Elizabeth: What Should I Watch?

tv_on_the_beachAs I mentioned in my post on motivation last week, I’m head-down in writing mode, working to finish up my manuscript so I can get the coveted “PRO” sticker on my badge for the upcoming RWA National conference. I have about seven days left (depending on when you read this) and four scenes that need to be finalized. That’s a fair amount of work and not a lot of time to do it in.

So naturally, I’m watching a lot of television.

Wait, what?

Okay, watching may be too strong a word. Especially since I have the sound turned off. It’s more like there’s a really big, moving photograph off to the side that I glance at from time to time when I’m trying to think of a word or to figure out what remaining clue my hero needs to uncover before he finally puts it all together. It tends to block out other distractions, yet lets me feel like I’m not locked away in solitary (writing) confinement.

That’s not weird, right?

“I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book.” ~ Groucho Marx

Everyone has their own writing routine – whether it’s a special writing spot, a soundtrack or playlist, or maybe a specific writing time. After a great deal of trial and error my routine has turned out to involve late nights, good coffee, and a random television show playing in the background. It has helped me add 10,000 words in the last two weeks, so I’m not going to knock it. This past writing weekend owes its success, in no small part, to Pride and Prejudice (thanks Michaeline), Perfect Match (courtesy of the Hallmark channel), and a season or so of Death in Paradise (Yay! Netflix).

I tend to go with shows/movies that I’ve already seen, that way I don’t have to worry that when I periodically look up I’m going to become engrossed and end up watching to find out what happens next. My shows-of-choice are usually light British crime dramas. I initially watched Midsomer Murders to get a feel for English country village life. I moved on to Inspector Morse and Inspector Lewis, when I was trying to understand how to weave clues and false leads into a mystery story, and added Broadchurch (the UK version) for David Tennant’s accent (ok, for the mystery too). I learned a lot about story when I watched them all the first time around and now they make good writing backgrounds.

“The most corrosive piece of technology that I’ve ever seen is called television – but then, again, television, at its best, is magnificent.” ~ Steve Jobs

Tonight, the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries are “helping” me with this post, but that brings me to my current problem: my well of shows is beginning to run dry. Even though I’m not actually “watching” the shows, there are limits to the repeat cycle (long limits, but limits nonetheless).

So, any suggestions for enjoyable shows/movies that would provide a good “background” on subsequent viewings? Preferably something in the light mystery, comedy, or romance area.  My Netflix queue awaits.

22 thoughts on “Elizabeth: What Should I Watch?

  1. That sounds like a great idea! I really like the idea of introducing the randomness of the universe into the creative process, and the idea of looking up on the screen and being given some idea or clue is a very attractive one. It seems to me that period pieces would be ideal.

    Your period: Well, the other versions of Pride & Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. You might look into Blackadder — I have this memory of Stephen Fry as Wellington, bellowing and being all red-coaty. You could also go to YouTube, make a playlist of 19th century clips (museums, movie clips, etc), and play the playlist on mute while you are writing.

    I have a playlist of movies from the 1890s on my account. Also, I could use that movie about vibrators (I think it was called Hysteria), and also the Mae West movie called Every Day’s a Holiday — lots of nice period details in that.

    (-: Sounds inspiring! Good luck with your goals!

    • Michaeline – the YouTube suggestion is a good one. There is so much out there I’m sure I could put together a great 19th century playlist.

      Blackadder the Third sounds great. That definitely goes on the list.

    • Good suggestion Jeanne. I’m pretty sure I have Emma on DVD, back from when I read the book and was going to watch the movie (but never did) to see how they correlated.

  2. I know you said light, but if you want to go dark with a murder mystery show, I highly recommend The Killing, especially season 1. I wrote about it in a post last summer. I have so much love for that show, which is based on a Danish series and has lots of Scandinavian references if you know them (but not necessary for watching the show, which is set in Seattle).

    As for light romance, someone recently mentioned Down With Love to me, and that made me remember that my daughter and I loved that movie! We watched it together when she was in high school. It’s a total send-up of the Rock Hudson/Doris Day movies of the early 60s. I need to remember to watch it again with my daughter next time she’s home.

    • Nancy – I’ll have to look up The Killing. I’m generally not so good with “dark mysteries”, but I can give it a shot. Down With Love definitely sounds just my speed. I’ll have to add it to the viewing list.

    • I hated Down With Love the first time I watched it. There’s a “gotcha” that I felt absolutely furious at. Also, I think there was some feminine wiles — I can’t really remember.

