In this age of PVR’s, boxed sets and better technology, my husband and I do most of our television viewing on demand and series by series. For instance, right now we escape into fantasy land by watching alternating episodes of Mad Men and Dexter, and are awaiting the return of Breaking Bad in August. Throw in Weeds for comic relief, and we were all set.
As coincidence would have it, we have the first two seasons of the Sopranos waiting for us when we finish Mad Men for the year. I know, I know, you are probably asking what rock were we living under to have not seen Tony Soprano and his show yet! My best answer would be that when it first came on TV back in the day, Husband and I were a little tired of the gangster genre from movies and decided not to partake. Recently, though, I saw the list of the top three TV shows voted for best writing, and they were the Twilight Zone, Seinfeld, and the Sopranos.
Trusting this list because we loved the first two, I suggested we should give the Sopranos a look-see. In addition, many of our friends had highly praised the show ad nauseum.
Then we hear the tragic news of James Gandolfini‘s massive fatal heart attack yesterday, the demise of a great actor who just so happens to be my age (I always thought he was older). The outpouring of grief in the media, including social media, cannot be ignored.
This actor created a character that obviously resonated with many. The story line may be compelling as well, but isn’t it the characters that draw you back to watch a show again and again? Simply put, without the intricacies and nuances of a character to keep your attention, would a story be even half as interesting?
I wouldn’t care much about Mad Men if I wasn’t trying to figure out what made Don Draper tick. The same goes for Dexter Morgan and Walter White. Without these unique opportunities for character study, these shows wouldn’t hold our attention beyond the first few scene changes.
Fiction novels are exactly the same. If I can’t in some way identify or be fascinated by the main character at least, the book is not worth reading to me. What would I do in this particular individual’s situation? Even if I can’t see myself behaving that way or saying those words, does the protagonist at least show me a way of understanding his or her actions?
As I write my own novel, I keep this uppermost in my mind. It is all about the characters. They are who the readers, and the viewers, fall in love with.
Rest in Peace, James. As you prematurely leave this world, I am about to delve into another one, the world you created as Tony Soprano. For another opportunity to study an enduring and memorable character, I am forever grateful.