I hate to admit this but I schedule my evenings around NBC's THE OFFICE. It's not as bad as it sounds since I don't watch TV any other night except Fridays when they are showing new MONK episodes.
I won't recap the show's premise in case you've never seen it or don't care to. Love it or hate it, there are some examples of good writing on the show that are worth paying attention to. Character development, romantic tension, bad jokes that are so bad, they're funny. Most of all characters that aren't that loveable if you knew them in real life, but you can't help rooting for them anyway.
The only blatant inconsistency in the show is what writers are doing with the character Jan Levinson. (Incidentally, Melora Hardin also plays Trudy on MONK, which offers examples of just plain good writing, but that's for another blog.)
In season one, Jan Levinson was introduced at Michael's boss from the corporate office. She was all business, newly divorced, and determined to advance in the New York office. There were chinks in the armor, most notably that she was attracted to Michael. A little out of character, but food for the OFFICE mill.
After Jan and Michael end up together, her character mutations advance at a dizzying pace. All along it seems she's been online shopping and making a nuisance of herself at the corporate office. She's fired, moves in with Michael, won't lift a finger around the condo, won't get a job, shops all day and drinks. Fights with Michael, buries him in debt, and now she's pregnant from a sperm bank.
Come on, already. I know it's a stupid sitcom, you say. I'm not arguing that. They are supposed to be ridiculous and over the top. But I think they should also give us examples of good writing.
Who is this character? The writers keep reinventing her at every episode. All the other characters on the show are relatively consistent. We've watched them for several years and pretty much know what to expect out of each of them. These characters make us laugh while continuing to grow.
So what's up with Jan? Why can't they decide what to do with her? They've managed to create an endearing, frustrating, funny cast. Why can't they do the same thing with Jan?
More on how to avoid mistakes in character development tomorrow. Stay tuned.