Thursday, October 29, 2015

Will the Perfect Television Show Ever Exist?

What is Perfect?

The truth is there is no such thing as the "perfect television show".  Why?  Because everyone has a different definition of "perfect".  Here's an example.  A few years ago I discovered the show The Incredible HulkI remember this series existing when I was a child in the 80s, but I always thought it looked stupid and never watched it.  Then I saw a rerun of it one day and realized I had really missed a good program.  It had a number of my requirements for the "perfect show" (which I will describe later in the post) and I was hooked right away.  But my requirements for perfection are not the same as someone else's requirements.  In fact, what I liked about The Incredible Hulk actually turned some people off.  I know this because of a conversation I had with a friend one day.

It was one of those conversations where you're just sitting and relaxing and talking about everything and nothing, and I happened to mention that I had discovered The Incredible Hulk and was amazed that I had never given it a chance before because it was so good.  I mentioned that the thing that drew me to it was the main character's vulnerability, at which point my friend said, "Oh I hated that about that show.  All he does in every episode is whine."  Well, there you have it.  The reason the perfect show will never exist.  If it has everything necessary to make me absolutely love it, someone else will hate it for those very same reasons.  So what are my criteria?

The Right Actor

When it comes to who we find attractive, we all have a type right?  I certainly do.  I go for the tall, dark, and handsome ones.  The lead actor in my perfect TV show would have to fit that description.  He would need to look like...hmm...Eduardo Noriega would be a good example of my "type".


Mmm...Eduardo Noriega...Oh...What was I saying?  Oh yeah, leading actor.  Well he doesn't have to be my type, physically, for me to like his character, but we're talking perfect here, right?  So he would have to look perfect.  My definition of perfect. 

A Bit of a Creep Factor

I like creepy stories.  I don't know why.  I just do, and I always have.  I remember when Lost first aired, my husband wanted to watch it, but I was uninterested.  I thought it was just going to be about a group of people trying to survive a plane crash.  I imagined it being a show that focused on the politics of survival in a hostile environment, with arguments about food and shelter and where to go and how to get rescued.  Those things definitely are a part of the story of Lost, but of course there is so much more to the series than that.  It was the episode "Numbers" that made me realize that the show was about a good bit more than just survival.  The creepy atmosphere of that episode hooked me, and afterward I tuned in faithfully every week.  My perfect show would have to be a little bit creepy and mysterious. 

The Main Character

I've already described his appearance, but what's his story?  Who is he, and what's going to make me like him?  Well, I've already mentioned it.  Vulnerability.  He must have a vulnerable side.  Not that I want him to be a wimp.  I mean, he should be able to kick some butt every now and then, but there has to be some weakness there.  In fact, I have a pretty specific idea of exactly how vulnerable he is and why.

I know I am not alone in wanting a vulnerable main character, because these characters are constantly making appearances on television.  The Incredible Hulk, of course, is an example.  Fox Mulder on The X Files is another strong male lead who happens to have a vulnerable side.  But I seldom see a character with my idea of the perfect level of vulnerability.  So what is that perfect level?

All About Him

I've written in a previous post that my favorite seasons of Supernatural are the first two.  This is because the first two seasons fit more of my criteria than the later seasons do.  The show was creepier then than it is now, but the characters' storylines also fit almost perfectly into my criteria in the beginning.  The main thing that hooked me on the show was the story arc involving Sam that lasted for the entire first two seasons.  While Sam and Dean both showed some vulnerability, Sam showed the right kind.  Well at least the right kind for me.  What do I mean?  Let me explain.

The first two seasons were all about Sam.  I mean, yeah, Dean was important too, but all of the bad stuff that was happening was centered on Sam.  He was the one the demon wanted.  He was the one who had to be saved.  But he was also the one who had a special gift.  Remember Sam's psychic powers?  The writers of the show seem to have forgotten about those in recent years.  I miss them.  Explaining why I like that part of the story is hard to put into words, but I'll try.  Sam was special, and I need my leading male character to be special.  He had a gift that was also a curse.  It gave him the ability to do things that others could not do, but it also made him more vulnerable.  Sam had visions, and he could see things before they happened, but those visions weakened him.  He needed to recover from them.  I liked the fact that his strength was also his weakness.

