Friday, June 17, 2005

10 TV Cliches

Spent yesterday mowing the lawn and cleaning out the rain gutters, just in time given how clogged they were. You know you're in trouble when small trees start growing in your gutters - and yes I have seen that. Mine weren't quite that bad but there were one or two things that looked like they had germinated, but they won't get a chance to grow to maturity. Anyway, I was really too tired and unmotivated to write anything last night even though I haven't reviewed - or even seen - Hit Me Baby One More Time. Maybe next week ... or maybe not at all.

Something that did come to my attention was an article on MSN about 10 TV Cliches which MTV reporter Larry Carroll wishes to see banished forever. Some of his conclusions I agree with and some I don't but as usual I have an opinion on just about all of them.

  1. Wonder Twin Powers, Activate! Let's face it, this is a classic. In TV it goes back to at least The Patty Duke Show, but even Shakespeare used it a couple of times. When carried out well it's great. Some of my favourite episodes of Bewitched were the ones where Pandora Spocks portrayed Samantha's cousin Serena, and while the episodes of I Dream Of Jeannie with Jeannie's sister Jeannie weren't as well crafted, I liked her too. In his article Carroll mentions Phoebe and Ursula Buffay but of course Ursula had originally been created for Mad About You and the idea of twins was used to explain how Lisa Kudrow could be on both series. It just sort of carried on from there.

  2. Thinking a Sentence is Two Words Long Well yes it may be overdone, but the partially heard conversation is another classic which again probably goes back to Old Bill. Misunderstandings like this are the bedrock of comedy and they probably go back to Bedrock.

  3. Sir, Would You Like a Tongue-Lashing With Your Beverage? The old "abusive servant" bit (and it's subset the abusive waitress). It can get old but let's admit that it is less often used than the "My Mother-in-Law is a wicked witch" cliche which just about every sitcom has run with. When it was done in Soap Benson was the sanest character on the show, plus he did have, or at least was allowed to develop, a genuine affection and loyalty to Jessica and Billy. Mostly though the characters these people work for tend to develop a dependence on them if only as a sparring partner.

  4. Double Date, Double Trouble Now this one has been overdone.

  5. You're Not My Kid! This one is more a question of logistics than an actual cliche. I mean once you get over the initial cuteness and dealing with a baby phase what do you do with a toddler. Most two year-olds aren't good about learning their lines so you either contrive to keep the kid out of sight or you age the kid to a point where you can use them. I Love Lucy did both - Little Ricky was out of sight for most of the fourth (Lucy in Hollywood) and fifth (Lucy in Europe) seasons before introducing a new Little Ricky (Keith Thibodeaux) aged 5 or 6. In other cases the actor wants to go to college or do other projects. You can either write them out, like Jonathon Taylor Thomas in Home Improvement or keep the character and change the actor as they did with Becky in Roseanne. And it's not like adult actors don't change occasionally either - see Lionel in The Jeffersons.

  6. An Unexpected Delivery Well let's face it, if you can't have fun with birthin' a baby what can you have fun with. Even Gone With The Wind did a little humour with that although it was mostly a serious moment. And as usual Lucy led the way. The birth of Little Ricky, even if it wasn't in an elevator, was a funny show.

  7. We're Trapped - Let's Reminisce! Agreed. The usual springboard to a clips show and who really likes them.

  8. I'm (Cough, Cough) Not Feeling Well Yeah that's a bad one. On the other hand it's not one that we see all that often anymore, maybe because it's hard to get the superstars on TV.

  9. Now You Don't See Me, Now You ... Still Don't See Me It's another standard but what would Waiting For Godot be without it? The real explanation is that the show is creating an character that no actor could live up to. Who could play Niles Crane's wife Maris as described in all of those episodes and would we have been better off if she'd been more than an off-screen presence. The same goes for dead characters. Could we really believe that Martin Crane was married to Nancy Marchand (who played Fraser's mother on an episode of Cheers). And it's not just comedies either - see (or rather don't see) J. Beresford Tipton in The Millionaire (voice by Paul Frees) and Charlie in Charlie's Angels (voice by John Forsythe).

  10. Look, I'm in a Dress! Isn't This Funny? Hey some men look funny in dresses - Dave Foley did some of his best work in Kids in the Hall in fashionable frocks. Even Fred Flintstone wore dresses from time to time. Again, I'm sure there's an example from Shakespeare, and if not, just remember that Bonnie Prince Charlie was smuggled from Scotland to the Isle of Skye dressed as a woman.

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