Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Nice Guys Finish Last for a Reason

Every so often I’ll eagerly anticipate a new (scripted) television show because the premise looks promising in its commercials and I hope to find a show that I’ll become addicted to. But more often than not the show that I had had high hopes for disappoints me and ends up falling into the vast mediocre category of television (where a show is just entertaining enough to be on in the background while I work on other things). The biggest downfall I find in most shows is the lack of characters to love.

If the main focus of television shows is to entertain, then the characters are integral in making the story come alive and can make or break a good premise. So for me to become invested in that storyline, I have to care about the characters themselves (otherwise I will roll my eyes at their love woes or scoff at their stupidity as they jump to the wrong conclusions). For me, characters I love to watch doesn’t necessarily mean likable ones, (they could be likeable, but it’s not a requirement for truly interesting characters); in fact some characters I know I would hate if I knew them in real life, but I love to watch them through the safe distance that is the television screen.

Most of my favorite characters are smart, quick-witted and have some quirks (that highly amuse me) and they feel authentic. Nice never makes the top reasons of why I love watching a character in a TV show. Nice is great in the real world but just being nice doesn’t cut it on screen. If nice is the first adjective used to describe a character then there’s a good chance that that character is boring. Nice is flat. Nice is bland. Nice brings to mind Dudley-Do-Right always doing the right thing…annoyingly so. There’s not much complexity or surprise in niceness.

Thus, “nice” characters need to be overshadowed by more intriguing characteristics if they’re going to be interesting. Just being purely nice isn’t as relatable or as true as characters that have some negative qualities; being selfish, vain, shallow, cynical, arrogant and insensitive can make a character not only feel more realistic, but also highly entertaining (if done in the right way). So what it basically comes down to is: Are you interesting? Because I don’t care if a character is "nice" or a “good person,” I care if that character is amusing to watch. Give me someone original and memorable and makes me smile if you want me to pay attention to your television show.

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