Saturday, 24 January 2009

T is for Television

A lot of bloggers, and even some people in the real world, commented on The Writer's Tale a few months back; but I haven't seen anything yet about T is for Television by Mark Aldridge and Andy Murray, a brief biography and reasonably detailed career overview (so far) of Doctor Who Confidential's own Russell T Davies.

I've just finished it, and it serves as a perfect companion piece to Russell and Ben Cook's weighty compilation of E-Mail trails from last year. Somewhat perversely - but perhaps it was only to be expected - that semi-autobiography is much more searching and critical than this biography; which is not to say it pulls its punches, singling out some Doctor Who episodes, the first season of Torchwood, and a few other works, as not being up to the RTD standard. But also it's a loving tribute to the big, Welsh giant that's revolutionised Saturday night drama, etc. etc.

Russell - in one of many original interviews done for the book - comes over as passionate and contradictory as always. In one breath he is saying he hasn't ever joined the Writers' Guild because he doesn't think of writing as a job; the next, he's bemoaning the artistic temperament of some writer prima-donnas he's known who've forgotten that "it's a job" and should be done professionally. He also might frustrate the aspiring with his contention that it's easier to get into TV writing now than when he started, but he makes a persuasive case.

Obviously, any attempt to cover over forty years of life and over 20 years of career in 240 pages is going to seem a bit sketchy here and there (but that may be because I'm also concurrently reading Philip Norman's monster John Lennon biog which covers Lennon's life - shorter than RTD's, I think - over 800 pages that don't even talk about the music that much); but, there is some light shone into dusty corners of Russell's CV, like his work on Revelations and Springhill, that have not had much in the way of coverage until now.

It's also full of tidbits of advice from the mighty Rusty, as ever: don't just keep an ear out on the bus for living dialogue, check out the TV schedules too, and learn how to identify the really bad dialogue ("I feel hurt, betrayed, alone"); don't dismiss reality TV, or any genre, as somewhere where you can learn more about life, and therefore become a better writer; and, if you've sent off ten dozen scripts and not got anywhere, maybe it's worth quitting and doing something else. And many others.

Anyway, if you come by a copy, I can heartily recommend it; and I'm not even affiliated with its writers, or publisher - I should be getting a commission at least. Oh well.


David Lemon said...
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David Lemon said...

Also love the stuff in the RTD book about terrible soap opera conventions such as: characters calling out someone's name when they storm off but remaining rooted to the spot (even though they're perfectly capable of following them) and the way people refer to places in an incredibly vague way (eg 'fancy trying that new Chinese place?'
What I liked about the interview book was the sheer honesty of it; the admission that some of his episodes may have fallen short of what he was trying to achieve; his hatred of being a PR soundbite machine.

(previous post removed because of shameful typos).