Friday, February 13, 2015

How Frustrating Are TV Characters?

"One of the most important things I've learned about acting is that you can't separate how you live your life and how you practice your art." 
-- Larry Moss

Do TV characters ever drive you crazy? Well, yes, of course they do. I mean, nobody could possibly enjoy a character like Fran* from The Nanny or Maggie from The Newsroom.

*Yes, that was partly a cheap shot at Fran because I had to endure so many jokes about having the same name as her.

Let me re-phrase my question: While watching TV, do you ever find yourself saying, "That is NOT how people really act"? It's absolutely maddening to watch actors "act" in ways that people never would. Maybe I'm just nitpicking, but I don't care. Here's a list of five incredibly frustrating, unrealistic things that TV characters do. In no particular order...

5. "Drive" a Car
When my friend's older sister turned 16 and got her license, she used to drive by constantly turning the steering wheel back and forth between the ten o'clock and two o'clock positions. That was not what people meant by "ten and two." Still, Ashley drove like that because that's how fictional characters drive. When they're onscreen, it's like actors think holding the wheel steady is too boring so they yank it back and forth. (If you're a sick-o, you can insert a Paul Walker joke here. I just deleted mine, so I'm only half a sick-o.)

4. Try to Turn Everything into a Lesson 

Seriously, Saget? You're the one doling out the advice? (Via
It makes sense that parents would seek out "teachable moments" to help improve their kids' lives. But TV parents like Mike and Carol Brady, Jill and Tim Taylor, Carl and Harriet Winslow, and even Phil and Claire Dunphy always take it too far. It's not always a great idea to have some deep powwow with your kids. I mean, sometimes when your teenager f's up, there's not much more to do than give him a good wailing and put him to bed without dinner. (I'm looking at you, Eddie Winslow; Carl should've beaten your ass a few times.)

3. Omit Pertinent Details
How many fictional problems could have been solved or avoided if one character simply sat another down and fully explained the freaking situation? Here's a partial list:
  • Lost: If Kate had fully explained why she had been traveling with the air marshal, people might have understood.
  • 24: If Jack Bauer had always detailed the reasons for his actions, nobody would have ever thought he was the bad guy. How dumb/anti-American was every 24 character who ever doubted Jack?
  • Boy Meets World: If Topanga had just informed everyone that she wasn't really that weird, she and Cory might have gotten together even sooner. (Thank goodness Michael Jacobs & Co. quickly made the decision to have Topanga just act like a normal hot chick.)  
  • Sons of Anarchy: If Juice had simply told the club about his racial background, I honestly think nobody would have cared. Didn't the club amend its bylaws rather frequently? Instead, Juice killed a member of the club to hide his secret and began a spiral that ended in his sad, ugly demise in the show's last season.
  • The Office: If Michael had told Jan about his money problems, she wouldn't have spent so frivolously. Actually, knowing Jan, she probably would have forced Michael to take his night job alongside Vikram and things would have turned out exactly the same. Still, I'm sure you can think of an example of an Office character causing problems by omitting key information.
2. Talk about Feelings 
This is the flip-side of No. 3. Despite sometimes neglecting to articulate critical details about a situation, TV characters are also often far too eager to discuss their feelings. For every discussion about feelings on TV, there are 10 fist-fights (for men) or bitchy comments (for women) in real life. Friends and family members usually hold grudges and refuse to talk things out, thereby nullifying most opportunities to discuss feelings. At least my messed up friends and family members do.

1. Make a Telephone Call
Jerry Seinfeld was the master (or non-master) of this. Sure, many of Seinfeld's best jokes revolved around the phone, but I always hated how Jerry's calls felt so unrealistic. He would never give the fake person on the other end of the line enough time to fake-respond. Wanna see a grainy example of what I'm talking about? Coming right up!

The same was true for occasions when Jerry buzzed people up to his apartment. There's no way you can ride an elevator to the fifth floor in the three seconds it usually takes George and Elaine.

Again, maybe I'm just nitpicking. But if you made it this far, odds are that you get pissed off about these things, too.

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Follow FranT on Twitter at @frantweet and follow Brian Kavanaugh at @btkav

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