Monday, March 7, 2011

Not the Usual Reasons

I’m not much of a television person. And it’s not because the tv shows are puerile, offensive, or boring—though sometimes they are. I get frustrated even with tv shows that aren’t. My biggest beef with tv shows is the characters. The characters almost never grow. That’s what I love about books and movies. By the end, a resolution has occurred and a character grows. But tv series by their continuing nature can’t do that.
For example, I enjoy the show Castle (it’s about a mystery writer who falls in love with a NYC detective). The show is mostly about solving the murders. But the background is Rick Castle’s love for Kate Beckett and hers for him. Except that they never get beyond their own foibles that keep them apart. Despite the fact that Rick realizes that Kate is his soul mate, he can’t get beyond his philandering ways, which turns off Kate who wants a real lifetime relationship. Now, of course, this may be real life, but in a story I want to see the characters redeemed or, at least, resolved to be separate. But in the constant back-and-forth of their relationship I feel like I’m being “led down the garden path.” I’m not sure there’s any way around it; after all, when the tension between Kate and Rick is gone, where does it leave the story? Though I have some ideas on how to advance the characters and still maintain the tension (call me ABC), but that’s another story.
Maintaining the tension and advancing the characters’ growth is the double edged sword for tv shows. Some shows try to get around it by having their characters do exciting/growing things, but then those choices never change the relationships around them. Their actions have no consequences, either good or bad. And I hate that even more.
There have been notable exceptions like the show Kidnapped in which a child is kidnapped in the first episode and the rest of the season is devoted to finding the child and discovering why he was kidnapped. Of course, the characters who search for the child don’t do much growing, but then the writers had expected the show to continue beyond one season, which didn’t happen (BTW, Netflix carries the show.)
I think part of the reason for the success of detective series beyond the “idea of justice” and “the modern realization of the quest genre,” is that most episodes have closure with a denouement and resolution.
Or am I overthinking it? Or maybe I just haven’t seen any good shows. Any thoughts or shows that you’d like to share, readers?


  1. One of the shows I like is Psych. Just discovered it after a friend suggested it to me. The MC is a lazy, morally defunct yet endearing character. Normally, this would bore me, but he does actually progress. By working with the police force, he makes friends, gets to know his dad better and actually do something with his life. That and the show is pretty hilarious. I've only watched the first season, so hopefully they won't make it too annoying...

    Anyway, Netflix has that one too.

  2. I don't watch too much TV, and I hardly think the reality TV I watch is considered good quality entertainment, so I'll sit on the sidelines for this one and see what the other commenters have to offer.

  3. Psych? I don't think that main character is endearing at all.

  4. I enjoy "Leverage" but not for any reasons of literary value. It is an unlikely group of reformed criminals, each with his or her unique skills, learning to enjoy helping victims retrieve stolen property, dignity, et al. I find each of these characters perversely endearing.

  5. I don't watch much TV so I'm not a big help. But my hubs and I have watched a few episodes of the Wire, and it's been interesting seeing how non-2-D some of the characters are.

  6. Hmm... I think that that characters in Bones and The Mentalists grew and changed, although I didn't get to see the newer seasons.


  7. I agree, characters often don't grow on TV shows. That's why I go with comedies until they stop being funny. "Arrested Development" and "30 Rock" are two examples. Some of the humor comes from the lack of growth and lack of self-awareness of the characters.

  8. Hey Connie- I realized I wasn't following your blog, and I thought I had cllicked that follow button. My apologies.

    Thanks for the heads up about the contest- I'd entered today and promptly forgotten about it. I *hope* I would have checked the website in time, but who knows with the size of the holes in my brain? lol

    I enjoy Castle, too, but the lack of growth has made individual episodes less important.

    Hubby and I started watching The Office recently because it's so AWKWARD. It's hysterical, but again not so much with the character growth.

  9. For the most part, I agree with your blog. However, I do have to mention a TV show where the characters actually grew and the show developed so well. It is Friday Night Lights and it's final season is about to air on NBC, starting in April. I've seen all seasons, so it's over for me :( but it was really good. It takes a lot for me to lock onto a show and this is one that did it for me. I was so in love with it that I even extra'd on it. A blast and a chance of a lifetime!

  10. I completely agree with you! I actually blogged about the same thing but mentioned Bones. I used to love that show but after five or six or however many seasons the main character (Dr. Temperance Brennan, who's a genius with bad people skills) hasn't grown at all. I understand they want to keep her and the FBI agent Booth apart because the tension is what's keeping viewers glued, but it's no longer believable. And she's just as much a jerk as she was in Episode 1. Only now it's no longer funny.

    Those writers can't do what the writers of House have done. He's still cranky and mean but he's softened a bit, grown so much throughout the series.

    Whenever I think of character growth in a long-running series I think of Lost. They did an amazing job with those characters.

  11. Hi, Connie! It's my first time here. Interesting post! I feel the same way about television. Books feel more like a journey I take along with characters and not just a story I watch from the sidelines. Having said that, I do have some favorite TV shows. I like shows that draw you in with a twist and leave you wanting more after every episode. Have you tried watching Being Human (Brit and US version)? :) Looking forward to reading more of your posts.


  12. Lost? Oh, but that's gone now.
    We really don't watch much television. What we do watch are rented dvds from the library: I think we've seen all the oldie sitcoms and are now enjoying some BBC items: Little Dorrit, Cranford, Lark Rise to Candleford.