Why I hate American Dramas

Yesterday I watched the first episode of "The Walking Dead". I have always been a fan of zombies (although they are getting quite overused these days) but I'm also very wary of recent American dramas. When I watched "The Walking Dead", and suddenly found myself hurling heavy and sharp objects at my TV, screaming at the writers and cursing the series to hell, I finally realized why: It's inconceivable for any American Series, be it period-piece, modern drama, science fiction or fantasy, to be centered around ANYTHING except people cheating on their spouse.

They can't help it. It has to come to the forefront. "I am a high-ranked publicity firm director in the '50s? Of course I cheat on my wife." "Cylons everywhere? Well I'll cheat on my super hot wife and/or husband." "Zombie apocalypse? Let's blow my husband's best friend. After all, I haven't seen my husband in a few days, so fuck it." Is it even remotely possible for them to not have this as the main plot point? Is it a marketing thing? "The female demographic we try to reach needs this gossip/cheating mechanism to get hooked. You have to throw this in. Also, it has to be in the first episode. Chop! chop!".

It sucks, because if used properly, it can become a very powerful element of a well thought-out series. Captain Sheridan's wife in Babylon 5, for example. How that works out. Very mature, very human.

Now it's just part of a marketing checklist. These current-generation characters are supposed to be more real because they're flawed. But once the way flaws are inserted becomes so obvious, they become as fake as the over-the-top heroes of the golden days.

And don't get me started on how this pattern is poisonous for real life human relations. Because if all TV characters cheat on their spouse, what do you think YOUR mate is doing when he or she spends more than 5 minutes away from your sight?

Fuck it. I'll just watch Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes or Fullmetal Alchemist again.


Francis K. Lalumiere said...


First of all, I don't see how you can see that plot device as "central" to the show. At all.
We must not have watched the same pilot episode.

Second of all, if you'd given the show a chance (I mean, just because of this one annoyance, you throw the entire thing out the window?) you'd have seen that it turns out the other cop told the woman his husband was dead. And when the guy does come back, it makes for an uneasy triangle. In a very adult way, to use your expression.

Sorry you didn't go for it. But if you want to give it a second shot, take my word for it: the "cheating" is not at all what drives the series. It's really just a small wrinkle (of which there are many) in the narrative.


Unknown said...

I must've missed the part where the main motivation of the protagonist is something other than to find his partner-sucking wife.

So she thinks he's dead? How long did she mourn? I've seen characters in porn movies with more self-control. You don't see Don from 28 weeks later fucking the nearest broad he can find just because he thinks his wife is dead.

Non-Americans can find ways to make characters morally ambiguous without falling back to the classic "thinking with your pants" arc. All recent American series do that. And it's always front and center. Galactica has Gaius fucking Baltar, Starbuck, Apollo, Dee and Anders. Everyone in Mad Men. The actual theme of the show: Cylons, Zombies, Ad agencies, all become accessories to the petty needs of the petty characters these writers and marketeers can come up with. There's a distinction between having different characters with different moral compasses, different well-defined goals and motivations, and just resorting to "look how dark and ambiguous my characters are. They fuck around".

I was enjoying the show until that scene. I had to rewind it to confirm they were really pulling the retarded "she fucks around with his best friend" arc. Then I threw my hands up. They really need to come up with something else. Just once. I'll watch it.

It's not like the abysmally crappily shot/played pseudo suicide scene under the tank, because that's just one scene, and I can forgive that (that's what giving a fair shot is). We're talking a broken main arc, broken main characters motivation. And it's a common pattern that rarely ever gets a satisfying resolution. Can they really recover from that? I highly doubt it.

Francis K. Lalumiere said...

I can understand you're being pissed by TV characters "fucking around," (even though it's sadly a reflection of real life) but I have a hard time seeing your it's-the-main-drive-of-the-show argument.

Sure, the main character is trying to get back to his family. That's the principal plot point of episode 1. The fact that his wife is being unfaithful is a small aspect of that situation.
I think you've decided to make that your focal point because somehow you take offense, but it hardly makes the show fucking-around centric.

Time to mourn? I guess. But honestly, surrounded by death the way they are, I'm not sure I wouldn't need some sort of intimate contact to keep me sane and make me feel alive.
So maybe she IS going way to fast, but maybe not. I have no idea how I'd react in her place.

(Really? The tank scene? I thought it was okay.)

And even if the first episode WERE centered on a wife cheating on her husband (whatever the reason), we're absolutely not talking about a "broken main arc" here.
Because the guy finds his family in episode #2, and because the infidelity disappears from the series right there and then (although I don't doubt we'll hear about it again later on).

Like I said, you should give it another shot. And I'm not saying this for me -- there's just really fun and powerful stuff in there that I'm sure you'd enjoy.
Hell, we need something to talk about while hanging around the water cooler!

I especially like the way some of the episodes are almost all about the characters and how they react to the situation, how they slowly learn to cope with what's happening, rather than being about blowing away zombies all the time.
(Although we do get a fair share of that as well!)