It’s difficult to describe the nature of my obsession with television, as I’m still unraveling it now. How do you describe a fever to someone who has never had one? How can I properly represent this condition, this infection, when I’ve barely cracked the surface? I cannot force you to feel what I do, but I’ve managed to locate the root of my passion, and perhaps if I take you to the source of this affliction, you will also catch the bug.
I realize, here, at the beginning of my education in communications, that the reason I’m so incredibly drawn to television isn’t because of the action, the escape from reality, even the in-depth plot lines. The reason I love television above film, books and all other media forms is that television has the most expertly, intricately, and realistically developed characters.
Now, you may prefer a different media form over television, such as film. This is completely understandable; the spectacle of film has it’s charm. However, if you find it to be above television in characterization, I’d have to strongly disagree. Film, by it’s nature, is a fleeting, visual experience. An hour or two isn’t nearly enough time to actualize a full character or to establish the deep connection that television’s characters instill in the audience. Unfortunately for filmmakers, the characters are the reason we all watch. True, on the surface, film is still going strong. However, beneath the glitz and glamour lies a weakness in plot that even film fanatics are beginning to sense. The industry itself is so terrified of being unsuccessful that they take the stories from already popular media, such as literature, yet the adaptations end up leaving the fans unimpressed and incomplete. Even the books themselves fail in reaching the characterization of television, as we cannot see the characters and their physical presence. Sure, the plot line draws us in, but what keeps us turning on the tube week after week, time after time, even after months of waiting for the next episode, is the people television constructs.
Though TV as a whole is an excellent platform for character development, I’ve acquired a preference for certain types of television. Science fiction/fantasy and crime drama shows tend to draw me in most because these particular genres create my favored character development formula. In both of these genres, the added danger and adventure allows for in-depth looks into the subject’s personality. You find out in moments of peril who is brave and who is a coward. You often discover that the stiff, unemotional character has a hidden heart when they save the day, or when they think the person they secretly love is going to die. You find out what really makes these people through plot devices that, though extreme, create true-feeling responses. You suspend reality for the sake of realism, so to speak. If you are able to forgo your sense of what is practical, and accept things such as magical powers or super strength, the characterization is surprisingly realistic. Most well-written television shows have realistic characters, but without the aspect of fantasy or danger they can have a tendency to remain stagnant. I believe that we are a result of our environment, and that it is incredibly difficult for a person to change if his or her environment remains the same. Therefore, a TV show with characters who change without reason would be unrealistic, but a TV show with characters who never alter themselves would be boring. Sci-fi, Fantasy and crime drama television allow for both realism and excitement in character development.
Television characterization explores the nature of humanity, which is just candy for our egos. The reason we love stories about other people is that we can relate them back to ourselves; we can feel what they feel. We like to see the nerd get the girl because it means we have a shot. We want the antagonist to be redeemed because we want to overcome our own vices. In fact, the antagonist is becoming the new hero. We’ve seen the typical hero with superficial troubles but a good heart, and we’re bored. Archetypal protagonists appear dry because we’re losing the ability to relate to them. The villain, or perhaps the main character’s frenemy, is the much more compelling subject for contemporary audiences. They start off with a dark heart, and learn to be better, typically through love or some other positive force.
The ability of television to represent what we want to be through its characters is what has influenced me to become a TV screenwriter. I want the audience to fall in love with my characters, just as I’ve fallen in love with others’. I want my characters to have the wit and strength of Joss Whedon’s “Buffy”. I want the depth of Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz’s characters in “Lost” and “Once Upon a Time”. I want the twists and turns that Steven Moffat frequently utilizes in “Doctor Who” to put his character’s (and fans) through the ringer. Most of all, I want to make my audiences feel something real, even if the characters aren’t, because the emotions behind them are. Perhaps I cannot make an audience feel a fever, but maybe I can help them recognize the one that already lies within them.