Monday, June 18, 2012

The Do-It-Yourself TV Crime Drama Template

(The result of watching too much television over the summer)

Lead Character Personality Traits (choose two):
Socially Inept

Lead Character’s Traumatic Past (choose one):
Parent/sibling/spouse/child murdered by unknown Master Villain
Parent/sibling/spouse/child disappeared, unknown Master Villain supsected

Supporting Cast (all positions obligatory):
Antagonistic Love Interest
Comic Relief
Hot Chick
Minority (select male or female)
Supervisor Who Does Not Like Lead

Supporting Cast Traits (assign at will to above characters):
Emotionally invested/overly empathetic
Married (preferably to another member of supporting cast)
Trivia champion/movie buff
Voice of reason to keep Lead in check
Outsider whose ignorance allows other Supporting Cast to explain science

Episode Template
Exposition (choose one):
The innocent outing (family picnic, birthday party, beach trip, romantic encoutner, etc.)
è Discovery of dead body by child or pet
The red herring (crime in progress, chase scene, etc.)
è Discovery of dead body by character who audience thought would be either victim or murderer
Story Development (all elements obligatory, order flexible):
Investigation at crime scene
Lead makes clever quip and/or intriguing discovery that no one else notices
Exposition of victim ID and backround information by Supporting Cast
Character development/drama involving private life of Lead
Montage sequence in which Supporting Cast processes evidence in lab (realism optional)
Identification and apprehension of Suspect Number 1
Questioning and exhoneration of Suspect Number 1, who leads to Suspect Number 2
Questioning and exhoneration of Suspect Number 2, who leads to Suspect Number 3
Repeat previous three steps as necessary
Return to forensic evidence: second montage sequence in lab
Unrelated situation in private life of Lead, resulting in breakthrough on case
Climax/Resolution (choose one):
Return to previous Suspect who had been mistakenly disregarded
Dramatic standoff leading to lengthy confession by Culprit
Shootout/explosion that kills Culprit
Surprise twist revealing Culprit that Lead did not suspect
Ending (elements can be combined):
Explanation of what brought Lead to suspect Culprit when no one else did
Heartfelt scene resolving episode’s private drama
Moment in which Lead and Antagonistic Love Interest almost but do not quite confess their feelings
Optional Elements (to be distributed over course of season):
Wounding of or imminent danger to Supporting Cast
Kidnapping of Antagonistic Love Interest or family member
Meddling by Supervisor and/or outside agency
Discovery that case is connected to Unresolved Mystery and Master Villain

Series Story Arc
Season One:
Rely on episodic narrative while hinting at Unresolved Mystery
Establish characters
Work up chemistry between Lead and Antagonistic Love Interest
Season Two:
Continue to rely on episodic narrative
Show more gore to retain audience interest
Intensify relationship with Antagonistic Love Interest
Kill off at least one character in a tragic fashion
Season Three:
Find stranger and stranger ways for people to be killed
Begin to lose interest in episodic narrative
Refocus on Unresolved Mystery of Lead’s traumatic past
Include at least one comic/halucinated alternate reality episode
Manufacture break in relationship with Love Interest
Season Four:
Episodic crime becomes a minor plot point
Master Villain becomes central focus
Massive conspiracies surface
Lead and/or Antagonistic Love Interest is seriously wounded and/or has a mental breakdown
Lead and Antagonistic Love Interest decide to be “just friends”
Season Five and following:
Episodes grow more and more bizarre
Lead comes within an inch of solving Unresolved Mystery and catching Master Villain
Supporting cast replaced as actors quit
Lead and Antagonistic Love Interest become passionately involved, break up, marry, or procreate (choose one or more, accordingly)
Final Season:
Abandon all pretext of plausibility (death by air compressor, fingerprints from linguini, etc.)
Let Lead finally catch Master Villain
Realize relationship between Lead and Antagonistic Love Interest has killed series
Manufacture satisfying wrap-up for whatever viewers are still hanging on