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Names Have Power, and are a Good Sign

Posted by NumberSix , 19 November 2011 · 426 views

In the TV shows you watch regularly, off the top of your head how many characters can you name?

This is not a bad test of how well a TV show's writing staff is at helping the audience get to know the characters. More often than not, my ignorance is not always their fault, but more of a reflection of how much I'm actually wanting to pay attention to a given character and/or their show. For example: I've only seen season 1 of The Wire, and that's been a few months since I finished, but without Googling for help I can name McNulty, Buck Moreland, Kima, Freamon, Broyles, Herc/Hawk, Carter, Sydnor, Przbylewski (or however he spells it), Avon and Dee Barksdale, Stringer Bell, Omar, his poor friend Brandon, Wee-Bey, Little Man, Poot, and Wallace. On a lower tier I can recall McNulty's captain, the annoying fat coworker, even more annoying commissioner, McNulty's compromised judge, whatshername the female attorney, Kima's (ex-?) girlfriend, and McNulty's two sons.

On the opposite end of the love/hate spectrum is The Big Bang Theory. I can name Sheldon and Leonard because their joint mnemonic reference to ancient TV producer Sheldon Leonard is a lame non-geek in-joke. The other characters are Dumb Blond, Moist from Dr. Horrible, and Token Non-White Guy. If there are more, I don't care.

The shows I'm now watching feature the following casts of characters, as far as my head is concerned:

Community: Jeff Winger, Brita, Troy Barnes, Abed Nadir, Annie, Shirley, Pierce Hawthorne III, Senor Ben Chang, Dean Craig Pelton, Alex a.k.a. Star-Burns, Leonard, Fat Neil, Garrett, Vicky, Magnitude (pop POP!), Shirley's baby-daddy Malcolm-Jamal Warner, evil John Goodman, Omar from The Wire, and that annoying drunken British Daily Show psych professor.

Parks & Recreation: Leslie Knope, Tom Haverford, Jerry Gergich, Ann Perkins, Ben, Chris, Donna, April, Andy Dwyer, Jean-Ralphio, and Jerry's daughter Millicent.

The Office: Without Michael Scott, David Wallace, and Jo, we're now down to Andy Bernard, Jim Halpert, Pam Beasley Halpert, Dwight Schrute, Oscar, Angela Martin, Kevin Malone, Meredith, Creed Bratton, Gabe, Darryl Philbin, Stanley Hudson, Ryan Howard, Phyllis Vance, Erin, and occasionally Cici, Mose, State Senator Jack, Stanley's daughter, and Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration. This season we also lost the warehouse staff that included Lonnie, Midge, the guy Oscar thought was cute that one time, and the demented Oriental doctor (Hong?).

Thundercats: Lion-O, Tigra, Panthro, Cheetara, Wileykit, Wileykat, Mumm-Ra, and Grune.

Person of Interest: Mr. Reese (pronounced "mysteries"), Mr. Finch, black lady cop, fat white quasi-corrupt cop.

The Walking Dead: Sheriff Rick Grimes, Lori Grimes, li'l Carl Grimes, Deputy Shane, Dale, Andrea, Glenn, Daryl Dixon, T-Dog, Sophia (wherever she is), Sophia's mom, Herschel, Maggie.

The Simpsons: Disqualified from inclusion. At this point it's more of an institution than a TV show. I also don't feel like typing that much. Consider its test results waived.

Hawaii Five-O: Steve McGarrett, Danny, Chin Ho, Kono, Kamekona, blond lady, short-haired lady with secrets, Terry O'Quinn, Hiro from Heroes, and replacement Hawaii Governor Detective Ellison from Terminator: the Sarah Conner Chronicles.

Once Upon a Time: Emma Swan, Snow White who now has some other name, li'l Henry, Prince Charming, Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold, Dr. Jiminy Cricket, Mayor Evil Queen, Irish sheriff whose story I can't peg and it really bugs me, and the waitress who I know is Red Riding Hood only because IMDb spoiled it.

Grimm: the main character, his wife or girlfriend or whatever, his mouthy black partner, their secretly evil captain, the Big Bad Wolf, the blond Hexenbiest attorney, and Aunt Marie (RIP).

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Senator Padme Amidala, Ahsoka Tano, Jar-Jar Binks, R2D2, C3PO, Yoda, Mace Windu, Mr. Palpatine (seriously, I forget his job position at this time -- governor? emperor? president? baron?), Count Dooku, various Jedi action figures that I remember when I see them, Captain Rex, clone 2, clone 3, clone 4, clone 5, clone 6, clone 7, clone 8, clone 9, clone 10, clone 11, clone 12,, and clone 13. (Clone 6 is my favorite because he has a Gatling gun.)

Terra Nova: Mr. Shannon, Dr. Shannon, Maddy Shannon (mnemonic help: her name sounds like "middle"), li'l Zoe Shannon, Josh Shannon (mnemonic help: he brings to mind Josh Hutcherson despite no physical resemblance whatsoever), Skye, Taylor, Taylor's lady sidekick, Simone from Pushing Daisies, teen girlfriend back in the future/present, shady bar owner who's their version of Quark from Deep Space Nine, Taylor's crazy son, and Malcolm the science guy.


Curious results, those. I know I forgot plenty, but that's kind of the point. Especially the part where I have no idea who the main character of Grimm is. His only distinguishing characteristic is that he's a clone of Brandon Routh. A little light in my head is flashing "Cipher Alert" so now I'm wondering if I should rethink my opinion of the show.

The fun edited part you didn't see: in my first draft I listed "Andy Dwyer" as manager of The Office instead of Andy Bernard. Now that I think about it, that would be a magnficient and logical crossover.

For "The Office", Meredith's last name is Palmer, Oscar's is Martinez, Gabe's is Lewis, Gay Warehouse Guy was Matt and it's not Stanley's daughter we see on occassion, it's his girlfriend Cynthia!

Re: Clone Wars, Palpatine's official position is "Supreme Chancellor". You'd have to list about the whole Council if you wanted to include regularly-featured Jedi such as Plo Koon (seen quite a bit), Kit Fisto, Eeth Koth.
I don't recall any of Stanley's girlfriends flirting with Ryan.

I can name the second-string usual Jedi suspects if I want to think about it, but they rarely have individual personalities on the show. They're all stoic, heroic, stern, and concerned. They might as well be the same guy going to work every day in a different hat.

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