Thursday, December 02, 2004

"Mister we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again..."

I was just scrolling through Peter David<'s blog, and he had an entry about Bravo's Top 100 TV Characters list. (Wow, that's a lot of links for one sentence.) I didn't have much argument about their top ten (although, I hardly think that "The Seinfeld Cast" counts as a character), and I was surprised to see that PAD had guessed 8 out of the top 10. I can't see anything wrong with putting Lucy Ricardo, Ralph Kramden, and Archie Bunker in the top three spots; if Archie Bunker wasn't in the number one spot, I think my jaw would have involuntarily clattered on the floor. But what really struck me about the list was what PAD said about the top three:
Greatest character of all time was an unrelenting bigot. Greatest character number two was a perpetual loser who constantly threatened to beat his wife. Number three had no job and lived only to try and horn in on her husband's career.

If you tried to bring any of these characters to life now? Wouldn't even get a pick up for a script. The fact that the characters had immense shadings and were lovable at the core wouldn't enter into it. Especially Archie. An unrelenting bigot on a comedy using the language he does? On a drama, yes (see: Sipowitz). But a sitcom? uh uh.
I know that a number of the people who try and restrict our freedoms on the basis of political correctness would have no problem showing their kids reruns of I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners; maybe not All in the Family, but the first two at least. Maybe they could step back and look at what they're missing now. No main character can have unlikable qualities; they can be surly or grumpy, but surely they're just misunderstood, or it's just a brave front for their problems. Taking the bite out of characters doesn't just make them easier for consumption, it makes them hollow. Processed characters are like processed food: they may taste okay, but they leave nothing good inside you.

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