Getting Frustrated

Part of me wishes that Supernatural had continued to be all about Sam, but of course that is not how the story has played out.  There will be one story arc involving Sam, followed by one involving Dean, then another with Sam, and so on.  I know why that is.  People will get tired of everything always being about Sam.  People want Dean to go through some drama as well.  Writing a TV show is about pleasing as many people as possible, so they alternate between characters to give everyone a little of what they want.  Supernatural is not the only show that does this.

I recently started watching Haven, and have seen the same trend.  I must say, in the beginning it was a little difficult for me to get into this show because the main character is a woman.  As I said above, I want to be attracted to the main character, which means I want the story to center on a handsome man.  The fact that the story is pretty much all about Audrey in the beginning kept me from getting pulled in completely.  But it's an interesting show, so I kept watching, and I was not disappointed.

It takes a really long time for any character other than Audrey to get an interesting storyline on this show.  Okay, Nathan goes through some intense stuff fairly early on, but it's a little bit here and a little bit there.  The story doesn't really focus on him.  Then, as the series progresses, we start to get a glimpse of Duke's backstory, and that's what finally hooked me.  It fits my criteria exactly.  The gift that is also a curse.  The strength that is also a weakness.  And by season  But still I was left feeling a little bit disappointed.  Why?  Because, again, it's not all about him.  The other characters are still there, and they still have their own drama to go through.  That drama is often completely unrelated to Duke and his struggles.  For a show to be "perfect", it all needs to center on the one character.

So What Do I Do?

Okay, some of you may be asking, "Well, Greta, you call yourself a writer.  Why don't you write that perfect story?"  Well, I guess I kind of did.  And I kind of am.  Amelia's Children, the book I just completed, has all of these elements.  Well, except for the lead actor.  I can't really have that in a book, but I do describe David as looking a bit like my perfect man.  And the story is all about him.  Bad things happen to other people, but David is at the center of it.  And yes, he has a gift that is also a curse.  The new book I'm working on centers around a character named Damian (I seem to like names that start with "D").  Again, bad things happen to other people, but they wouldn't have happened if those people had not been somehow connected to Damian.  And yes, Damian is also described as tall, dark, and handsome.  It feels good to write these stories because I can take all of my frustrations about my favorite movies, books, and TV shows, and deal with them in my own way.  I can write the story the way I think it should have been written.  But occasionally...just every now and then...I would like to see that story written by someone else.  And if it happened on a TV show, I would get to tune in week after week and experience that little emotional release again and again.

If my perfect show exists, and I just haven't found it yet, please leave a comment and let me know about it.  If you have your own ideas of perfection, and they differ from mine, tell me that as well.  I would love to hear from you.

Remember to follow me on Twitter for updates on this blog and other projects I'm working on.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Personal Meditation on Matthew 25:14-30


The thoughts contained in this post are my own personal musings.  I do not claim to speak for God, nor do I claim to know the "correct" way to interpret the Bible.  I only know how this passage has inspired me in my own life.

Matthew 25: 14-30

14 For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, "Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them." 21 His lord said to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord." 22 He also who had received two talents came and said, "Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them." 23 His lord said to him, "Well don, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord." 24 Then he who had received the one talent came and said, "Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours." 26 But his lord answered and said to him, "You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

A Literal Interpretation

It's obvious from reading the story that the literal meaning of the word talent refers to money.  A talent was a unit of weight, and the talents that were given to the three servants represented a rather large sum of money.  More information about talents in the Bible can be found here.  But of course this story is a parable, so it has meaning beyond just the literal.

A Common Interpretation

As modern English speakers, we cannot hear the word talent without thinking of its modern meaning, and that meaning is often applied to this story whenever Matthew 25 is read in churches today.  An interpretation that I have heard many times is that God gives us talents (or abilities) and He expects us to put them to use.  He does not want us to "bury our talents in the ground."  Of course this brings up the inevitable question of just how we are to use our talents.  As Christians we are taught to use our abilities for God's glory, and often think of acts of service.  A musician can play the piano in church, a chef can open a soup kitchen, a linguist can work as a translator in international missions.  But are these the only ways we can use our talents?

