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Jun 17, 2009

Stuck in a rut (TV rant)

Ready for a quiz? I'm going to give you the plot summary of a TV show, and I want you to tell me which show it is. You up for it?

Ok, here we go.

It centers on our protagonist, see. And our protagonist has this profession that requires them to do "X." And when they're doing their job, they're like, the best in the world at it. But the twist, the brilliant "Aha!" is that, in their personal life, our protagonist really sucks at applying the tools that they have when doing "X," creating opportunities for all kinds of drama and personal growth and stuff.

What'd you guess?

If you said In Treatment, the show with Gabriel Bynre where he plays a shrink that helps other people but has a messed up head of his own, you're right! Congratulations.

If you said the new Edie Falco show Nurse Jackie, where she plays (duh) a nurse that happens to pop pills in her spare time, you're also right! A cookie for you.

If you said The Sopranos, where James Gandolfini played a mob boss that wasn't even the boss of his own family, you're right! Pat on the back.

If you said Dexter, where the guy from Six Feet Under plays a detective that happens to be a serial killer on the side, you're right! Ugh...

Noticing a trend here, perhaps? I'll be honest, I've not seen more than 10 minutes of any of these shows outside of The Sopranos, but it doesn't seem like I need to. And I'm guessing there are probably, oh, 428 other shows on TV that follow this same formula (sounds like The Mentalist is another, for instance). What gives? I mean, Hollywood filmmakers are constantly berated for going the sequel/remake/adaptation route ten too many times, but at least the plots aren't all identical.

Since I can't think of anything better offhand, I'm just gonna give in and offer my ideas for some TV pilots. Feel free to make me a showrunner at any time:

* Bob Barnaby is the world's best janitor. But - get this - he's a pathological litterbug, and that gets him into all kinds of tomfoolery and trouble with other janitors, who may or may not know his identity. Oh the drama!

* Joan Gershwin works for a PETA-like organization and is beloved in the community. She's helped organize spay/neuter clinics all over the world and has been there to help out whenever a catastrophe occurs and animals need help. But when she goes home at night, she molests her puppies and mocks her turtles! Oh noes! Will her neighbors learn of her behavior and "rat" her out? Will her talking parrot sing like a canary? Egads!

* Ted Anderson is a world-class swimmer,a former Olympian who now trains the world's best up-and-coming 50- and 100-meter specialists. But when the tarp is on the pool and Anderson washes up after a long day, he nearly drowns every time he showers! Gadzooks!

C'mon, TV. Enough with the formula.

11 people have chosen wisely: on "Stuck in a rut (TV rant)"

Nick said...

Technically Dexter is a bloodsplatter analyst, not a detective (he works for the police station, but isn't a cop).

But I know what you mean :P .

Rachel said...

Add House, Lie to Me and 24 that list (all Fox shows). But I adore the lead actors playing our formulaic protagonists, so I keep tuning every week.

Fletch said...

Nick - thanks for the correction. I actually looked it up and saw that that was his title before posting, but I figured that a blood spatter dude was still a detective of sorts. I originally did think he was a homicide detective, though, which would have worked better for my thesis. :D

Rachel - damnit, I meant to head over to your site yesterday to say Happy Birthday. Hope you had a good one...

Yeah, it's no commentary on the quality of the shows necessarily. I was just reading something about Nurse Jackie, saw the words "pill-popping" and a fuse snapped in my head.

Nick said...

I suppose you could kinda call it detective work. What he does is help the detectives figure out how a murder went down by the blood (thickness, location, splatter, etc.). This can help know what kind of weapon was used, how hard the weapon had to be swung if it was more blunt of an object (or if it was a knife, how the knife was handled), etc.

Though he often uses the directories and whatnot of the station to figure out crimes on his own. So he's no official cop or detective, but he does do detective-like work.

Rachel said...

Thanks! I'll forgive your forgetfulness this year:)

THN said...

Oh for crying out loud, I wish I could buy stock in things like, "Somebody will point out the tiniest flaw in a blog, while totally missing the point."

This is why I hate the internets.

But I don't hate this post. I love it. And I agree with Rachel about House. That's the truths.

Fletch said...

Pull the dogs back in, THN. I appreciate the backing, but Nick is good people.

And thanks.

And eventually, Mrs. Fletch and I might rent the DVDs of some of these shows that we missed the beginnings of, like we did with LOST. Wathcing 3-6 episodes of a show with no commericals or annoying people popping up on the screen is definitely the way to go. Offer suggestions at will...

Nick said...

Yeah, I wasn't dogging the post. It was a good post. I was just giving the head's up on Dexter so that OTHER people wouldn't flame him for it.

And you totally need to watch Dexter, Fletch :P .

Big Mike Mendez said...

It has always been a dream of mine to create a show within a show that is the most boring, unimpressive procedural crime drama you could think of that goes on to be a solid hit and chains the people working on it to the show for the rest of their foreseeable future. What could be more agonizing than working until you retirement on something that you utterly despise? The horror!

Fletch said...

Didn't that already happen in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, except for the "working on it forever" part?

Anonymous said...

Dexter is the best show on television chump, you should check it out before uneducationally including it in a list where it doesnt belong...