Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dramas and Characters

Because I am the all-knowing television god. Actually not, since I don't watch TV and something has to be completely awesome for me to get into it. There are a lot of great shows out there, and great reasons to watch them with a critical eye. I've been wanting to do a post like this for a while. TV (and movies) are a great way to learn something to apply to your writing, be it plotting or character development or dialogue or how to believably portray a platypus-bear, quickly and efficiently. Because of the longer form (the seasons) the characters are able to grow so much more and that makes them dynamic, REAL people, instead of just archetypes. TV is better than movies, in this way. Why else should you be watching them? Because I like them, and I think your life is incomplete without them.

Psych. This show has every thing. Humor. Characters. Snappy dialogue. The plot is only mediocre compared to other crime shows, but this one is just hilarious. Anything that makes me snort because I'm laughing so hard is a good thing. And, previous seasons are available to stream on Netflix, which increases the awesome.

As a writer, I watch it for a) the dialogue, and b) Detective Carlton Lassiter. Lassiter is the most complex character on TV right now, and I think it's interesting he's in such a goofy show. He's the straight man. The law-above-everything-else man. At first glance, you think he's arrogant and wants to take all the credit for himself. But as the shows unfold, you realize he wants to solve the case, no matter what, even if that means teaming up with Shawn and Gus (which he is lathe to do), even if it means putting himself down. He builds these insane barriers around himself and then he gets over them to help other people. Shawn and Gus are funny, but this show rocks because of Lassie.

Dollhouse. A Joss Whedon creation of awesomesauce. Like Firefly, this show is full of all kinds of characters, plots, and an interesting setting and premise, and was unsurprisingly cancelled by Fox. The show follows Echo, a doll without a personality who is imprinted with different personalities to serve different needs, as she become self-aware. The show is slow for the first five episodes because you don't know enough of the big story, but stick with it because the payoff is so good! I'm currently watching the series for the second time, and it sucked me in right from the beginning. Every character, even the dolls, have their own motivations and quirks, and the show has hilarity (Topher!) and badassness (Boyd!) in spades. This show is also available to stream on Netflix.

Sherlock. My goodness, if anyone didn't watch the second season of the BBC production of Sherlock, you deserve to be hanged. The actors and the writers do a stupendous job making these characters absolutely amazing. The characters have so many dynamics (are you noticing a pattern here?) and they play off each other better than any other pair on TV. Season Two was especially awesome (Irene Adler! MORIARTY!!!!), but I highly recommend you watch the series in order to really get the character development. By far the best Sherlock and Watson out there. (Also, hilarious people in RL... Did you know they make a hobby out of swapping the most outrageous erotic fanfic they can find? That's just hilarious. Also, there is a shitton of Sherlock-Watson erotic fanfic, for those of you who are interested.)

Suits. A new USA show that premiered last summer, the second season just started. Another show you should watch from the beginning (actually, I think you should always make an effort to watch a series in order, so let's just go with that). What makes this show stand out is Harvey, one of the senior lawyers. He is cold, calculating, and hits you where it hurts. He will do anything "for the client," even when it may not be the best thing for the firm. But on the other hand, he protects his own. To the death. He is fiercely loyal, even when there is no need to be. And he is awesome. He helps his friends without seeking validation or thanks, but simply because they are his friends, and why wouldn't anyone else do the same? His coworkers are everything to him, like anyone who devotes their life to their career, and that's a bit lonely. Also, he's downright sexy (he's the one on the left, OBVS).

Legend of Korra. The new spinoff series from Avatar: The Last Airbender. This one is a little different than the others because a) it's a kids show, and b) it's a cartoon, which means you lose all the subtlety an actor gives in their performance. The first Avatar was an amazing story, and had just as many grown-up viewers (if not more) than it did kid viewers. Why yes, we did rush home from our college classes on Friday afternoons to watch this cartoon. What of it? Korra is the Avatar after Aang (the star of the first series) and the way the writers interweave the old characters with the new is great. Part of being the Avatar is having all your past lives behind you. This show wasn't afraid to write a smart, meaningful, emotional plot for the kiddies. And that's why it was so successful. In other words: Don't dumb down your shit. Research and careful planning will make your story deeper. Don't be afraid to do something different, because different is way more awesome when you pull it off.

What do all these shows have in common (or, the moral of this post)? Each show has characters with distinct personalities and motivations. A wide range of emotions (funny and sad each have their place!). Characters may act differently depending on who they are with. The characters serve as foils for each other and cover the gaps the others may leave. All in all, stories are important because of the characters who tell them. Why do you think history textbooks are so dry and boring? Because there is no emotional value in just stating what happened. People care about other people. Make your readers care about your characters, really CARE, and they will be with you to the end.

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