My Own Personal Dilemma

Writing about this is hard, because I don't want to get off on a tangent and talk about all of the times I have questioned my faith, or the times I have felt that my fellow Christians have let me down, or the times I have shaken my fists at God and asked, "Why?"  I want to stay on topic, and talk about my feelings about Matthew 25, but when I start talking about talents, in the modern sense of the word, I can't escape the feelings of frustration that often have followed my desire to use my own abilities.  I will try my best to streamline the topic a bit.

I have always viewed humility as a virtue to which we should all aspire.  I look to Jesus's example in John 13 when he washed the disciples' feet.  In addition to that story, there are also many verses in the Bible that talk about viewing others as better than ourselves.  With this mindset, the idea of using my talents to glorify myself is a difficult one to wrap my mind around.

Nevertheless, I struggle constantly with the desire to show off.  And I don't just want to use my talents in church.  I want to show the world what I can do.  I often wonder if this is something God wants me to do.  Then I read Matthew 25 and I have to ask myself, "If I believe in God, and I believe He gave me life, don't I also have to believe that He is the one who gave me my talents?  Shouldn't I also believe that He wants me to use them?"  I've struggled with that question many times.  By way of inserting another disclaimer in here, I must say that the conclusion I have drawn is my personal opinion.  As I stated above, I do not claim to speak for God.

Here's what I've concluded.  If I think of God as my father, I have to think that He sees me the way I see my own children.  If my children are good at something, I want to shout it from the rooftops.  Doesn't God feel the same way about me?  He gave me a voice, so He must want me to sing.  He gave me a body, so He must want me to dance.  He gave me an imagination, so He must want me to write.  And he gave me a desire to do those things in front of an audience, so He must want me to perform.  I remember one day when I was feeling particularly discouraged by my own personal struggle with humility vs. pride I prayed, "God, put me on a stage and let me be your shining star.  Sit in the audience and applaud as I show the world what I can do.  Be proud of me."  I think that he is proud of me.

I know that many of the people who read this blog may be looking at it from different points of view.  Even if you do not agree with my conclusions, I hope that you can find some inspiration in what I have written today.

Remember to follow me on Twitter for updates about future blog posts.  Also, check out my paranormal mystery, Amelia's Children, available on Amazon Kindle.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Why Are Stories About Brothers So Amazing?

Fan Girl

If you've been reading this blog, then you know I have written about Supernatural in the past, but my obsession with brother stories goes back further than that.  In fact, I didn't even discover Supernatural until about three years ago.  Before Sam and Dean, there were others.

Growing Up On Soaps

Remember soap operas?  I've heard rumors that a few of them still exist, but I honestly don't know how many people are watching them, so many have been cancelled in recent years because of diminishing audiences. Why is this happening? My theory is that now people have Netflix, Amazon Prime, and huge dvd libraries, so if they're home during the day they can actually find quality programming to watch and don't need to turn to soap operas with their cheap cameras, cheesy writing, and over the top acting.  But that's just my theory.  Anyway, moving on.

I grew up watching soaps, primarily CBS soaps.  The characters of Guiding Light were talked about in my home as though they were real people.  My mother and grandmother would spend half an hour on the phone just talking about how Roger and Holly really should get back together, or how hard Michelle's life is going to be now that Maureen is dead.  Because the show came on late in the afternoon, I was usually able to watch it when I came home from school.  If I was going to be late, my mom would tape it for me.  Anybody remember those days?

What I Love Most in a Fictional Character

Okay, are there any other Guiding Light fans out there?  Did you have moments when you were absolutely in love with Roger Thorpe, even though you knew he was evil?  I think Roger was the first fictional character I was really drawn to.  Why?  Because of what the website TV Tropes refers to as the Heel Face Turn.  Boy howdy am I a sucker for that.  And Roger Thorpe did it at least every couple of years.  Generally he was the show's biggest scoundrel, but occasionally, especially if it involved Holly or Blake, he could be made to show his softer side.  And when he did women's hearts melted all over America.  This so-called Heel Face Turn was what turned me on to the first brother story with which I became completely obsessed.

