One Character will Not Survive this Post

TV Clichés We’re Sick of #2:  Season Finale Character Deaths

Last month most primetime television shows wrapped for the season.  And probably half of the ones I watch, actually more as I tally it, killed an important character in their finale or at the very end of the season.  Some killed multiple characters.  And it just made me realize… I’m sick of this.

The obvious reason is that it is, as mentioned cliché.  Oooooh, you’re killing a character in the season finale.  How very original.  I’d be less annoyed if more shows just randomly killed characters in like the fourth episode of the season.

But I think the deeper issue is that when it comes to long narratives, if you ask me which is preferable, doing the character justice or doing what’s cool for the plot, I’d go with the former.  I realize a lot of great writers disagree with me and that’s fine.  But this is my blog.  Now I’m not saying that television shows shouldn’t kill characters.  Sometimes that is what doing a character justice might be (and I don’t just mean in a Jean Grey had to die because she destroyed the planet of the asparagus people kind of justice).  But because I think characters deserve respect from their writers, I object in principle to killing off a character just to get ratings.  And killing characters in season finales just smacks of a ratings ploy.  Maybe it’s because they always promote the hell out of it.  How many commercials have you seen that show close ups of a bunch of characters’ faces with some variation on “and when it’s over, one of these people will be dead”?  I know these people are fictional, but it still seems a little callus.

So television shows, find a more creative time to kill your characters, but only do it if it makes sense and is done in a respectful manner, and find a better way to get people to watch your finales.

In Which MTV, MPB asks, “Who’s your Daddy?”

And hopes your answer is, “Damned if I know!”

Yes, it’s been a while, but we’re back to

TV Cliches We Love

Okay… so we can double file this one under “guilty pleasures” since this is one particular television cliché that I absolutely don’t want to admit to loving.  Because I really don’t want to love it.  I want to simply roll my eyes at it and talk about why it’s a sign of bad writing.  I want to hate it.

But I can’t.  In spite of every learned standard of good fiction that I have, something innate and instinctual in me loves it.  I blame my upbringing—Momma watched a lot of All My Children.

I am speaking, of course, of the “Who’s the daddy?” storyline—WTD for those who frequent online message boards.  You know, those stories where a female character has sex with two (sometimes more) different men in a short span of time and then winds up pregnant.  Then we have months and months of angst and anguish and probably some lying and scheming until the paternity of said baby is revealed.  Delicious, delicious angst.  Sometimes years go by before the truth comes out.  Sometimes one truth comes out and then another truth comes out.  And I’m watching eagerly the whole time.

Why do I eat it up?  I don’t know.  I can give you a whole list of reasons why said storylines suck.  Beyond being cliché, there’s also an argument that they promote negative images of women.  (You see, this is what happens to women who aren’t sexually pure—they wind up stuck in trite storylines!)  In the era of better birth control, awareness of birth control, and the morning after pill they are increasingly ridiculous.  Furthermore, on most television shows, WTD stories are a tool for abusing fanbases (which, to be fair, tend to eat it up as much as I do).

And yet… they hook me.  Maybe there’s some sort of deep seeded psychological reason rooted in my dislike of babies.  The WTD story goes against the normal portrayal of babies as cute and wonderful, always welcome things (which ignores the fact that they don’t do anything cool, they just make noise, make waste and smell like stale mac and cheese).  Maybe it’s because they’re full of angst, and I love angst.  I don’t know.

All I know is that back in the days of Farscape we were all excited when we got the cliffhanger reveal of Aeryn being pregnant, but I personally was almost as thrilled when she revealed she wasn’t sure who the father was.  Even more so when we found out that due to some Sebacean biological peculiarity, the baby could have been conceived years earlier.  Are you kidding me?  So many possible daddies!  (Maybe; she was never really that forthcoming on that point.)

My soap opera, One Life to Live (I’m not saying it’s good, I’m just saying  you should watch) right now has dueling WTD stories.  And what could be better than two simultaneous WTDs?  The two Mommy’s to be, Jessica and Natalie, are twins!  (Who have different fathers.  It seems WTD is an inherited condition.)  (Incidentally, for Jessica, this is her fourth pregnancy and second WTD—impressive record!)  Even better?   One man, Brody “Tiny Hulk” Lovett might be the father of both babies.  Or neither baby.  Who knows?  That’s the whole point!

This is where part of me wants to look at the head writer and say, “You sick bastard!”   And the other part of me wants to go, “I know!  Isn’t it great?”

