Do they make dramas with likable characters anymore?

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by James Slattery, Jun 15, 2018.

  1. James Slattery

    James Slattery Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Long Island
    Over the last decade or so, I've watched Deadwood, Breaking Bad, The Americans, The Wire, etc. With the exception of a few people in Deadwood, I would be hard pressed to think of any characters I liked in any of the other shows. I know people loved The Sopranos and I tried but I hated all of the characters on that show so much that I couldn't get into it. Is this now how all shows are, with an evil protagonist and the supposed good people even more unlikable than they are?
  2. Scott222C

    Scott222C Loner, Rebel & Family Man

    I like the leads from BOSCH, JUSTIFIED and BETTER CALL SAUL.
    But you have a point that the once novel concept of the "hero-with-flaws" has gone WAAY too far .... seems like only A-Holes are being sold by Hollywood as role-models nowadays ....
  3. The Panda

    The Panda Forum Mutant

    Marple, PA, USA
    I blame CSI for some of this. Grissom was a real oddball, very flawed and then they made Mark Harmon a royal pita.
    Now it's a must. and a cliche
  4. Parachute Woman

    Parachute Woman Forum Resident

    This is part of the reason I don't watch much television. The anti-hero thing has taken over completely and I prefer media with characters I can root for and not actively hate. It's not just on dramas either. Lots of comedies have become quite mean-spirited as well. I am watching the third season of Rick and Morty with my husband right now and I think this has to be the last season of this show I watch. Rick is a complete piece of crap. It makes it really hard for me to enjoy the show. I know lots of other people like it.

    I'm a bit worried about the upcoming Amazon Lord of the Rings series for this reason. One of the reasons Tolkien's works are so amazing is because they are of a different era--there are true heroes and true villains, as well as characters in the middle (Gollum, famously). I'm afraid they are going to "Game of Thrones-ify" the show and make it all dark and gritty, when that just isn't Tolkien.
  5. riverclown

    riverclown Forum Resident

    Bradenton, FL
    I hear you. Add Peaky Blinders to the list. I watch these sorts when I run out of better ones to watch, like Justified or Goliath. Of course not all bad guy "heroes" are equally bad. I sort of liked Walter White in the first few seasons, till he went really bad. Sneaky Pete is OK too. Can't say that about the Sopranos, The Americans, Deadwood. I hated the characters but the stories were interesting enough that I held my nose about the characters aspect and watched.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2018
  6. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident


    Just who were the likeable characters in "Deadwood?" I thought they were pretty much all low-down, scum-sucking prairie dogs.
    Lightworker and Gumboo like this.
  7. Nice Marmot

    Nice Marmot Paddlin’ the school canoe? That’s a paddlin’.

    Tryon NC
    add: Nurse Jackie, House, & Boardwalk Empire

    Boardwalk Empire also suffered from the "Here's a new character to kill" syndrome.
  8. Squealy

    Squealy Forum Hall Of Fame

    Who says they’re supposed to be role models?
    IronWaffle, YpsiGypsy, Vidiot and 7 others like this.
  9. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident

    I just can't see not liking the characters in the Sopranos unless you dislike real people -- because those were the most realistic characters I've ever seen on TV.
    DHamilton likes this.
  10. Squealy

    Squealy Forum Hall Of Fame

    I think showrunners don’t get excited about nice, functional, likeable people because they don’t give you as much story as flawed or bad people. They don’t have as much conflict with others, they don’t often get into weird or dangerous situations, they don’t wrestle with their own demons... the easiest way to manufacture a lot of drama for good guys is to place them into the stock TV professions of cop, doctor, lawyer (are there likeable lawyers?), but unless it’s really well executed you get the banality of a CBS show.

    You’d probably have to look at family drama kind of stuff like This Is Us or Parenthood to find a lot of characters the writers want you to empathize with.
    BeatleJWOL likes this.
  11. dkmonroe

    dkmonroe A completely self-taught idiot

    That is the way things have been trending for some time, and I think it reflects a general change in philosophy regarding humanity, at least as expressed in popular culture. Old-fashioned movies tended to portray many good people and a few bad people, and redemption of the bad people was possible. Today the view seems to be that we are all bad people and no redemption is possible.

    However, one think I find curious is that in some old movies, we are presented with protagonists who seem to bad people in many ways, but we are expected to like them, and often the movie succeeds in making us like them (YMMV). I'm thinking of characters like Scarlett O'Hara, Holly Golightly, and just about any John Wayne role.

    This is just an off-the-cuff comment and I claim no special knowledge or critical skill, it's just a thought.
    Hardy Melville likes this.
  12. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    Oh man did I hate Holly Golightly! What a despicable, selfish, loathsome little twit!

