There’s got to be a word, or at least there really should be one and I would like it now, please. As ever with words, the reason we have them is so that we can describe something. So without the word yet available, this is going to be tricky to explain to you.
But you know I’m going to try.
There is this thing that very bad writers do and they do it most obviously on pretty bad television drama. Don’t ever get me wrong on this: the one-hour TV drama is my three-minute pop song, I am obsessed and adoring of the form. But when it’s crap, it’s very crap.
And one way you can tell instantaneously that something is going to be crap is this thing I can’t find a word for.
Usually it’s in a long-running series that tends to have a Story of the Week. This features some guest character we’ve never seen before, will never see again and in all honesty couldn’t really care less whether we see now either. But there they are. It’s always a story that doesn’t impact on the regulars but the writer kinda sorta thinks it would be better if it did, and isn’t allowed to.
They’re the writer who thinks it’s madness that they can’t make the hero be a drug addict. The truth is that you can, just that they can’t. Because they’re looking at this one episode and don’t see that if the hero is a drug addict this week but wasn’t last week or next, this is not searing deep drama, it’s a Just Say No advert.
These are also the writers who base their ideas on previous television dramas instead of on anything they’ve actually experienced. So they write searing deep drama about having an alcoholic guest character but they have not one single clue how foul and wretched a situation like that really is. They’ll have a regular character suddenly have a drunk brother and it’ll be really funny until, gasp, it’s really serious and then, shock-plus, everything is sorted out because the brother just cares so very deeply about his family. Give me a hug. Pass the tissue.
I’d say something like kill me now but I’m not an idiot.
Kill the writer.
Even this is not quite the thing I want a word for. I’m after a word to describe a specific thing – but it’s not a specific thing. It’s a prop or a device or a recurring something.
It’s when you see a guest character who always carries a pot plant. Or they’re a grown woman who can’t be in a scene without her teddy bear. Maybe they make ship models and for some unfathomable reason need to bring them everywhere.
That’s the thing I want the word for. The pot plant/teddy bear/ship model/thing. Could be a verbal tick instead. Could be that they happen to be obsessed with spanners and, oh, wouldn’t you know it, the only way for them to rescue the puppy dog at the end of the episode is by adapting their beloved favourite spanner into a rudimentary pulley system.
Watch for this thing. Watch the actor trying to make it all believable.
And then agree with me that there already is a word for this thing.