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The Evil That Men Do

November 3, 2013

Women have long held a place in their hearts for rogues.  Don’t ask me why: I’m a TV junkie not a psychiatric social worker.  Men seemed to get onboard the Anti- Hero Train with the arrival of Tony Soprano.  My theory is they were attracted to the idea of a guy who could eat all the baked ziti he wanted and still get strippers to jump him.  Whatever the initial draw, both genders have cheered on a bevy of bad boys from dedicated murderer Dexter Morgan to meth perfectionist Walter White.  Well, maybe not cheered, but certainly kept hoping they’d get away with their villainy for at least another week.

I admit to preferring my miscreants on the softer side: praying for the soul of Tommy Gavin, daydreaming about mentoring well-meaning Tim Riggins and – um – doing other things with crafty Sawyer that I will not print in a family blog.  But the latest crop of shadowy characters aren’t soft so much as half baked.  It’s as if the network execs ran a book about shadowy characters through Google Translator three or four times and then gave the resulting concepts to their nephews in the mailroom for further development.  With apologies to House of Cards fans, but Spacey’s Underwood is more schoolyard bully than evil genius.  The finale parties for the loathsome-not-in-a-good-way Low Winter Sun must have been less populated than Fort Dodge, Kansas.  And if The Blacklist’s Raymond Reddington was played by anyone other than the master of  intimation, James Spader, he’d do little more than make me want to take a Benedryl.

I have read recent columns calling for the end of the Anti-hero Era, but that does the television landscape a grave disservice.  We can’t have used up our entire cultural allotment of “thrillingly dastardly.”  Would we want a literary world without the next generation of Mr. Rochesters, Tom Ripleys, or Lisbeth Salanders?  (Yes, badass chicks count.)  Of course not.  But the process can’t be rushed just to get something on the air.  Writers need time to dig deeper – say, develop a character with the ingenuity of Nucky Thompson, the charmed luck of Vic Mackey and the sex appeal of Jax Teller.  Now him I would watch.

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