Archive for the ‘Film/Television’ Category

White Collar, Dexter, and Rome

February 24, 2010

With a lot of free time on my hands I’ve been looking for good television shows. Personally I find that most TV shows suck because they can’t get over the fact that all attempts at rapturous plot wind up in the gutter. This is simply because of the inconclusiveness of TV: the viewers and the producer are the ones to decide when a TV show ends, so it’s impossible to plan a conclusion. And then there are things like writers’ strike, etc. which throw a wrench into the planning. I think the reason why the plot of Lost is ridiculous is because the writers keep on having to throw new curveballs into the show since all the surprises and the mystery have already been revealed. The show Heroes is silly for the same reason.

So a TV show only has a chance at respectable entertainment if it focuses on the aspects of character and setting. Incidentally, these are the strong points of TV, since TV shows have 10-15 hours to do this per season compared to the 2-3 hours of a movie. Movies are predisposed for plot; television for character. My favorite shows are the ones that focus on character.

This is why I like White Collar and Dexter so much. They both meticulously develop the portraits of their main characters, Neil Caffrey and Dexter, respectively. But this is not even what I care about most. What I care about most is the initial impression of a character — Neil Caffrey’s portrayal in the first episode, and the same with Dexter. There needn’t be that much character development to maintain my interest. I just like to see the actor and his role, as long as the acting and the role intrigue me.

I like Neil Caffrey because he’s a con artist and this fascinates me. I like Dexter because… well… he’s different, and in a horrific sense intriguing. It’s the premises and the impression that most capture my interest.

The reason why Rome matches up to my criteria isn’t as cut-and-dried. It does have a lot of plot, and the intrigue of the show definitely rides on the plot. But I think the difference here is that the plot is historical. The genius of Rome is that the writers broke it up into different historical eras, all based on the lives and deaths of great men (and women). The first season ends with Caesar’s death; the second, with that of Antony and Cleopatra. By doing it this way the show ensures that even if it were cancelled after the first season, there would still be a sense of completeness; a story would still be told. A successful television plot would have to do the same thing — break a story up into seasons, in a way which each season is conclusive and tells a story, and no story is less interesting than the other. History does this naturally, but imagination works much differently. I have yet to find a fictional plot-based TV show that I enjoy.