TV Tropes (Not the Website)

I’m feeling a little out of sorts today, which means it’s time for another dancing monkey post. This time courtesy of deepfishy (aka JJ Irwin) over on LJ: This may veer too close to writing, but: tropes you’re drawn to in tv shows or films. (For instance, for myself I get a lot of joy out of variations on and subversions of the Defective or Exotic Detective – Life, Psych, Nero Wolfe, The Dresden Files, Foyle’s War…)

Originally I thought I was going to have trouble answering this – my inclination towards SF aside, there doesn’t always seem to be a lot of continuity to the types of shows I find myself watching. Naturally I went to TV Tropes and plugged in a few of my favourite shows to check this and quickly discovered it wasn’t the case. As such: I’m probably overly-drawn to the Bunny Ears Lawyer trope, but primarily in TV shows that stack their decks pretty heavily with examples of that type (Boston Legal, Scrubs, NCIS, Firefly). I can also be lured by specific examples of Crazy Awesome, and general eccentricity among the cast.

But, overall, I think that’s all a little misleading. I’m hard on TV, as a general rule. I demand a lot from it and I’m a cranky, unpleasant viewer. And hitting those tropes alone isn’t enough to drive me to watch a show – Six Feet Under is, by all accounts, a show full of quirk and eccentricity, but I’ve never really gotten a grip on it. CSI apparently has its share of crime-fighting bunny ears lawyer types in the same vein as NCIS, but again I’ve never managed to wrap my head around it.

A list of things that will sell me on a TV show regarldess of genre and trope:

  • Fast-paced, well-written dialogue: this is still one of the biggest selling points for the Gilmore Girls, and the thing that eventually lured me to Buffy after years of mocking it.
  • A consistent and engaging supporting cast, preferably built slowly and carefully (or a very strong ensemble cast, in the case of shows like How I Met Your Mother):I’ve never really jibbed with the reset-button approach to television and having the same extras/minor characters floating around gives a sense of narrative continuity.
  • Fringe-dwellers, punks, goths, geeks & weirdos: basically, if you find a social group/sub-culture that doesn’t usually get positive airplay, then give it to them, I may well be yours for life (this is, incidentally, the reason I still watch NCIS despite the horrible, horrible subtext of the show)
  • Do Future Imperfect SF: Firefly, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, even Dark Angel
  • Do something narratively/culturaly interesting: I dig How I Met Your Mother because of the non-linear structure; similarly, I dig Boston Legal because it has a kind of subversion of traditional masculinity going on in what’s traditionally been a hyper-masculine profession.

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