Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Talking Point: should nitpickers be taken seriously?

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Today's Talking Point is inspired by the comments left beneath my interview with Outcasts' creator Ben Richards. It's clear from some of the response that a chunk of the audience had issues with what they perceive as lapses of logic and flaws in the fundamental concept of Outcasts. I won't go into detail about specific points raised, but it's safe to say plenty of people didn't think the show's concept withstood scrutiny.

So the question is simple: is nitpicking like this warranted? I mean, obviously there are occasions when you notice a mistake or flaw in a TV show, and feel compelled to mention it. That's fair. I do it in reviews sometimes, but mainly because nitpicks are fun to spot and point out as asides. It's only really worth mentioning in the body of a review if it seriously damaged your engagement with what's happening on-screen.

There are entire books dedicated to nitpicking shows (The Nitpicker's Guide For Next Generation Trekkers, say), so obviously geeks are particularly quick to jump on slip-ups the writers make, and actually enjoy that process.

But is it really fair to condemn a TV show because of minor errors -- many of which most people won't notice, or care about?

In the case of sci-fi (undoubtedly the genre that attracts the most analysis from fans), writers aren't always authorities on subjects like space travel and cloning. Although most will have a keen interest and, you'd hope, some working knowledge. But should they be expected to research more, to pass muster with eggheads? In the US, assistants are paid to gather information to aide a writer's creativity, whereas in the UK writers are more like authors expected to do their own heavy-lifting (i.e. Google and consult Wikipedia!)

Is the odd slipup forgivable, if the core tenets of good drama (great acting, strong storytelling) remain intact?

What do you think? Is nitpicking the pastime of geeks who have little to say about non-technological subjects like emotions and narrative? Or do all writers have an obligation to ensure their work's as water-tight as possible, especially in sci-fi, even if the quest to ensure something withstands scrutiny unravels a good concept and story?