Monday, February 7, 2011

Shows that create rich, layered worlds: A thought about Community as I rewatch it on Hulu

All shows have main characters that we grow to either love or hate. Or I guess sometimes we don't care about them either way, but the fact remains, that all shows have their core, main characters. Some shows, however, populate their fictitious universes with secondary and even tertiary people that over time evolve into well-developed, rich characters in their own right that add to the story and become people you look for in episodes, who play the roles in stories that in the past might have been a one-episode stint for someone, but who can now turn these bit additions in the storyline into recurring work, who make that world feel a little more, well, real.

One show that always did this well was Scrubs, as nameless interns and bit players got names and backstories of their own - for example, Snoop Dogg Intern (then Snoop Dogg Resident) and Dr. Hooch, both who were one-note jokes and ended up being notes that could play again and again. This is why I am not surprised that Cougar Town, from Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence, is also becoming one of those shows, with creepy and needy neighbor Tom and some of Travis' friends.

My Name is Earl is another show that populated its world with secondary and tertiary characters you saw again and again. And now I'm really seeing the same thing in NBC's community, as Greendale College isn't just a place for our main players to act out their stories but where we see their fellow students, like Garrett and Leonard and Starburns and Fat Neil and Dr. Rich, again and again. It gives us viewers other people to root for. Or root against, should that be the case. It's fun, and a great evolution in the sitcom world, I think.

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