Richard and Edmund

This was a story line that began on Guiding Light sometime in the late nineties.  Looking back on it, I have to recognize that it was ridiculously hokey.  It involved a royal family in some made up country somewhere...well I'm not even sure where it was supposed to be, but, wherever it was, it was a country that was ruled by a monarch.  Richard was the older brother and heir to the throne.  Edmund was the younger brother and...well...not the heir.  Remember The Lion King? It was kind of like that.  Edmund came on the show as the new villain, probably because it was around the time that Roger left and the show needed to replace him.  In his first few storylines he was pure evil, but of course as time wore on he started to show a little of his vulnerable side.  And as this vulnerable side started to show itself more and more, there was this suggestion of an incredibly strong bond between the two brothers.  Even though on the surface they hated each other, even though they were sworn enemies, in some place deep down they really loved each other, and I loved them for that.

Michael and Kevin

This was a story from The Young and the Restless.  It was much more believable and relatable than the Richard and Edmund story had been, but it had all of the same elements.  Michael was the older brother; Kevin was the younger brother.  Again, Kevin came on the show as the villain.  He did some pretty heinous things before he finally made his Heel Face Turn.  And when he finally saw the error of his ways, Michael was there to pick up the pieces.  The story was made more touching by the fact that Kevin had been abused as a child.  This made him more sympathetic, but it also provided the motivation for Michael to want to help him, because Michael carried around the guilt of having left home while Kevin remained at the mercy of his abusive father.

A Pattern Emerging

These two stories were so similar, and I loved them so completely, that I actually started doing Google searches for other stories that fit this pattern: older, responsible brother holding together the broken pieces of the younger, rebellious brother's messed up life.  That's a very specific thing to search for, so I naturally did not get many results. 

Sam and Dean

Supernatural deviated a bit from the set pattern.  Sam was not the bad seed--at least not until season four--and though he did go through some intense stuff in the first episode, it was quickly revealed that he was no more broken than Dean.  So why did I fall so hard for these two?  I have no idea, but I know I'm not alone in my obsession.  Just search for Supernatural on YouTube and you'll see what I mean.  There are people who post videos just about Sam and Dean hugging. 

So What's the Big Deal?

Okay, so I have no idea what makes brother stories, in particular, so powerful for me.  I have some theories, though.  I'm an only child, so maybe part of me wants to experience a sibling relationship vicariously through fictional characters, but if that's the case, it should be sister stories that do it for me.  They don't.  I feel very little when I watch a heartwarming story about two sisters.  A big sister and a little brother is a little more interesting, but not much.  A big brother and a little sister turns me off completely.  But when it's two brothers...sigh...I just can't get enough.  So maybe it's the whole sexual attraction thing that hooks me.  I would rather look at two handsome men than two beautiful women.  And when those two handsome men are crying and professing their undying love for each other--in a completely platonic way--it has an effect on me that I can't quite explain.

What Next?

At the moment, Supernatural is still going strong on The CW, but nothing lasts forever, so I know at some point I will be in search of my next great bromance.  Any suggestions?  Do you know of an absolutely amazing brother story that I haven't explored yet?  If you do, please leave a comment.  I would love to hear from you.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter for information about future blog posts.  Also, pop over to Amazon and check out my paranormal mystery, Amelia's Children. Interestingly, there's no bromance there, but there's plenty of drama, so give it a read.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Craziest Thing I Learned When I Self-Published My Book

Introducing Amelia's Children!

There she is, my big beautiful book cover in all of her spooky blue glory.  If you are interested in learning about my adventures in graphic design, you can read my previous blog posts,
My Review of Gimp Photo Editing Software and How To Tint a Photo in Gimp 2.8.  Today's post is mainly concerned with the process of formatting my Microsoft Word file for Amazon Kindle.  But before we get to that...

I would love for you to pop over to Amazon and check out Amelia's Children.  It is a paranormal mystery (coming out just in time for Halloween) about a young waitress who meets a handsome stranger who comes into her restaurant one night while she's working the evening shift.  At first her connection to him is only an infatuation, but as time wears on she is pulled into helping him solve the mystery that has haunted him his entire life--a mystery that somehow revolves around a thirty year old unsolved murder.