So in summary, I would like to say to all the soap writers and soapy writers:  These stories are trite and cliché and you should stop writing them.  But if you don’t?  I will keep watching them and shamefully loving every second of it.

Embracing the Baby Cliche

It’s a cliche that’s literally everywhere, I mean, you can’t even read the Bible without running into this little gem.  It’s the finding of the abandoned baby.  And you’d think with one as overworked as this I would be ranting against it.

Sadly, no.

My fallback excuse for this is that I love kids.  We’re (mostly) pre-wired to think babies are cute for species continuation reasons.  But really, I think this has as much to do with my bizarre fixation with variations on a theme.  With so many different takes on the tale it becomes enough of a game to see how different sets of characters handle this screaming, crying, needy little issue.  Do you take the deep, meaningful road and go Moses-Biblical?  Or do you go with the sit-com slapstick of watching your favorite cadre of bumbling morons trying to change a diaper without needing to burn their wardrobes afterward (I’m personally having visions of Frohike and Langley from The Lone Gunmen and how they handled a bundle of joy with all the grace and aplomb of little girly-girls running from a frog)?

I don’t see resorting to this one, necessarily, as a sign of absent creativity.  It’s a perfect test for a TV series–handle the baby cliche right, and you’ve proven yourself worthy, fumble and you just jumped the shark (or at least gave us a total stinker of an ep that will be mocked for years to come).    Even better is when you can milk it for legitimate character development that means something in a grander scheme–whether or not you like the way the characters on Bones are developing, you have to accept that the season 3 episode “The Baby in the Bough” wound up being a little more meaningful by the end of season 4.

And did I mention there are cute babies?

Kristy chiming in:  I won’t deny loving this cliche too, but I have to dispute some of Cammy’s reasoning for it’s appeal.  Personally, I’m not a fan of kids.  I mean, I love my nieces and nephews, and I’m glad other people have them, but I don’t like spending large amounts of time with them.  And I don’t think babies are cute.  Frankly, I find baby humans a bit lame.    All they do is cry and smell like stale macaroni.  (This may relate to the species continuation issue as I was born on the shallow end of the gene pool and it’s best for the future of humanity that my DNA go no further than me)  All diaper changing scenes on television do for me is remind me why I have a strict no diaper changing policy.  For me the appeal of this particular cliche is more about the abilty of babies to make o therwise rational adults do things they wouldn’t otherwise.  It’s more about enjoying adults acting like idiots than the appeal of those little bundles of so called joy.

Cammy:  Okay, for the record, I still don’t get the “stale macaroni” smell, and I’ll have you know that I was careful to note this during the baby-parade of the holidays.  But whatever.  We’re obviously on the same page about the fun of the baby cliche, notwithstanding the sub-question of the babies themselves.

TV Cliches We’re Sick of #1–Avenging Cops

Law Enforcement Professional who chose said line of work after family member’s unsolved/unpunished murder/disappearance.

The fact that I know this is cliche and I don’t even watch procedurals is a clear indication of how cliche it is. Seriously, I can’t watch crime shows, they creep me out. Keep me up at night. Working with extremely limited knowledge, I can name off the top of my head the following:

Fox Mulder (X-Files, Sister abducted by aliens)
Bruce Wayne/Batman (um… Batman, parents killed in mugging)
Peter Parker/Spiderman (Spiderman, Uncle killed)(I’m a little unclear on continuity, but this one may not count as unsolved)
Kate Beckett (Castle, Mother murdered)
Temperance Brennan (Bones, parents disappeared)
John McBain (One Life to Live, father murdered, fiancee murdered)
Veronica Mars (Veronica Mars, best friend murdered) (okay, that one might be a stretch)

Okay, they aren’t all television characters, but they’ve all appeared on TV at some point. I’m sure many of you can add a whole host of others. And I do get why writers fall back on this cliche. Not only does it work well for motivation, it provides built in plot lines for future episodes. And I’m sure there really are people who go into law enforcement for this reason. But I’m done with it. I’m over it. I want something a little more creative.

Real life if often more random than that. I want to watch the story about the cop that turned to the law because he couldn’t get into physical therapy school. I want to see the anthropologist who’s just a big Indiana Jones fan.  The Vampire Hunter who just really like Brad Pitt movies.   There’s no reason any of these things couldn’t further the plot. Come on writers, you can do better.