Chriso and I have frequent disucssions that usually end with me giggling to myself about how what he just said reminded me of something that happened on one show or another. And he puts up with the giggling. Mostly because it’s funny. And he can appreciate that I can see the world as it is, and relate it back to something else.
Usually How I Met Your Mother, or the Office or some other random show that pops into my head at any given moment.
During one of our discussions, we started talking directly about TV (rather than having me relate with hysterical laughter), and the differences between true ensemble shows, and shows that clearly have one focal character.
I really think that even though an ensemble show revolves around a group of characters, there is still a main character that everyone seems to revolve around.
Take a look at the Office, for starters. Now in it’s 5th season on air. From the beginning, it was pretty clear that it was Michael’s show. Sure, there are Jim/Pam storylines, and the stuff with Dwight is always hilarious. But when it all comes down to the core, Michael Scott is still the center of the show. And Steve Carrell is fantastic, so it’s no wonder that he steals the show. But who isn’t rooting for Michael to do something funny or try to be serious or finally get the girl even though the girl is Jan or Holly, or whoever else might come about. And who doesn’t think Michael is crazy when he clearly shows his abhorrance for Toby?
Then you have a show like Friends. It’s a little harder to determine if there is one focal character of this show. I actually think there are six focal characters. And this may be the current day exception making this a true ensemble show. Even though the Ross/Rachel storyline is prevalent throughout the entire series, it was never about JUST Ross and Rachel. And it was never just about Monica or Chandler or Pheobe or Joey. It was truly about the interactions between all six of them and how they dealt with everyday and not-so-everyday situations.
What I find interesting is that the longer the show is on the air, and the more episodes they have, the clearer it is to see who the main character is. And sometimes the main character in the beginning of the series is not the main character 5 years in, or towards the end.
But with keeping all that in mind, what really makes a main character? Is it the comic relief? Or is it something deeper? It’s easy to see the characters that are there for comic relief in some shows, but does being the “butt” of everyone’s jokes really make them the center of attention for another reason?
I’ve listed below a few shows that, in my opinion, you can see clearly who the main characters are. I’m sure I’ve missed some because I’m fairly certain there are many MANY more. So weigh in, gentle readers, and let me know what you think.
Ensemble Show – Main Character
Cheers – Sam
Two and a Half Men – Charlie
How I Met Your Mother – after much debate, both with Chriso and internally, the tie is between Barney and Ted, as Barney is CLEARLY comic relief, it would come as no surprise in the next years that the story was REALLY about Barney rather than Ted meeting his wife
Big Bang Theory – Leonard, although, I think in a show like this that is still only in it’s Sophomore season, it’s a little early to determine who the main character is going to be. This is another show that I think might turn around…
The Simpsons – formerly Bart, currently Homer
The Family Guy – Peter
The Golden Girls – Dorothy
That 70’s Show – Eric… Fes was comic relief… as was everyone else, I’m pretty sure
Will & Grace – Grace… Jack was CLEARLY comic relief. This is another one of those shows that’s unclear mostly because Will and Grace intertwined so much
Sex and the City – Carrie, no question
Friends – This is unclear… the whole cast was full of main characters
Seinfeld – Jerry (no-brainer)
Now, I don’t think this applies to just sitcoms either. Thinking about it now, I can clearly see similar patterns in hour-long dramas that have existed through the years. Shows like Grey’s Anatomy, House, Dexter… they all have fantastic supporting casts, but there is always a focal character.
What do you think, gentle readers?