Since I already ran off at the mouth about five tropes I hate (with the promise of more), it’s only fair that I give the tropes I love the same treatment. As with the hated tropes, these are in no particular order because you can’t rank love.
Elaborate Schemes- If you’ve ever listened to Book ’em, Danno, you already know this. I adore elaborate schemes, the wilder the better. They don’t have to make sense. They don’t have to be practical. They just have to be bold. That’s why Wo Fat is one of my favorite villains. The man has a gift for theatrics. I’ve raved about his long-game frame job. But Hawaii Five-O is full of great plans and grand schemes. Elaborate plans to rob banks and steal diamonds and commit murders. There are times they border on ridiculous and unnecessary. There are times they absolutely cross that line. Sometimes they end up an absolute mess and don’t make much sense at all. None of that matters to me. A for effort. Get complicated. Get weird. I’m in.
Doppelgangers- That Wo Fat frame up included a doppelganger and that is also my joy. A doppelganger plot, regardless of what kind of show it’s on, is going to be ridiculous. Sitcoms frequently use the Prince and the Pauper set-up, sometimes literally. Davy took the place of a shy prince in order to win him the girl. Ginger’s doppelganger Eva Grub ended up on the island with the castaways and after a make-over, went back to civilization to take over Ginger’s career. Gilligan also came face to face with a spy with his face. And Mr. Howell had his own dealings with an imposter bearing his likeness. In retrospect, there were a lot of doppelgangers on Gilligan’s Island. Of course, it’s said that everyone has one. Naturally occurring doppelgangers are great; created doppelgangers are better. These happen a lot on dramas. People impossibly surgically altered to look like someone else for nefarious purposes. It’s absolutely unlikely and totally ridiculous, which makes it that much better.
Improbable Countdowns- You know the drill. There’s five minutes, two minutes, thirty seconds left before the big terrible thing happens but somehow our heroes are able to beat the clock despite the fact that they ran out of time three times over easy and we all know it. Rarely are shows able to do what needs to be done in the allotted time and that’s fine. We’re not expecting 100% accuracy here. But there are times when it’s so egregious it’s laughable and those are the one I love the most. There’s an episode of Baywatch Nights in which Mitch, Ryan, and guest character Claire have to get off a rig that’s going to explode in 90 seconds and they use half of that time sitting and dialoguing. There’s no way they got to the railing in the time they had, but thanks to the law of TV countdowns, they had time to spare. And I’m not mad about it.
It Was All a Dream- I admit this is a controversial love, but stick with me here. There’s an episode of The Golden Girls where Blanche’s husband George appears to have faked his death, meanwhile, Sonny Bono and Lyle Waggoner are pursuing Dorothy relentlessly, straight up fighting over her. It’s a wacky episode and funny as hell. And it’s not until the end that’s it’s revealed that it’s all a dream, a recurring one that Blanche has which is rooted in some unresolved feelings she has surrounding her husband’s sudden death. It’s quite bittersweet when she reveals that this dream was different because she finally got to hug her husband as she usually wakes up before then, suggesting that she’s come to terms with an aspect of her grief. So, there are times in which those dreams episodes can be well done. But they don’t have to be for me to enjoy them. Saying an entire season of Dallas was a dream just to get Patrick Duffy back on the show and therefore fucking up canon across that universe is amazing for the chaos alone and I’ll ride with it. Also, St. Elsewhere‘s series finale? Come on. Some dreams are legendary.
The Rashomon Effect- Quick refresher: this is the device of telling the same story from the viewpoint of different characters and because people tend to interpret and remember their realities differently for various reasons, it can get pretty entertaining and messy. One of my favorite instances of this is in a Mama’s Family episode actually called “Rashomama”. Thelma ends up in the hospital thanks to a cookpot to the head and Ellen, Naomi, and Eunice all give their versions of what happened, which naturally paints each teller as a saint without fault. We never do learn exactly what happened and who put Thelma in the hospital. Gilligan’s Island uses the Rashomon Effect to retell the events of an episode we’ve already seen, painting each teller as the hero when we all know that Gilligan was the one who saved them, which is a pretty unique spin. CSI: Miami did a fun version of this having Ryan, Calleigh, and Eric investigate the same murder, each coming to a different conclusion from their evidence. Naturally, Horatio straightens things out and the correct killer is caught in the end. So, give me all of the viewpoints. I won’t get bored.
I admit that my love of some of these tropes is rooted purely in my love of the ridiculous and there’s no doubt that all of these have the potential to go off the rails. But I never said they were necessarily good or that they could be (and probably are) overused. I said that I loved them.
And I do.