Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Character Names

Do you know how many continuing characters there are on shows like ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK? There must be upwards of 50 on that a one. And it is only recently that I realize that I cannot put a name on most of them. Partly it's because the series hops around so much, but I am sure I was raised on TV shows that only demanded a knowledge of 7-12 character names.

And those characters appeared week after week.

Now most shows have huge casts and storylines disappear and reappear episodes later. Am I the only one having trouble IDing Black Cindy and Big Boo on OITHB. Does anyone know the name of the character Daniel Stern plays on MANHATTAN. What is Bill Master's mother's name on MASTERS OF SEX? Who does Janet McTeer play on AN HONORABLE WOMAN?

I swear I knew every character name until about 2000-along about when THE WIRE came along. Is it me or is it a different way of telling a story?

16 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Interesting point about character names. I wonder if it has to do with the impression a character makes? I tend to remember characters who leave some sort of 'footprint'...

George said...

Janet McTeer plays Julia Walsh (my favorite character in AN HONORABLE WOMAN although I also enjoy her lover, Stephen Rea). Since I watch TV with Closed Caption on, I get the character names better than if I were just listening.

Anonymous said...

What George said. The one thing that bothers me about Honourable Woman is the timeline. They make a big deal that it is eight years since the kidnap and everything that followed. But did the Eve Best character ask to stay in Washington for "two more years" because she was making contacts? And does the kid who was kidnapped look younger than seven?

Daniel Stern plays Glen Babbit. We didn't much like Manhattan, to be honest.


Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

We don't have Netflix so haven't seen ORANGE yet but I did read the book recently. When I looked at the cast list it seems a lot of the names were changed from the book.

But if we're talking changes, the differences in the book and TV versions of THE STRAIN and (in particular) THE LEFTOVERS are striking.


Jeff M.

George said...

Like Jeff, I'm confused by the timeline in AN HONORABLE WOMAN. I understand that a certain amount of confusion is calculated, but right now there seem to be too many balls in the air (to mix my metaphors).

Charles Gramlich said...

Don't think I've hardly ever watched a show where I've learned more than three or four character names. Probably Frazier is the highest I've come.

Frazier, Niles, Daphne, Bulldog, Martin...

Often I'll recognize the names if they're given to me but can't think of them offhand. And for lots of shows I don't even know the main character's names. I've been watching Brooklyn 99 for example and don't know the names of any characters so far.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Phil hates CC but I am about to put my foot down since with the accents it is often hard to hear names.

Yeah, I love THE LEFTOVERS changed Liv tyler's name to Megan Abbott rather than Meg something else. So odd to hear they say that name.

I'm with you Charles. Don't know why names don't seem so important.

With GAME OF THRONES, I actually downloaded a character list and still get mixed up.

George said...

A lot of the actors on GAME OF THRONES look alike. They need to differentiate them more. All the guys have long hair and beards and carry a sword. It's hard to tell them apart.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Patti, I don't watch any of the major serials like the ones mentioned here. The ones I do don't have more than four or five main characters like BECKER, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, CAROLINE IN THE CITY, FRASIER, and SEINFELD, and they are easier to remember.

Richard said...

If confusing the audience with shifting story lines and a mob of characters, then it doesn't seem that they care as much about the audience as their own cleverness. A great reason not to watch.

pattinase (abbott) said...

No, I think the way of telling a story is just growing more complex. I just need to grow with it. Television has never been better. TV series can be more rewarding than movies or books if done right.

Kent Morgan said...

I watched True Detective, but have no memory of the name of any of the characters. I just thought of them as Woody, Matthew, etc. I have watched the first three seasons of Justified and the only one I remember is Raylin. The one show where I do remember all the characters is the late great Canadian show Trailer Park Boys. Ricky, Julian, Bubbles, Randy, Mr. Leahy, Cory and Trevor are unforgetable.

Anonymous said...

Yes! Have names lost their meaning?

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I suppose the argument would be that this is more novelistic, ar at least in the Dickensian sense os novels parcelled out at regular intervals - I haven;t seen this aprticular show though Patti - 50 sounds like a hell of a lot too many to me!

Todd Mason said...

You could keep all the characters on HILL STREET BLUES (or some of the miniseries and primetime soaps) straight?

TV really was as good ca. 1999 as it is now, though the War on Terror/Cheney recession frenzy helped dumb TV down again for some years. Glad you can finally give it full attention...

Only the best drama can get near the complexity of the best fiction, but it does have its own subtleties...and so many performers, working with so many good and better scripts, are a joy to watch. Too bad about the performers saddled with weak writing, on the likes of PARENTHOOD or MARRIED or GREY'S ANATOMY, among too many.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Now that you mention it, Todd, I am not sure I could. I never watch the nighttime soaps given my antipathy for rich people.
The networks seem incapable of producing good drama now except for THE GOOD WIFE. IMHO.