I was reading a book the other day. One of the characters walks into a bar. She’s a petite young woman. She immediately runs afoul of a gang of toughs–four or five guys who are much bigger than her. Words are exchanged. The large men arm themselves with beer bottles and pool cues, ready to attack. Can you guess what happens?
Of course, you can. This tiny woman beats up the entire crew, leaving them heaped in a pile of broken bottles, broken pool cues, and broken bones. It’s one of the cliches of modern storytelling. There are many of them.
Recently, ESPN’s Mina Kimes wrote something on Twitter that made me laugh: “Just once, I’d like to see an advertisement for a new network drama about a cop/lawyer/doctor who does play by the rules.”
It’s true! But would anyone watch it?
They say we want “realism” in our television shows, but no medical drama is going to show a patient sitting in the waiting room for 35 minutes, then in the examination room for another 25 minutes, only for the doctor to come in and talk to him for 45 seconds and leave.
Television show cliches are so overused that if you see a certain thing, you can be sure of what is about to follow. Examples: If a car gets in any kind of accident, then it will explode, but not until the occupants have been dragged away to a safe distance.
If two people are playing chess, then someone is less than two moves away from announcing “Checkmate.”
If someone goes to Las Vegas and gets drunk, then they will get married and have absolutely no memory of it.
If a dangerous criminal is being transported from prison, then an elaborate escape plan will be perfectly executed.
If a night security guard or armored car driver is shown, then they will most likely die in a break-in.
If two characters are in the same room angrily yelling at each other, then there is a very good chance they will end up passionately kissing.
If a main character is shot, stabbed, or seriously wounded in an explosion, then within two episodes there will be absolutely no lingering effects of said near-death experience. (Heck, if I twist my ankle playing basketball, I’m limping for two months–these guys get shot in the face and they’re back making jokes by the water cooler in a day and a half!)
Luckily, we live in the real world, not the world of television cliches.
Unfortunately, that means I’ve got another 27 minutes before they move me from the waiting room to the examination room. (Capell is a Serve Daily contributor.)