Moving Along

Okay, I think that's enough shameless self-promotion, don't you?  On to the business at hand.  First let me say that I could probably write an entire book on what I learned about the self-publishing process.  If you have been through it, you know what I mean.  If you are a writer who is considering self-publishing your first eBook, there are numerous resources you can use to help you with formatting.  Here are links to a couple of them:
Smashwords Style Guide

I am not prepared to offer my own advice in this area, because I have only been through the process once and still have some things to learn.  The purpose of this post is to share my reaction to the things that I did learn.  Okay, actually I'm only going to talk about one thing.  I feel the need to dedicate an entire blog post to it because it absolutely blew my mind when I found it out.  I do not exaggerate.  It literally took everything I thought I knew and turned it on its head.  Okay, maybe it's not quite as traumatic as questioning my beliefs about God, or wondering if my parents are really my parents, or anything like that.  I guess in the grand scheme of things this was really a very minor discovery, but I'm still reeling from it just the same.  What is it?  Let's backtrack a little first.

My Humble Beginnings As a Writer

I wrote my first poem when I was nine years old, and I wrote it on my grandmother's typewriter.  In the late eighties there were still many people who did not own a computer, and even those who did still often used typewriters for professional writing because, well, printers pretty much sucked back then.  I started writing my first novel at the age of eleven.  While this early version had some obvious hallmarks of a young inexperienced writer, I am planning at some point to rewrite it and publish a good day. 

I began writing that book by hand because I did not own my own typewriter at that point.  Then for Christmas that year my parents gave me one and the book started coming together faster than I had ever dreamed possible.  Because I was dead set on pursuing writing as a career, I decided to take keyboarding as an elective at school.

I think the year was 1990.  Though, again, computers existed, I guess supplying them to a sixth grade typing class was not in the school's budget, so we used typewriters instead.  Of course we didn't even have the newest typewriters available.  The one I had at home had an auto-center button on it for centering titles, but in class there was no such button, so we learned to center manually.  If you have never done that before and are curious about the process, you can learn it here.  It's a fairly useless bit of knowledge, but it may come in handy if that asteroid ever strikes the earth and wipes out all use of electricity across the entire globe.  Then we'll all be stuck using manual typewriters and will be glad we learned how to center a title.

Okay, moving on.  Those of you who learned to type on a typewriter, do you remember the process for indenting the first line of a paragraph?  Well, there were two ways to do it.  You could either use the space bar, or you could set the Tab key for the number of spaces you wanted for your indented first line.  I remember learning that the first line of a paragraph should be indented five spaces.

(Interesting side note here:  it's only when you look at a manual typewriter that you understand the logic behind the naming of the Shift key.)

Keyboarding in High School

My high school principal talked me into taking keyboarding my senior year.  I didn't want to.  I had taken that class back in sixth grade and had done a lot of typing since that time.  As far as speed and accuracy were concerned, I was quite good.  The fact that I had never learned to type on a computer did not bother me.  But I took the class anyway because when your principal calls you on the phone to express his alarm that your high school transcript does not include a typing class, you follow his advice.

It was now 1996, and the school had real computers for students to use.  Of course, they were still outdated.  If I remember correctly, the ones we had in that keyboarding class were pre-Windows, so there was a lot of use of F-keys and arrow buttons.  I was adamantly trying to assert my anti-technology identity, so it was only very begrudgingly that I admitted that computers were easier to use than typewriters.  Even factoring in the necessity of using F-keys and arrow buttons, computers made everything much more convenient.  But some things remained the same, like indenting the first line of a paragraph.  Setting the Tabs on a computer was a different process from setting them on a typewriter, but once they were set the actual act of typing was pretty much identical.  So this was the second typing class I took in which I learned that the proper way to indent a line is by pressing the Tab key.

