3 Examples of Exceptional Television Writing

Do you pay attention to the writing when watching a television program or a movie? The more I learn about my own writing the more I notice the skills of others which includes writers for the small and big screen. In the past year and a half I’ve watched some exceptionally well-written television programs. The three series I’ve chosen to share with you are not only written well they possess that intangible quality that comes from mixing precise elements that create something remarkable.

Penny DreadfulPenny Dreadful – Showtime
Drama | Horror
Josh Hartnett | Eva Green | Timothy Dalton | Billie Piper

Explorer Sir Malcolm Murray, American gunslinger Ethan Chandler, and others unite to combat supernatural threats in Victorian London.

Last April I began a journey that lasted eight weeks and changed the way I look at certain things. The first episode of Penny Dreadful hooked me, kept me on the line and I’m anxious for the next season to start. I’ll be happy to hang onto that line, never to be pulled into the boat if the writing and acting remains as superior as the first season. I can’t choose a favorite episode because they all coalesce to create a bigger picture. However, episode seven titled Possession was phenomenal.

TyrantTyrant – FX
Action | Drama | Thriller
Adam Rayner | Jennifer Finnigan | Ashraf Barhom | Fares Fares

The story of an unassuming American family drawn into the workings of a turbulent Middle Eastern nation.

FX is known for its hard-hitting shows, but I was reluctant to watch this one. I feared the writers would gloss over the real issues. My fears were unfounded because they go for the jugular with this series. From the naivete of westerners to the complexities of middle eastern culture, Tyrant explores the vagaries of power and its all-consuming nature. Action, political intrigue and the tyrannical tendencies that live within us all are laid bare.

BroadchurchBroadchurch – BBC America
Crime | Drama | Mystery
David Tennant | Olivia Coleman | Arthur Darvill | David Bradley

The murder of a young boy in a small coastal town brings a media frenzy, which threatens to tear the community apart.

BBC America is one of my favorite channels for more reasons than just Doctor Who (which would be enough). When they announced they would be airing Broadchurch, I hadn’t heard any hype and really didn’t know what to expect. However, with David Tennant and Arthur Darvill in the cast how bad could it be? Like Penny Dreadful, Broadchurch held me captive from the first episode all the way through to the end. The pristine writing with its nuances in the hands of brilliant actors was like eating your favorite dessert and never getting full. They tried to recreate the chemistry with an American version, Gracepoint, but it fell short. The fans of Broadchurch were treated to a resolution at the end of its run, so when it was announced that a second season was being filmed…let’s just say giddy comes to mind.

  • I’ve been meaning to look into Penny Dreadful; I’ve heard such good things, but I just don’t have time to get sucked into a new show right now. I’m filing it away for future use.

  • I wasn’t a huge fan of Gracepoint, either. But you’re right; the BBC offers some great programming. BBC America had a show called Copper that I thought was exceptional. It was about police corruption during the Tammany Hall days at Five Points, NY. But it was so much more. The character dynamics and interplay was exceptional. Sorry to see that one go. Nice post, Missy. I think people often forget to apply the same literary critiques to television. Or maybe they don’t bother because television has been overrun with reality programming (not that it’s real, or anything).