Thursday, March 3, 2011

TV Stars are Eternal

The ideological comfort of the Television dramatic series is, as with the three camera sitcom, the promise of immortality. The highest drama makes this promise even more deeply and subtly than the lowest sitcom, where the plot and characters reset for every 22 minute episode: at least there is a weird discordant unreality to these shows as the actors age, or change.  Even the dumbest audience member doesn't believe anyone lives exactly that way: or at least they would claim that if asked.

Drama can claim a heightened realism, because characters die: they can pretend to address mortality.  The sitcom character is a bizarro vampire, the drama character always in Logan's Run: his end will only come when it is dictated by advertising revenue ("sweeps") or, should it be premium cable, dramatic cliche (at the end of a story arc/season).  Their deaths, though perhaps "painful" for the characters around them, actually increase the financial and critical success of the show as a whole.  Not only is the death of a character structurally foretold, but beneficial to the show in general. Death becomes a seasonal, foreordained, low-stakes result of the actions of individuals. 

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