WHEN SCREENWRITERS GET LAZY

I’m not a big movie fan, but I do manage to watch a few now and then. As you’d expect, I probably pay as much attention to the writing as what happens on the screen. I studied playwriting fairly extensively in college, and many of the devices and tactics used by screenwriters were developed by playwrights.

I have a fascination with how screenwriters use the script to advance the plot, but there is one device I absolutely despise. To me, it’s the sign of a lazy screenwriter who is looking for an effortless way to move the plot forward or explain something to the viewer. I cringe every time I see the device, which crops up more often in comedies than in other types of films.

That dreaded device is using a TV reporter or a play-by-play announcer as a key plot element. For example, in films that involve sports or have sports-related settings, as we watch the game, the announcer describes what’s happening (as though we couldn’t see it) and fills in the gaps that we don’t know about, so the writer isn’t forced to find creative ways to introduce them. Even worse, everything the announcer says is heard on the field. Have you ever been to a football or basketball game where the TV or radio announcers were being broadcast over the public address system? Neither have I.

The TV reporter device is just as corny and cloying. The reporter stands off to the side, describing what we’re seeing, and feigning shock as surprise elements are injected. “Now the senator is turning to his aide and … oh!  Who is that? Why it must be the senator’s long-lost girlfriend, and she appears to be carrying a gun!”

The Oscars get a lot of attention every year. I wish there were also awards to call out the lazy screenwriters. Maybe that would break them of their sloppy habits.

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