Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Give Me a Real Character, Please

I'm going to preface this post with a few facts about myself and my relationship with The West Wing. Firstly, I just finished the second season finale. Secondly, I have no knowledge of what will happen in the next five seasons. I am spoiler-free (other than knowing that John Spencer passed away while Season 7 was still filming). And thirdly, I am so in love with this show that I'd like to marry it (that last one is to soften the coming criticism).

Recurring characters. Very important, recurring characters. They keep the show running, in a sense- they bring plot arcs back, and they keep important character arcs going. If, of course, these recurring characters are well-written. When I watch a show, I know that recurring characters are well-written if I don't feel that the writers "brought them back." If I feel that they are there to tell their story, I know that these are characters. People. Unfortunately, Aaron Sorkin seems to have trouble with this.

Let's take Danny Concannon as the first example. He has no storyline at all, other than that he likes CJ and he's a White House reporter. We know nothing else about him. And then, somewhere along the beginning of Season 2, his character simply disappears. Ainsley Hayes is the second example. The entirety of her character is that she's a Republican working in a Democrat White House. Again, we know nothing else about her, and she was brought back to the show simply when Mr. Sorkin needed someone to argue with the character of Sam Seaborn. 

In comparison, let's take Charlie Bradbury, a recurring character on Supernatural. She's been on the show three times- three- and I know more about her than I know about Danny, who was in 28 episodes of The West Wing, and Ainsley, who has so far been in 8 episodes. You see, that's the difference. When I think of Charlie coming back to Supernatural in Season 9, I don't think of it as her character being brought back for x, y, or z reasons. She's being brought back because she's a character and she has a story that needs to be told. Unfortunately, on The West Wing, it feels like the writers bring a recurring character back for a simple, technical purpose and nothing else.

Don't forget the people standing on the side. Good writing is in the details, my friends. 

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