Creative commentary plus crafty composition

One of the by-products of being able to see past TV series on DVD or YouTube is opportunity to witness the development of character arcs, and how well they fit into the setting of cast relationships. Moreover, being able to see multiples episodes, even seasons, of a series reveals how, what on an original weekly broadcast were minor eccentric annoyances, become cumulatively persistent irritations.  

Appreciating it’s clearly more interesting and entertaining to have a variety of personalities in a cast, sometimes theintroduction immediately or later of a uniquely ‘cloying’ personality type depletes the comfort factor. These characters, ironically, may become popular hits with some of the fan base. But as the dust settles over time, the higher quality characters (and of course the writing of them) are remembered fondly, while the annoying are recalled in my view more as flies or mosquitoes outdoors, that is as a hindrance.

Three examples from otherwise classic TV comedies, each of which ran for at least five seasons, come to mind. On NEWS RADIO (1990s), the character of Matthew (played by Andy Dick) was on for the run of the show.  On TAXI (late 1970s – early 1980s), the character of Reverend Jim (played by Christopher Lloyd) was introduced after the series began, as were the characters of Larry, Darryl, & Darryl on NEWHART (1980s – 1990).

What each of these characters (Larry & the Darryls could be considered as one) contributed, at least initially, was a more off-the-wall foil for some of the more sedate regular characters.  Indeed, each of those series had a lead character who was essentially the most straitlaced of the cast, helping generate the comic contrasts to be exploited for fun and humour. While an extra layering of foibles adds to richness of character, taking this dimension to, frankly, dumb extremes is a questionable strategy. The behaviours exhibited by Matthew and Reverend Jim were often stereotypically moronic, tainting the tastiness of a well-done scene.  The Larry & Darryls backwoods storyline evolved into a mini-phenomenon in live tapings of the show, to the extent that pauses were required due to audience reaction to their appearance.  However, outside their (which is to say Larry’s) vernacular, and rustic visage, there was rarely any contribution really relevant to the episode happenings.

One benefit of their screen presence is that it saves a little time watching the episodes, since one can skip or fast forward past their more teeth clenching moments.    

Fortunately, each of those programs had enough quality writing and characters to keep the overall bar relatively high.  

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