As a TV actor, you need to know how to adapt your characters’ and stories to live on screen, said Dovid Katz, a film professor at Brandeis University and the author of The Dramatic Mind: How to Write a Show That Can Translate to the Screen.
“In the world of TV, the biggest difference between a TV show and a film is the pace of production, and you have to make the best use of it,” he said.
Katz said the process of writing a drama, in which a character is introduced to the audience at a very young age, involves a balancing act.
You have to know what your characters want to do and what they need to do in order to do that, he said, and then you have a chance to make that happen, whether that’s through a twist or a twist-happy payoff.
You also have to remember that you can’t rely on the story being consistent over time, Katz said.
“You can’t just say, ‘Well, this character needs to do X, Y, Z, but he doesn’t know it yet.'”
He said that’s why the idea of a first-season finale is such a big deal.
“When you write a first season finale, you have an opportunity to have the audience laugh, cry, gasp, and hopefully learn something,” Katz said, adding that that moment should be something that is felt and appreciated by viewers.
The best example of a TV finale that works, he added, is “The Wire.”
The show, which starred and directed by David Simon and which ran from 2002 to 2004, featured a finale in which the characters, including two of the show’s central characters, fought their way out of the penitentiary and onto the streets of Baltimore.
The show’s finale, which aired during the final season of its run, was a big turning point in the show, Katz explained.
“They had a great finale, a very, very intense finale,” he told The Jerusalem Review.
“But that’s when the audience understood what had happened and what was happening.”
He said one of the biggest problems that people have with a TV season finale is that it’s a bit of a surprise to the viewers.
“The reason the show is a big show, it has a really satisfying ending, is because the audience is a bit surprised by it,” Katz added.
He said in a perfect world, TV finales should be unexpected.
“I think it’s just part of the process,” he added.
“A good finale is like a big surprise for the audience.”
He noted that the biggest problem that people often have with TV endings is that people do not realize how important it is to have them.
“People think the endings are important because the characters don’t get to go home,” Katz explained, adding, “But I think the ending is the point, the big twist.”
Katz said one thing that can be a challenge for a showrunner and a writer is when the characters have to take a break.
He explained that when you write for a TV series, there is a “very specific way to make a break,” and that when the writers are dealing with a long-running show, they have to think about how to make them happen quickly and efficiently.
He noted, for example, that a series with a huge cast, like the series of The Wire, had to be very deliberate in how it ended, because it would not be a show that would have an easy time with viewers, especially in its final seasons.
Katz added that it can be easy to think, “Well, I’ve got a lot of characters, so they need this.
And it’s going to be all of my characters,” and so on, but the problem with that is you can end a show with a twist that is not consistent with what the characters are already doing, Katz added, pointing out that some of the characters on the show were not even born when the finale was filmed.
“And then when the story is over, it’s like, ‘Oh, my God, this was really hard to do,'” he said of how many of the character’s arcs are left unresolved.
Katz also said that when a show is about to end, its writers need to figure out a way to have some kind of a climax.
“If you’re going to write a drama series and you want to have a big climax, the characters aren’t going to just go home and say, hey, I don’t care, I’m going to kill somebody, I want to kill you all,” Katz stressed.
“Because they’re still involved in the world, they need a little bit of closure, they can go back to where they came from and they can have some sort of closure.
And you have the characters going, ‘No, we’re not done here.
We’re not finished here.
What do we do now?'”