Director / writer commentaries can teach you most everything you need to know about plotting, pacing, and character development.
These guys may write for a different media than us, but they have it going on! The writers and directors of the shows you love really know what they're doing, and if you listen to their commentaries, they will TELL YOU just how they did it.
To entice you to test my theory if you haven't before, I'll share this. Joss Whedon is a genius. (I would've started that sentence with an "I think," but his genius goes well beyond "I think.") I watched a lot of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and Firefly episodes while they were on tv, but got them on DVD a couple years later. I wasn't a writer at that point, but I still watched every single commentary on the discs because they were fascinating.
The cool thing? They break down the episode. They talk about every plot decision and why they made it. They talk about character development. They talk about sub-plots. They talked about challenges they faced in the plot and how they overcame them. They talk about the scenes they cut. (Including my favorite cutting advice ever, which I'll share at another time. This is, after all, my theory. It wouldn't be right telling Joss' theory. He needs his own day.)
Joss taught me an incredibly huge amount about writing, and laid the groundwork for me to become a writer. Because of him, a lot of things came by instinct when I started writing.
There are a LOT of really good shows out there, and tons of them have director / writer commentaries. So how do you get to these great commentaries? Good question. I'd say first try googling it to see if there are any online. The more sure bet, though, is to get the show on DVD. So pick one that has been out for more than just this season, get a month subscription to your favorite Netflix-ish provider, and order it on DVD. It's like getting candy, they come with so many special surprises!
Plus, then you can count watching tv as "doing research." You can even bring popcorn! Seriously. Give it a try.
Anyone else a commentary junkie like me? What show have you learned the most from?