Moving blues

Hello, all.

I’m sorry I don’t have a ‘proper’ article for you this morning.  As many of you will know, my wife and I moved to northern Texas a couple of weeks ago, and we’re up to our eyeballs in unpacking and setting up our new home.  To make matters more interesting, there’s a local blogger gathering this weekend in which we’re among the hosts as well as participants.  Time to do everything that needs to be done simply isn’t there . . . and regrettably, that includes a Mad Genius Club post this week.

As a temporary panacea, here’s an excerpt from an article in the Telegraph in London, describing what happened when an artificial intelligence program was asked to write new scenes of the TV serial ‘Friends’ based on its analysis of previous episodes.

They say a monkey left to hit a keyboard for an infinite amount of time will write Shakespeare, but when it comes to Friends scripts, a computer can do the job a lot quicker.

An artificial intelligence program, when fed with scripts from the entire Friends back catalogue, has produced hilarious, if not entirely up to scratch, new scenes for the show.

The network re-creates the back-and-forth conversations between the show’s six lead members, including faithfully adding character traits such as Chandler beginning sentences with “so,” and Joey’s “seriously”, although they probably wouldn’t be accepted by the show’s producers.

There’s more at the link.

How well do you think an AI program could replicate our writing styles and perspectives, if asked?  Discuss.


  1. You mean AIs aren’t actually writing scripts of TV shows?

    It would explain the bad writing of some shows. [Evil Grin]

    1. A forgivable mistake, since it is hard to tell the difference in the output of Primitive Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Natural Stupidity.

      1. I think the touch of logic in P. A-I is how you can tell it from A.N.S. Although a good programmer might be able to find a way to hide that tell.

  2. You do realize that I’m just a script running on someone’s server somewhere? That is why you never see me writing anything truly long.

  3. first, note that it says scenes, not entire scripts.

    Second… Friends was very very very formulaic. Some things on the show changed, but even then a standard scene would play out virtually identically. Shows that were even worse about that are “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Home Improvement”, which i bet the same AI could spit out episodes for just fine,.

  4. SNL should begin using this AI immediately. Even if the scripts were inane and humorless, it would be an improvement over what they produce now.

    1. But you need to feed it SNL shows from the early years.

      And I recall reading of an attempt at AI that was fed *some* Stephen Foster tunes… and it produced.. other Stephen Foster tunes – that he’d written. But nothing new. Limited AI, or comprehensive composing?

      1. via Deus ex Machina. The characters would feel mechanical and the dialogue robotic. It would have all the emotional warmth and content of the empty vacuum flask you found in the deep freeze when you were cleaning out your grandparents’ estate.

        Folks, I think I’ve found my genre.

        1. The characters feel mechanical and the dialogue robotic only if you feed it the scripts to the Star Wars prequels.

  5. I’m more interested in how living in North Texas compares to Tennessee. Tennessee has some beautiful country in it, but I don’t know anything about Texas.

    1. Flat. Really flat. Did I mention that it’s flat ? Hey, we’re nearing Ft Worth and I see a few hills ! And now … more flat. Seriously, North Texas is mostly prairie. Dry, clay soil and drought resistant grasses and oak trees. Kind of Baja Oklahoma. I love living here, but don’t come for the scenery, come for the barbeque.

        1. I’ve ridden a motorcycle across the Panhandle a couple of times. With about ten degrees of opposite lock to keep the wind from blowing me off the road. That’s when I realized all the brush and trees were growing at an angle toward the south…

        2. I-40 through the TX panhandle is some of the flattest terrain I can recall, and it comes in vast variety of colors and smells. It may be flat but its not actually level; the highway climbs about 2000 feet in the 180 miles or so it travels through Texas.

  6. The first story written by a computer, Soft Ions, appeared in Omni in the early 1980s. The program was written in BASIC and ran under CP/M on a Z80 with a whopping 64K RAM. IIRC, it compared well with a “high concept” SF story that was in my first college lit course. No comment.

    Apparently, computer written novels are a thing now, and there are computer programs to write news stories. Sitcoms should be easier, since it’s common to recycle plots from previous episodes. Bewitched is a good example. They probably could have written that one with coin flips and a decision tree. MASH also recycled plots on occasion, once using the same one a grand total of three times. And Michael Landon once practically used the same script from a Bonanza in Little House on the Prairie. It’s a Small World/Little Lou had practically the same dialog.

    1. I loved a line from Weir’s ‘The Martian’ regarding ‘Threes Company’: “I stopped last night in the middle of the episode where Mr. Roper saw something and took it out of context.”

    2. A friend of mine who knows a fair amount of old vaudeville bits once had someone much younger start to explain the goings on of a funny TV show that this friend did not watch. Said friend proceeded to fill in the gaps and predict the goings on. “I thought you didn’t watch it?!” “I don’t, but they used at least three old vaudeville bits and I do know those.”

  7. Hollywood will be eager to invest in script-writing AIs. After all, why pay a human screenwriter to pump out a formulaic script when a program can do it for free?

  8. I glanced at the computer generated scripts at the link. They had an almost “Axe Cop” kind of vibe. That can be hilarious if done well, but it’s best in small doses.

  9. I can easily imagine several big name established authors who are sort of ‘phoning it in’ these days. In those cases, an AI could keep cranking out ‘new’ stuff under their brand indefinitely.

    1. I wonder how fast they work. A little steering, a nudge here and there, and I could rip through my folder of story ideas and totally tank my writing career. But think of the relief of finally getting those weird ideas done and outta here!

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