      Then Jenny and Lani watched it for the Popcorn Dialogues (after a Rock Hudson/Doris Day movie, IIRC), and I joined in the Live Tweet. I was prepared to trash it with glee. But I was so surprised (and equally gleeful!) to find that I liked it . . . a lot! The fashions are wonderful, and knowing about the Doris Day movies really helped make it click for me that time. It’s definitely on my “I would watch this again” list.

  3. The answer is totes obvi: “Outlander”. The show’s setting only barely predates the setting for your novel, is set on the right island, and is full of great scenery of both the stationary and ambulatory sorts. You’ll also get an earful of the difference between various British accents.

    • Scott – on paper that sounds like an obvious choice but . . . I started the book a while back and it never quite clicked with me. I know the book and show have been extremely popular though; perhaps I should give it a second chance.

  4. If Outlander didn’t quite do it for you, I think we Brits have just sent Poldark transatlantic? The novels are eighteenth and nineteenth-century, not sure about the TV series, but good location (Cornwall) and fantastic period eye-candy.

    • Jilly – I have been seeing a lot of hype about Poldark in my newsfeed lately, but wasn’t sure what the series was about. I’ll have to take a look. If nothing else, “fantastic period eye-candy” sounds good to me.

  5. I suggest Miss Marple for English country village life and light British crime dramas. The era may not be right but I also suggest The Onedin Line. I am Swedish, and it was one of the first not Swedish television series I had the opportunity (was old enogh) to follow and for me it defines everything british and the victorian era and also adventure at the high seas.

    And finaly for romance (and fun) a video clip from YouTube with Dmitri Shostakovich – Waltz 2 Russian Waltz that begin with a romantic fairytale walts that turn out as somthing different without completely losing the mood of romantic fairytale. I hope the link works.

    Dmitri Shostakovich – Waltz 2 Russian Waltz:

    • Thanks for the recommendations, Elisabet! I’ll be looking into The Onedin Line as well because my current story is set in the Victorian era.

      By the way, based on the spelling of your surname, I’ve would have pegged you as Danish :-).

      • That’s because my father was Danish and came to Sweden to work. He met my mother, who had a more Swedish-sounding name (Carlsson), married her and stayed here.

        But these Danish / Norwegian surnames are also widespread in Sweden since large parts of the Danish and Norwegian territorum went to Sweden efer a series of war and peace negotiations between approximately 1600 – 1680. Southernmost Sweden, our entire southern coast and most of today’s Swedish west coast where Danish before then. We had basically just the area around Gothenburg.

        • I’m married to a Dane (a Christensen), so I’m pretty sure the story goes that the whole world was once Danish territory (those Vikings really got a round) ;-).

    • Thanks for the recommendation Elisabet. I’ll have to see if I can find The Onedin Line. It sounds quite promising.

  6. I’m not sure how light it is, but have you tried “Endeavor”? I don’t think I have the spelling right. It’s Inspector Morse as a young man, with a different (i.e., young and alive) actor. But he has the right mannerisms. If you’re watching Morse and Inspector Lewis, this might fit in.

    “New Tricks” is good, and it is light. It’s about four retired male cops who are asked to come back and work cold cases with a disgraced female officer. It’s British. Good mystery, and the guys all have fun quirks.

    I love “Slings & Arrows,” too. It’s a Canadian show, only 18 episodes (heartbreaking). It’s about a struggling theater company, so there’s a little romance, a little drama, a little mystery. Really fun and good.

    Then there’s “Rumpole of the Bailey” (British courtroom comedy/drama) and “White Collar” (FBI investigation drama/comedy) and “Leverage”! An excellent show. A caper set-up.

    Argh. And why did it fall to me to say “Downton Abbey”?

    • Oh no! You said Downton Abbey! I had conveniently forgotten about them, because my video store didn’t have season two. I am sure they do now . . . and I am LONGING to watch.

      But . . . shouldn’t. I’m still reading up on Nellie Bly, and am in the middle of a very good non-fiction account of her trip around the world in less than 80 days. She shares the limelight with Elizabeth Bisland, who started off in the opposite direction nine hours later than she did, sent by a MAGAZINE. I am so happy, and mining lovely little nuggets about the end of the 19th century, and also I realize I need to look more into magazines of that era. I kinda knew I did, but now it has been confirmed. I think that’s where most of the photojournalists (especially women) were able to do things.

  7. Pingback: Jilly: Writer, Interrupted | Eight Ladies Writing

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