Monday, May 12, 2014

Bazinga! More learning to write by watching TV

Happened to be flipping through last week's edition of New York magazine and there was a great article on the TV sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, and why it's so popular. One of the reasons given was--Bazinga!--the central character, the emotionally stunted but brilliant physicist, Sheldon Cooper. Here was the explanation:

"There's a character in so many classic sitcoms that's just a big monster. He takes up a lot of room, and everybody has to deal with him," says [Phoef] Sutton, [producer and writer on Cheers]. "Roseanne, Jackie Gleason, Sgt. Bilko"--and Big Bang's Sheldon. "Many times, the best characters are the worst people on the planet. Sheldon is constantly insulting the people that he loves and we just accept it gleefully, because he doesn't understand. He's an innocent," says Evan Smith, professor of television, radio, and film at Syracuse University.

Jim Parsons, aka Sheldon,
in May 5 New York Magazine
We could probably add a million more examples from TV to this list: Archie Bunker, Al Bundy, Alf--and those are just the A's. In fact, when you think about it, most TV comedy centers around the know-it-all, the wise-ass big mouth, or the bungling overachiever. Actually, if you draw that out to drama, some of our favorite characters are the almost-monsters, too, or sometimes even the complete monsters, a la Breaking Bad. The key ingredient seems to be a character who will easily fall into trouble over and over again, whether it's because of a fatal flaw or an Asberger's syndrome-like ability to alienate. All of it is good drama--and even better entertainment.

1 comment:

  1. Great point! I would even go so far as to say that it is the same quality that often makes side characters jump out to become people's favorites. Look at Futurama - Dr. Zoidberg is not the main character and is often left out of the main plot, being relegated to adding color to most episodes, but he is an audience favorite surpassing Fry and Leela who have much more screen time.