TV vs. Real Life by Valerie J. Patterson

Okay, so I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts by authors that are just filled with anger, disbelief, and irritation over the season opening episode of Mike & Molly.  Apparently, Molly goes to a writing camp for several months and returns home with an advance check for a book she has yet to write.

Yep, you read that right.  Some publisher who attended the writer’s camp gave her an advance–and a hefty one at that–for a book she hasn’t written.  As she tells it, she wrote a chapter or two and the publisher loved it so much he gave her a check for thousands of dollars–enough to pay cash for a sports car–and a deadline to finish the manuscript.

The writers’ blogs I’ve been reading have the authors in an uproar.  All of them are peeved that Molly:

  1. Got an advance on a book not yet written
  2. Is an unknown, unproven writer who got an advance on a book not yet written
  3. That the TV show erroneously depicts being a struggling writer as anything BUT difficult, disappointing, and–at times–displeasing

They’re not entirely wrong.  In real life, Molly is more likely to have gotten some writing tips from said publisher–if she got that much at a writing camp.

But this is television.  A comedy nonetheless.

Anyway, I decided to continue to watch the show to see how her progress goes, and I have to say the episode that aired Monday, February 9th is probably going to be ripped to shreds in blog posts by writers that exist in the real world…and I’m going to be one of them.

Molly takes her completed manuscript to her publisher and then has a follow-up meeting with said publisher.  She’s given a suggestion by said publisher that her book was good but could actually be a phenomenal success if suddenly–in the throes of passion–her heroine is transported to a new era in time.  She must bed a man in each time period she lands in hopes of finally landing back in the present and in the arms of her one true love.  Molly–afraid to reject the suggestion–goes home and tries unsuccessfully to make the revisions her publisher  has asked for.

As an aside here, allow me to tell you about one of my own encounters with a publisher.  My novel, Montana Reins, is a western about a strong-willed. stubborn, intelligent horse trainer making a name for herself in a man’s arena.  One publisher I submitted the synopsis to asked for the entire manuscript, which I sent.  I got back a positive response telling me the publishing house was very interested in signing me, but only if I was willing to make a couple changes to the manuscript.  Here are their requests (mind you, I had to pick which one I was willing to adhere to):

  1. Could I change the time period to some point in the future (my choice of time) and have the entire book take place in outer space; or
  2. Could I rewrite the book to 1700s Ireland

I passed on the publisher.  I have faith in my work and had I thought the plot would work in either time period, I would have written it in one or the other to begin with.  And, another publisher took the manuscript as written.  Now, let’s check in with Molly and see what she’s up to…

Back at the publisher’s office, she admits she cannot make the changes requested.  The publisher stands up and snidely tells her he owns her and will destroy her unless she does as he demands.  Dejected and demoralized, Molly goes home and works on the book.  Then we see her at the office of her publisher once more only this time she pulls a fast trick on him and sneakily gets him to change his mind.  It’s not enough that he falls for her ploy, but he also shrinks back and gives in to her demands.

Only in a television comedy could this happen between a writer and a publisher.  What upsets me is not that this isn’t a real world depiction of the relationship between a writer and a publisher, but that it passes as comedy.

I am secure enough in my talent to not be offended by what has taken place between Molly and her publisher.  However, as a television viewer I am disappointed in the plot, the characterization, and the dialogue.  My biggest question is not: Could this happen in real life?  No, my biggest question is: What has happened to sitcom writing today?

Until next time, I hope your television viewing is something to laugh at!

12 responses to “TV vs. Real Life by Valerie J. Patterson

  1. Lol, Valerie. I don’t normally watch Mike and Molly, but did catch both these episodes. They seemed farcical enough that I didn’t think anyone would believe they were anything but a comedic depiction of life as a writer. I actually laughed (sorry) at the publisher’s demands and enjoyed how Molly got her own way in the end. I found it interesting that the writer’s depicted the person who, in real life, is pretty much their boss as not quite so intelligent and a narcissist. No, it’s not real life. And yes, I agree it’s not the best comedic line. Since it’s not my favorite sitcom to watch (I”m a Big Bang Theory gal), I just rolled my eyes and moved on.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      I’m not a fan of Mike and Molly, either. Molly is quite off-putting, actually. I was surprised by the adverse reaction that first episode had. It’s TV, as I said. But I had to see what all the fuss was about! I am a huge fan of Big Bang, however. Last night’s episode was a rather fond farewell to Howard’s mom. 😛

  2. I rarely watch Mike and Molly and didn’t watch those particular episodes but I have watched some so know the tread of her writing. I find sitcoms to be on the side of ridiculous remember the old slap stick comedies? People still watch the Abbot, Costello flicks. Like it or hate it, people are watching, rating and commenting. I’d say the plot lines might be a good promotion ploy.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      I’ve never been a fan of slapstick. Until I watched a biography on the Three Stooges, I referred to them as the 3 Stupids. After the biography, however, I came to realize these men were very talented, very much taken advantage of by the studio they worked for, and led somewhat tragic lives.

      Unfortunately for TV viewers, the taglines in series previews are generally the funniest parts of any given episode. I just think viewers deserve better.. 😛

  3. Interesting actually I find little humor in most of the comedies on television anymore.

  4. Funnily enough, I’ve seen ads for this show on TV recently, and it wasn’t one that appealed to me very much. After reading your post, Valerie, I think I’ll definitely give it a miss. Watching it and knowing the reality of being a writer, it would get my gander up too much.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      When the show first aired, it was actually pretty good. After two seasons, they changed the characters…especially Molly…and I found her quite unlikeable. Haven’t cared for the show in quite some time. 😛

  5. Will certainly be giving this a wide berth if it hits our shores. I hate slapstick and something sending up us authors doesn’t sound good TV to me. Thanks for heads up.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      You’re most welcome, Kit. It’s not my kind of “funny”. I like a show that makes me laugh out loud! 😛

  6. I totally agree with you. I don’t watch this show but I heard about the episode. I am with you on what is happening to writing for television. I can barely watch law shows for the mistakes and outlandish crap. LOL

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      Anymore, it seems like some shows start out promising, but grow increasingly bad as they progress. And there are very few honest to goodness family shows on these days. As for accuracy in theme shows like medical, law, and police serials, I think the writers believe that since it’s for TV it doesn’t have to actually be accurate. 😛

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