TV cliches that should be banned
Six months ago I created a list of movie cliches that needed to be retired. But I recently wondered why TV — a medium built on the very bedrock of derivativeness — should be immune from a cliché alert. So after consulting with the Entertainment Weekly TV department and a brain trust of television-addicted friends, I have compiled a list of character prototypes, hackneyed plot twists, and obsolete conventions that desperately need to be shoved in a wacky neighbor’s backpack and banished from town. Here are the TV rules that definitely need to be broken.
1. Parents are played by people who were famous in the 70s.
2. Middle-aged women are either horny or pious, but never anywhere in the middle.
3. A woman can break up with her fiancée if he’s overly neat, ignores her for even a second, or wants children too badly.
4. A woman can kill her husband or boyfriend if he hits her.
5. The most cool and collected single career woman will positively melt if a cute guy helps her with a flat tire.
6. If a woman answers the door in curlers and face cream, her dream man will be on the other side.
7. When a boyfriend meets his girlfriend’s ex for the first time, he will act like a complete idiot. However, by show’s end, the ex will disappear and the couple will reach a new level of understanding in their relationship.
8. If a character on a new show is gay, he or she will just be coming off a breakup, so as to ensure many months of uncontroversial celibacy.
9. On family sitcoms, the wife’s sister is quirky and/or slutty.
10. The rules for male sitcom leads’ best friends:
?If the lead is married, his best friend will be a completely irresponsible slacker.
?If the lead has a serious girlfriend but isn’t married, his best friend will be a good-looking swinger who constantly extols the virtues of the single life.
?If the lead is single, his best friend will be married to a henpecking wife, and completely jealous of any dating adventures.
11. Any co-ed group of four or more contains at least one case of unrequited love.
12. A cell phone only rings when there’s horrible news. Unless the phone owner is sitting at an opera.
13. If people say they’re going in the other room to take a shower, within 90 seconds, they’ll either run in dripping wet wrapped in a towel, or someone else will walk in on them.
14. Self-absorbed yelling and gesticulating usually leads to falling down a manhole or elevator shaft.
15. When people in a sitcom fret that they might be sent to jail, their main worry is ”being somebody’s bitch.”
16. Twins are far more common on sitcoms than in real life.
17. In an office comedy, the boss is either ruthless and devoid of sympathy or completely befuddled and incompetent.
18. When a person reaches out and strangles, punches, or witheringly insults an insensitively prattling blowhard (be it bureaucrat, doctor, or boss), seconds later the scene will cut back to right before the lashing out, proving it was only a fantasy.
19. Nobody you care about ever dies quickly, unless they do it off camera, a la ”M*A*S*H”’s Henry Blake or ”The West Wing”’s Mrs. Landingham.
20. On cop dramas, mysteries are always solved. On the rare occasion where one isn’t, the suspect will always reappear on a later episode.
21. In hour-long dramas, any plot point introduced in the first 15 minutes will be contradicted by show’s end, i.e. the pregnant teen girl will not have been impregnated by the first boyfriend we meet; the first obvious ”Law & Order” suspect is never the ultimate law-breaker.
22. When anyone literally bumps into someone on a TV drama, the bumpee has just been planted with an electronic bug.
23. In normal social situations in which a person would say thank you or (on the phone) good-bye, TV heroes say nothing: they glare and leave a room, or hang up abruptly.
24. All gifts given on TV are not fully wrapped; they come in a box with a bow on the lid which can be removed without any tearing or untying.
25. Answering machines pick up after the first ring.
Which TV clichés do you want done away with?