t know. I feel like we shouldn’t entirely judge a show based on its Wikipedia summary.
Craig: The Wikipedia summary. Right.
John: But we will put a link in the show notes to the YouTube clip so people can watch it. I feel like if you were taking advantage of California’s new medical marijuana laws, this might be the thing to start watching, because it is surreal in the strangest ways.
Craig: Well, it is. I watched about, I don’t know, two minutes of it. And it is – “ensuring comical ineptness” – sounds correct. There was comical ineptness all around there. But I was struck by how, once again, John, how old we are, because this show looked honestly like it was – other than being in color, it could have been made in 1840. [laughs] And it was from 1992. I graduated college in 1992. I can’t believe that this was what was happening back then. Not good.
John: No. Not good. I will say that this falls into that gap of – I grew up watching Saturday morning shows. I think this was a Saturday morning show. I hope this was a Saturday morning show. But I grew up watching those. But then, of course, you turn to junior high and high school and you stop watching those shows. And so there’s a whole generation of those shows that you would not have caught.
So, Stuart Friedel, again, probably would have watched this show.
John: But you and I would not have watched this show.
Craig: I bet you Stuart still watches it occasionally.
John: Stuart is a huge fan of children’s television. And I guess sort of young adult television. That’s why he knows about Finding Carter. He can tell you what’s happening on the Thundermans. He’s very good at that kind of stuff.
Craig: And not in a weird way, by the way.
John: No, there’s nothing at all weird about Stuart Friedel. He’s as straight-forward as you could come.
Craig: He legitimately loves children’s–
John: He really does.
Craig: I had dinner with Stuart the other night.
John: Tell me about dinner with Stuart Friedel, or after the air if it’s too embarrassing.
Craig: No, it was – well, after dinner was what normally happens with me and Stuart. And, you know what, we’re good. We’re cool. It was delightful. It was delightful. He is a lovely person. And a very, very smart person. He’s doing quite well.
John: Yeah. And he’s married. Congratulations, Stuart Friedel.
Craig: He’s married. Yes. One day our show may be produced byScriptnotes, Ep 286: Script Doctors, Dialogue and Hacks — Transcript