    The same thing happened in fiction in the Nineties - no writer wanted to write a protagonist who was anything more than a collection of flaws. One of the things I love about the films of Wim Wenders is that all of his characters tend to be good people acting with what they believe to be good intention. It's easier to write bad people doing bad things.
    arley, trumpet sounds and dkmonroe like this.
  13. Nice Marmot

    Nice Marmot Paddlin’ the school canoe? That’s a paddlin’.

    Tryon NC
    I agree with the OP. They've taken it overboard. You can have flawed, or bad, main characters that are likeable. Dexter (to a point) comes to mind. Grace in Saving Grace is another. It seems, to me, that they've taken these leads to a level of mean that is off putting. It's become clichéd.
  14. The Hermit

    The Hermit Wavin' that magick glowstick since 1976

    The Tolkien Estate are actively involved in every creative decision with the new series, so here's hoping they'll keep the ethos in line with the literary works...
  15. eflatminor

    eflatminor Forum Resident

    You might give Longmire a try.

  16. mr. steak

    mr. steak Forum Resident

    tempe az
    "Fargo" has the most empathetic cop characters since "Hill St. Blues".


  17. Squealy

    Squealy Forum Hall Of Fame

    Dexter the serial killer? Who had to simulate human emotions? I think he’s in the antihero category!
  18. Hardy Melville

    Hardy Melville Forum Resident

    New York
    I do not intend to defend tv show writers and producers here. But as a conceptual matter, the definition of whether a character is "likeable" is probably not the same to everyone. My most important problem with the concept is the notion that characters are either likeable, or unlikeable. There is in fact a broad middle category where characters are a mix of good and bad traits and qualities. One in that middle category might well fall short of this or that viewer's comfort level in saying, overall, that such character is likeable. But falling short does not make them unlikeable, either.

    after all, a show that places many or most of its characters in that middle category is, I think most would agree, reflective of real life even if the show otherwise is not. If I think of people I know, knowing none of them (of course including myself!) are wholly likeable, absent any bad qualities, no objectionable traits, at what point do they become generally likeable?

    Moving from a view of this or that person as some mix of good and bad to seeing that person as overall likeable is a dynamic that is fairly subjective. In fact it can even be seen as arbitrary.

    For myself and considering that we are after all contemplating fictional characters, it's enough for me to say about a show that some or several characters are a mix of good and bad. Some I may or will find more likeable than others.

    Actually I do not think the phenomenon the OP addresses is a recent one. WHile in tv there were characters here and there who most would say were likeable in the past, it is also true that the anti-hero was a common presence in films certainly as far back as film noir. It's not a new thing.
    Hot Ptah, Vidiot and Zoot Marimba like this.
  19. Sternodox

    Sternodox SubGenius Pope of Arkansas

    The young redhead who "serviced" Al during his infamous BJ monologues was nice enough. And Joanie Stubbs was very nice. And Mr. Wu was nice enough to always be on hand for the convenient disposal of ... uh ... messy evidence.
    Ghostworld likes this.
  20. overdrivethree

    overdrivethree Forum Resident

    Granted, it's an animated comedy - so probably not at all what anyone here has in mind - but I think Bob's Burgers does an *excellent* job of portrayed flawed characters who nevertheless retain their humanity/good qualities. And as quirky as they are, they're also relatable. The members of the Belcher family don't come out on top all the time - but neither are they always losing. So for a brutally witty cartoon following the path laid by the Simpsons, I think it's the most honest and human show on right now.
  21. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident


    Yeah, flaw human being are more interesting than "normal" ones.
  22. tomhayes

    tomhayes Forum Resident

    San Diego, Ca
    No, they do not. They're all monsters or martyrs in drama now. No in between.
    Scott222C likes this.
  23. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident


    Yes. Joanie. Always service with a smile.
    Sternodox likes this.
  24. Django

    Django Forum Resident

    Dublin, Ireland
    Horrible people are fascinating.
  25. Nice Marmot

    Nice Marmot Paddlin’ the school canoe? That’s a paddlin’.

    Tryon NC
    You're not understanding what I'm saying. A good anti hero needs to be likable. Dexter (imo) was better when he had a sense of dark humor and super serial killer powers. When the show went more towards his own self doubt and everyone, around him, dying because of his actions it wasn't as fun anymore. Each season became laborious to get through.

    In all of these shows, the anti hero is mean, unlikable, and everyone, around them, is going to be affected by their actions, without any humor at all.

    The anti hero needs to be likable. That's why hero is in the name.

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