"Don't Die on Me" and Other Overused TV Cliches
So, I write TV for a living. In order to survive on almost any show, one must be willing and able to be a mercenary. This was my biggest fear starting out, that I wouldn’t be able to execute what was demanded of me due to my pesky standards.
(Un?)fortunately, that hasn’t been a problem but I’ve recently discovered it’s a quick and slippery slide from the midlands of mercenary to the lowlands of hackitude. In watching TV this past week I caught half a dozen lines on other shows that either I’d written into my current script or someone else on staff had used recently. Heard in a different context, it hit me just how rote I’d let my writing become. How lazy I’ve gotten. Shameful really. So as a way to keep myself in check and as a service to writers everywhere, I’ve begun to compile a list of lines to be avoided at all costs. And there is no group of minds I’d rather enlist to help me round this puppy out than the illustrious Eloquents.
Now, one can argue there are lines that are hackneyed because that’s just how folks talk. I’m aware most mere mortals don’t sound like they just stepped out of a Dan Waters movie (I refuse to reference Diablo Cody as the gold standard of quirky dialogue). But I’d argue there is a middle ground between “Fuck me gently with a chainsaw.” and some schlock that plays like you just shook a dialogue magic eight ball.
Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about. Help me out with some more:
“I can’t do this without you/him/her.”
“These are people’s lives” “Don’t you think I know that?”
“You take me to all the fancy places” (said while eating take out)
“How could you be so stupid?”
“What do you want from me!?”
“I can’t love you if you don’t love yourself.”
“That’s so crazy it just might work.”
“Don’t you die on me!”
“What part of ______ don’t you understand?”
“I always wanted to do/say that!”
All right, have at it.
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