My Stunning Revelation

If you came up through the ranks of "old-school" typing classes like I did, and have now learned to use the newest methods, then you already know where I'm going with this.  What I learned, and I read it on numerous websites as I was researching how to format my book, is that you should never, ever use the Tab key to indent the first line of a paragraph.  What?!?  You mean the process I learned in my first ever typing class--and then again in my high school keyboarding class--is not the correct way to do it?  That thing that I have done so many times it is now permanently imprinted on my brain is something that I have to stop doing?  I even read one tutorial in which it was described as a "bad habit."  Seriously?  That's like saying using your hands to knead dough instead of using the dough hook of a food processor is a bad habit.  Not it's not!  It's the way its been done long as such things have been done.  Bad habit?  I think not.

Okay, I'm done ranting and raving about it now.  Basically what I learned (from the tutorials and, thankfully, not from personal experience) is that apparently the software that takes the file containing your manuscript and converts it to an eBook does not recognize Tab indents.  As I said, I have not tested this.  I simply trusted the experts to know what they were talking about, and a huge part of the formatting process for my book involved getting rid of all Tab indents.  Which in reality meant every single indent in every single paragraph in my book.  Thankfully, it's very easy to find them and then abolish them all at once.  It was not a tedious process.  Learning to type without the use of the Tab key--now that's going to be a grueling experience.

That was the most surprising thing I learned when I published my book.  I'm sure other people have been surprised by the experience as well.  If you have similar stories about things you learned in the formatting process, I would love for you to leave a comment.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter for updates on this blog and all of my other projects.  And if you're looking for a good paranormal mystery to get you in the mood for Halloween, check out Amelia's Children, now available on Amazon Kindle.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Problem of Needing to Worry About Our Favorite Television Characters


I am mainly talking about television here because television shows are bound by certain rules that do not apply to movies and books.  In a movie or a book, unless it's a very light-hearted story, you most certainly do worry about the characters because you never know what might happen.  But on television...well, that's a different thing altogether.  Let me explain what I mean.

A Look Back

While I do watch my fair share of reruns, I do not pretend to know the origin of the TV action series.  All I know are the shows that I have sampled over the years.  If you have watched some of the same shows, or even different shows of the same genre, then you will surely have noticed the "rules" that these shows play by. 

Let's start with CHiPs, since it's a show that most people have at least heard of.  It's a cop show, which means that the main characters frequently find themselves in some really intense situations, but never once does the audience really worry that something bad might happen to Ponch and Jon.  Why?  Because they are the main characters of the show, and it would not be the same without them.  Even as they enter into a potentially life-threatening situation, the audience can stay relaxed and happy in the knowledge that they're not going to die.  How could they?

Moving forward a couple of years, we have McGyver.  Ahh...McGyver.  If ever there was an embodiment of 80s cheese in all of its big-haired glory, that show would be it.  My husband and I tried to binge-watch this show when it was released on DVD a few years ago.  He had warm memories of watching it as a kid and wanted to relive that time.  Now, maybe as a once a week treat the show was good, but to get the DVD and try to watch more than one episode at a  We quickly grew bored with the same old storyline being used over and over again...just in a different country with different characters and a new bad guy.  We were hungry for some real drama, and McGyver did not deliver.  And once again there was the constant assurance that nothing truly bad could ever happen to the main character because...well...the show was named after him, so he could not possibly die.

I had high hopes for Miami Vice when I watched the pilot (also on DVD...I wasn't interested in cop shows in the 80s).  Even though it was another 80s action show, the first episode promised something different.  The main character was a scruffy cop with a five o'clock shadow who was going through some serious family drama.  The storyline involving Crockett's wife and son interested me right away, because it gave this seemingly tough character a softer side that I felt I could identify with.  Unfortunately, it was not to last.  Now I don't remember which particular episode it is, but at some point, not very far at all into the first season, everything changes.  First of all, Crockett's image changes.  There's a scene in which he's going to court and has to shave.  The stubble never comes back.  Now don't get me wrong, I like the look of a clean-shaven man.  I just didn't like it in this show because I could tell what they were doing.  They were making him look more like the sexy star of an action show, and in the process, they took away some of his vulnerability.  Then of course an episode or so later the wife and son move away.  Why?  I'm guessing because it was an 80s cop show and all of that family drama just didn't fit.  I could be wrong, but that was the impression I got when I watched it.  And it really diminished the show in my eyes. 

