Inspirational Shows

Written by Ali Laventhol

This month I asked a handful of Script Anatomy instructors to name some inspirational TV shows and movies, and to explain why they connected.

Why is it that certain stories connect with their audiences more than others. Is it through a fresh conceit? A particular character or relationship? A resonant theme? Or something less identifiable?

Why is it that some stories seem to have all the right elements and still fall flat? And what makes us fall in love with some movies or shows despite their imperfections?

Let’s go!

The Gentlemen, Guy Ritchie

what have you watched recently that you wish you’d written?

CHRIS MADDOX: I recently watched Guy Ritchie’s THE GENTLEMEN and was impressed by the simple conceit—a British aristocrat morphs into a criminal. It has all the trappings of what one would expect from a high-class life while showcasing the stakes and episodic engine of a crime of the week. I would have loved to have come up with this entertaining idea. It’s executed expertly while also not dipping too much into salacious sexuality, which so many shows use to retain an audience.

ANITA M. CAL:  I wish I had written UNORTHODOX It resonated with me because it was a centered around a vulnerable Orthodox Jewish woman desperate to break the chains of paternalism and religion (fascinating), steeped in a culture I’d never met before (intriguing) that had a searing undercurrent of danger (gripping) as she escaped to free herself and find herself.

ROSS LAZAR: THE CURSE because it’s perfect thematic execution and very funny. Best show I’ve seen in years.

AARON VACCARO: THE GENTLEMEN on Netflix—I love when the worlds of comedy and violence come together and no one does it better than Guy Ritchie. With a perfect blend of acerbic dialogue, empathetic and hilarious characters, and outlandishly raucous action sequences, it just felt like the writers had a blast coming up with those eight episodes.

KEVIN TOWNSLEY: A newer show that I recently started watching—although it’s not NEW NEW—is PATRIOT on Amazon. It is one of the most original shows I’ve ever seen. The writing is excellent. The storytelling is imaginative and unique — in a way where you can’t predict what’s going to happen next. It’s even hard to sum up what happened in some of the episodes, but I can’t look away. It’s a spy show, but not one you can compare to any other in the genre.


HOWIE KREMER:  The tv show TAXI. Because it’s so real and grounded and yet so funny and original. And oh, a multi-cam! A reminder that good multi-cams are possible. It can be done!

Sicario, Emily Blunt

what movie or TV show inspired you to become a screenwriter?

CHRIS MADDOX: I wanted to become a writer while watching and rewatching BROTHERS AND SISTERS. The pace was fantastic, and the story engine gave the show juice while creating familial conflict and a mystery that kept evolving throughout the seasons. It authentically captured what it feels like to be a part of a big extended family. It serviced a large cast well by giving each character strong storylines and dialogue to flex their artistic muscles.

AARON VACCARO: THE WONDER YEARS has always been my North Star in my career. It was the first time I felt like I saw a character experiencing the same things I was experiencing as a middle schooler when the show was on the air. It also didn’t matter that the show took place in the late ’60s because the writers knew that the coming of age issues Kevin was facing were universally evergreen. It was also the first show that could make me laugh, cry, and cringe all in twenty-two minutes.

BRANDY FINMARK: It wasn’t a movie or show! It was advice Tina Fey gave during a show; “Find what it is you love to do and find a way to get paid to do it.”

ANITA M. CAL: What movie or tv show inspired you to pursue your career as a tv and/or feature writer? And why? Spike Lee’s SCHOOL DAZE was seminal in my pursuit of a film career. To see someone who looked like me helming a movie was awe-inspiring and he chose to center a little-known story outside of the community of young scholars pursuing degrees at an HBCU, something not even a lot of Blacks outside of the South knew about-except for people like me, both my parents are HBCU grads. The clash between the college students and the local Blacks who resented their prestiged position is something I resonated with since I was called a “Cosby” kid, also called white and bourgeoisie and shunned by lower working class Blacks.

ROSS LAZAR: SICARIO inspired me to become a feature writer. The film had a really unique structure, particularly in the third act, and I was inspired to try to write a film that played with structure that could still be entertaining.

ALI LAVENTHOL: For me it was SIX FEET UNDER. The obscure and sophisticated show about a family running a funeral home was so brave in the way it dove into a taboo world and filled it with flawed, layered lovable characters. It somehow ventured from profane to profound without ever losing a unified tone. It portrayed grief without being emotionally manipulative. It was like nothing I’d ever seen and that in and of itself was inspiring.

Ali Laventhol

Ali Laventhol has been Tawnya‘s writing partner for over a decade, most recently as the Co-Executive Producer for My Life With The Walter Boys (Netflix), and Bel-Air (Peacock), as well as several Lifetime movies. She is a long time Script Anatomy instructor.




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