Bad Dialogue

There are a myriad of things that could make a TV show bad. So many different things, but my focus today is bad dialogue. It is like an epidemic. Some shows can manage to keep it in check. Other shows run rampant with bad dialogue paired with bad plot progression. Then there are shows so elite that they’ve managed to scrap out all of the bad dialogue in favor of a show that feels more elite. Every show requires dialogue. Most shows aren’t much without it. When there are shows that ned to put out 23 episodes each with anywhere from 30-60 pages of script it can be difficult to always have the best dialogue.

What makes bad dialogue

truebloodThere area few things that can make dialogue bad, the worst offender is the line that just doesn’t fit. I’m talking it doesnt fit in the delivery. It doesn’t fit the character. it doesn’t fit the situation. And worst of all, it doesn’t fit the progression of the dialogue thus far. Bad dialogue always comes with one telltale sign: You notice the line. When you notice a line that is just meant to be commentary or within the flow, the line isn’t doing it’s job, but detracting from it. Even lines that are designed to be humorous and for people to catch, still need to fall in line with the flow. It needs to feel natural. Breaking that flow, however it is done is nothing but a disservice.

Prevalence of bad dialogue

Bad dialogue is nothing new. Bad dialogue has been around forever and for a long time it was standard operating procedure. To assume that dialogue was to sound natural was odd. Dialogue was there to help progress a plot. It was meant to elicit laughs. Go back and watch some old TV, the dialogue is often atrocious, but it serves its purpose and that was what was important. If you tried to place that old dialogue in new shows even if they had the same premise the show would be laughed off air. (Note: This is no way disparaging of old shows and their bad dialogue, they are genius and fun and stepping stones to where we are today.) Shows are now expected to reflect a conscious that we are very much aware of. We hear a line of bad dialogue and call it out as not sounding authentic.

Nowadays, bad dialogue on shows is rightfully condemned. It’s a sign that whoever the writers are for that particular episode, didn’t have a full grasp over what was to be played out. That said, a show writer must rely on a performer to deliver the line effectively. The written line may have seemed genius in print, but in execution it entirely falls apart. Which is why a performance is just as important as the writing. A good writer can make a bad actor sound okay. A good performer can make bad writing passable. Good writing with a good performer often results in scenes that rip at your heart. Bad writing and a performer that doesn’t know what to do with it often leaves the audience cringing and dwelling on a simple line that should have passed smoothly.

What instances of bad writing makes you cringe?

2 thoughts on “Bad Dialogue

  1. Instances? When characters either say or do something completely contradictory to behaviors they’ve previously shown and should be much smarter. That and when characters dialogue solely for the purpose of exposition. Rather than just showing or allowing something to take place naturally, writers sometimes don’t give audiences enough credit and feel the need to spell out something. If it’s explaining some plan, then fine, but talking about what we can see? Unnecessary. That depends on the circumstance.

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