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Stop it, Sherlock! Five TV tropes that need to die

From eccentric scientists to sexy dead women, television is full of repetitive motifs that must desist immediately

Enough, already . from slab-happy pathologists to men on a journey, TV loves to repeat itself. Composite: Steven Gregor

Enough, already . from slab-happy pathologists to men on a journey, TV loves to repeat itself. Composite: Steven Gregor

Last modified on Fri 29 Dec 2017 22.23 GMT


The idiosyncratic pathologist
Where: Sherlock, the cast of Silent Witness, Endeavour

We get it. A pathologist is someone who willingly spends their working day with the dead so must be unusual or offbeat in some way. They can’t just be ordinary folk, trying to do a job. No, they must be “other” and possibly on the spectrum, although it’s never said. Dr Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox) in Silent Witness is the cool, unemotional bone-kicker with no home life at all. The only place she can find romance is at the office, which rather narrows her options down to fellow whey-faced indoor type Dr Harry Cunningham, a cadaver or a Bunsen burner. Harry’s eventual replacement, Jack Hodgson, is also just your run-of-the-mill forensic pathologist and part-time cage fighter. Like normal.

The cast of Silent Witness. Photograph: Jonathan Ford/BBC

Sexy dead women
Where: True Detective and every brooding detective show before or since

If I never see another deceased sex worker, bent over a log with dream-catchers up her bum, it’ll be too soon. A detective who can’t be bothered to open his mouth when he speaks usually examines said stiff while the camera languorously pans up her body to classical music. Can we just call a moratorium on dead women all together? It’s a cheap shot to kick off your crime thriller with a hot corpse and is so lacking in imagination and so overused it’s actually an insult to your audience. Fair enough, a historical drama about a famous serial killer who offed women might need to include the actual women (the BBC’s Rillington Place, a recent example), but I think we’ve done that literally to death now. Serial killers are bad. Consider the topic covered for the time being and move on to a new subject, please.

Matthew McConaughey as Rusty Cohle in True Detective. Photograph: HBO

The in-show recap
Where: Everything shown on a digital channel

And talking of insulting audiences, the extent to which recaps are used during shows on digital channels constantly interrupted by advert breaks, is now off all known charts. Previously in this short paragraph of text, I said that the extent to which recaps are used in television is getting ridiculous and now I’m going to say something else pertaining to that. Here’s what I’m going to say next. The amount of advertising needed to support something on ITV Be about a man who used to be on Towie now requires each new segment to be 50% “previously” and 49% “coming up next” leaving 1% of actual new content per segment. So look forward to reading that, and other sentences, after this short break. Ugh.

Previously on The Only Way Is Essex … Photograph: ITV

From eccentric scientists to sexy dead women, television is full of repetitive motifs that must desist immediately