Different Kinds of Shows

I am, of course, aware that there have been shows where anything could happen to any character at any time.  Soap operas are, I guess, the earliest example of that.  Then at some point that level of drama began to creep into evening programs as well.  St. Elsewhere is a prime example.  Then of course in the 90s we had ER.  Because these two shows featured an ensemble cast, there was no need to preserve the hero's life at all costs.  There was no single hero, and so characters could die.  This is good, right?  It gives audiences the level of emotional involvement that they've been craving, allowing each episode to deliver a much-needed catharsis.  Well, yes and no.  I don't know about anyone else, but for me at least it loses its effectiveness after a while.  Think about it.  You get really interested in a character.  You know that character could die any minute, so your level of emotional investment shoots up exponentially.  Then that character dies.  What do you do now?  Your favorite character is gone from your favorite show.  Do you keep watching, hoping that some new character will capture your heart the way the dearly departed one did?  Do you even let yourself fall as hard for another character, or do you now maintain a level of detachment because you know what might happen?  There have been some shows in which I felt the writers themselves were remaining detached from the emotional lives of the characters.  People die, the cast mourns for an hour or so, and then it's back to business as usual.  If anyone is still feeling bad about the death in the following episode, it's not shown.  That character is left to grieve away from the cameras.  You know it's happening, but you don't get to see it.  You don't get to grieve with them.

Trying to Capture the Best of Both Worlds

I know of at least one show that has attempted to play both sides.  It has its principal characters, and you know they aren't going away any time soon, and yet they still die.  I'm talking, of course, about SupernaturalWarning: unlike my previous post in which I discussed this show, I will be including some spoilers today.  If you don't want that, stop reading now.  If you are a fan of Supernatural, then you know that the many deaths of Sam and Dean have become a joke on the show, to the point where fans almost expect it to happen.  But let's go back to the first one, shall we?  Remember Sam's death at the end of season two?  Remember how intense it was?  It was so effective because it was not something that was supposed to happen on a show like this.  People could drop dead all around them, but Sam and Dean were supposed to be safe.  Season two, therefore, came as a real shock to everyone.  Of course, Sam comes back in the very next episode.  And then Dean dies at the end of season three, and comes back in season four.  Then Sam goes to hell in season five and...well... you get the picture.  It happened so much that they started making jokes about it on the show.  And then fans would flock to online forums and talk about how the Winchesters had died so many times that if it ever happened again it would just be stupid.  The writers would never be able to pull it off.  But then comes season nine and Dean dies...again.  Was it effective?  I think it was.  Why?  Because it had become such a joke on the show that the audience was lulled into thinking that Sam and Dean were safe.  They certainly weren't going to die another time.  And yet...season nine.  Of course by this point everyone knows this isn't the end.  He's going to come back.  But somehow that doesn't diminish the drama of watching him die.

Have Any Shows Truly Gotten It Right?

This is just my opinion, and people may disagree, but I think Breaking Bad is one show that managed to do it correctly.  You probably think I'm talking about Walt and his cancer, but I'm not.  I'm talking about Jesse.  This is another show that my husband and I binge-watched after the fact. (I know...I have a tendency to discover shows after they've already gone off the air.)  The first time I thought the words "poor Jesse" to myself was way back in the first season, and I was reacting to Walt constantly treating him like he's a complete idiot.  Of course he was a bit of a bumbling idiot in season one, but just the same Walt came across as being a little too cruel.  Half-way through season two I had come to the conclusion that those words pretty much summed up the whole show.  But it only gets worse.  And just when you think Jesse could not possibly be brought down any more, it gets worse again.  By the final season your heart bleeds for the poor guy, and you really have no idea what is going to happen to him.  For this and many other reasons, Breaking Bad will go down in history as one of the best-written shows I have ever seen.

What about you?  Do you feel the same need to worry about your characters that I feel?  Or do you like your shows a little on the lighter side?  Do you have other examples of shows that have gotten it right?  If you do, I would love to read about it in the comments.

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