Saturday, April 07, 2007

Let’s Pretend We Don’t Exist / Let’s Pretend We’re in Antarctica

A letter from Nate:
Is there a term for a character in a tv show that isn't really written out of the show, but instead is just never mentioned again. Like aunt rachel or judy winslow.
Seriously, just like that. No “Hi Drew, my little buddy!” or “Love, Nathan” at the end or even a “Sorry that kidney I gave you ended up being a dud.”

Nate’s curtness aside, I’ll answer his question — but only here, so he’ll have to read this particular blog post in order to end his agony. As far as I know, we have no cute term to refer to the tendency for TV characters to be magically and silently whisked away from their respective show’s main action. It happens often enough, however, that we should have an expression for the phenomenon, just to give something to credit with the death of beloved characters.

Like poor Moira Kelly, who simply dropped off the face of the earth early into the run of The West Wing. Or Lucy Lane, the kid sister to Teri Hatcher’s Lois Lane in the old Lois & Clark series. She simply vanished from the opening credits after the first episode, despite apparently being Lois’s roommate. Hell, even Santa’s Little Helper’s girlfriend from the episode of The Simpsons with the greyhound puppies has never appeared again since that episode’s closing credits, and The Simpsons usually makes an effort to preserve continuity, if at least to crack a joke about how it’s being broken.

When speaking about the point at which a television show has exceeded its necessity and become irrevocably stupid, we say it has “jumped the shark” in honor of the Happy Days episode in which The Fonz literally performs the act — on water skis no less. On a similar note, I’d offer “went to the cornfield” as a term for the unexplained disappearance of characters from TV shows. The term comes from the “It’s a Good Life” episode of the old Twilight Zone series, in which a little boy with the power to control reality with his mind imprisons an entire town into thinking happy, positive thoughts all day. (The episode was one of those remade for The Twilight Zone movie. The segment for it, oddly, co-starred Nancy Cartwright, who later went on to do the voice of Bart Simpson, who starred as the psychically empowered terror himself in the Simpsons parody of it in “Treehouse of Horror II.”) Those who angered the little boy vanish — teleported to a place the surviving residence of the town call “the cornfield.” It’s apparently unclear whether the dearly departed might actually be appearing in some physical location somewhere or just neatly stamped out of existence. Either way, wherever they were is probably wherever Judy Winslow and Aunt Rachel went, as both walked off-screen partway into the run of Family Matters, never to return and — even worse — never to be fondly recalled by their loving family members, who were apparently too busy dealing with other “matters.”

Are you even listening, Nate?

Also, way weird you brought this up. I’ve mentioned Telma Hopkins (a.k.a. Aunt Rachel) two or three times just this week.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Drew! Its so great to leave you a comment. Interacting with you, be it: verbal, telecommunications, or internet, is always delightful. You put a smile on my face and a skip in my step. I must humbly appologize for this lapse in manners and etiquette. And I must thank you for the response via box because I always feel honored when a post is directed toward me. Sorry for the curtness. It will never happen again. From here on out all questions will be sent by mail on letterhead in a formal format.

    ~Nathan D. Alley