The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

A Minor Side-Note About The Professions Of Fictional Characters

Posted by BigWords on August 13, 2009

I’m interrupting my train of thought on SF for a moment to comment on the lack of imagination in television and other continued adventures. You can add radio series, paperback series and comic-books to the contributors of unimaginative professions, though it is more specifically concerned with television. It comes as no surprise to realize that the occupations of most television characters fall into a pool which has remained rather static for decades.

The number of genres suitable or practical for television is small. Despite thirty years of experimentation (and sixty years of film history before that) the field remains remarkably limited: cowboys, cops, doctors, and soap operas.

David Gerrold, The World Of Star Trek

Adding reporters and lawyers to that list, and you will be hard pressed to think of any other profession that has had a foothold in popular culture. Postal workers are routinely shown, though could you imagine a series centering on the business of letter-sorting which would provide the requisite drama? I am, for the purpose of this post, ignoring comedy, which has marginalized and mocked jobs in a number of shows.

Yet there are jobs which remain largely unseen, and would provide all the interesting human drama which television now demands. Radio presenters haven’t been treated seriously in a serialized drama since Midnight Caller, yet if you look at the opportunities that present themselves with a talk radio presenter you will find more beneath the surface of the idea than is immediately obvious. Or maybe the thought of being inventive is beyond television these days…

What else are we missing out on, as channels gear their product to a narrower audience in the mad rush for ratings?

Drivers

The Transporter films have gone some way to give professional drivers representation in popular fiction, but there just isn’t enough focus on them. Films such as The Fast And The Furious series don’t really look at the driving component as much as they do on the culture surrounding illegal street racing, completely ignoring legal driving as a job. There’s really no reason that a continuing series couldn’t focus on a driver.

Consider the possibilities for a moment: A race in one episode, a chase around tight streets the next. Transporting vehicles across the country, driving a celebrity around, the crashes, the mistaken identity when he is assumed to be a car thief… There’s so many things  that could add in to the motoring theme, and yet there isn’t a wave of television series based around the concept.

Gambling

I’ve tried my hardest to think of a series focused around a professional gambler, but come up empty-handed. There’s a bunch of great books about gambling and gamblers, yet there has yet to be a definitive television series about a gambler. This is one idea I would really like to see, despite the morally dubious nature of such a character, as there is a number of possibilities that come immediately to mind. I’m keeping my ideas on this for myself…

Magicians

Don’t mock… There was a time when characters such as Mandrake, Zatara and (one of my favorite comics) Dr. Spektor carved out a niche in the entertainment industry. Current representations have descended into mundanity (the Constantine film should have been so much better) or juvenile fantasy, ignoring the real opportunity to tell stories that no other character type could possibly get involved in.

The reticence on the part of producers may have something to do with perceived budget concerns, but clever directors don’t need big budgets. The endless rumors of a Dr. Strange film only adds to my annoyance that there isn’t a brave network executive willing to put out a show about a magician. Will someone get the hint? I’ve got a feeling that a successful film about a magician would be needed before we get a television series.

Spelunkers

I guess this could come under hobby, but a television series about an explorer could encompass horror (The Descent), tragedy (missing cavers) and even a quest for hidden loot. There is a wealth of stories which could easily be told with such a character, yet the airwaves are suspiciously free of anything remotely similar. So I guess we’re going to have to wait a while on a Cave Carson series… Don’t hold your breath.

I’ll let others add in their voices to this situation. What jobs do you want to see in television, and why do you believe they have the ability to hold a series together?

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One Response to “A Minor Side-Note About The Professions Of Fictional Characters”

  1. averrierupe said

    Hello, it really interesting, thanks

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