I’m watching a thriller on TV at the moment. I won’t name the show because I’m not here to trash other people’s efforts but it has been such a disappointment. The set up to the story was intriguing. The cast is outstanding and the backdrop to the story is atmospheric and adds to the sense of mystery and intrigue with a hint of danger. It has even had a few twists and turns that I didn’t see coming and yet even those were not enough to ignite a spark of excitement in me about the show.
Why am I still watching it? Good question. I held on for a few weeks thinking it needed time to grow and it would get better. When it didn’t achieve that, it got relegated to what I call my ironing/cooking programmes i.e. it gets watched with less attention than a show I am really into because I’ll clear the ironing pile or batch cook whilst it’s on. Shows that get relegated to ironing/cooking programmes rarely make it back to the must be watched with full concentration list.
When I realised it wasn’t going to get any better I continued to watch it because one of the leads is hot and everyone loves a little eye candy and I was at episode 5 by then and figured it would put us all out of our misery with the final instalment at episode 6. Imagine my distaste when I realised they had dragged this poor show out for 8 episodes in all.
Anyway, you may be wondering why this treatise on my viewing habits is part of a Flower Seller Thursday writing blog. The answer is I wanted to be able to put my finger on why this particular show isn’t working and it was an interesting exercise. As I said at the start so many of the classic elements of a good story were there. When you add into the mix that the characters themselves are, for the most part, believable you should have TV gold and a happy viewing public. If this programme had been a book I would have wall-banged it and given up long ago.
So what went wrong?
In a word – heart. In another word – soul. In yet another word – likeability.
The characters might be believable but they are also flat. None of the emotional set ups, and there are plenty, worked for me because I wasn’t moved by the characters’ plights. You have to be able to engage with a character to be able to invest in them and what happens to them and that is true whether we are talking about books or film or TV. If there’s no heart and soul, there’s no story, however good the rest of the set up is, however competent the twists and turns of a thriller. If you aren’t investing emotionally, it will leave you cold.
I mentioned likeability. You don’t have to like every character but there needs to be something there that sparks your interest in all the main characters even if it’s a character you love to hate. For the heroes and heroines of a piece, however, likeability is essential. You have to care about them. If we present a character that the readers like they will follow that character across hundreds of pages of heartache, turmoil and trouble, just to see how the story ends and writers forget that simple rule at their peril.