At the beginning there was good and evil… and then TV writers decided it was time to complexify the hero, black and white distinctions were not gonna cut it anymore, they needed someone real who walked the line between these two forces, able to hurt but also to be hurt, able to kill and be loved by the audience at the same time… They created Tony Soprano.
15 years later we only have Tony Sopranos: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Masters of Sex, Ray Donovan, Dexter, The Shield, The Wire, The Walking Dead, Homeland, House of Cards, The Newsroom, True Detective, and last but not least, The Knick. They all feature the same character again and again*. We found ourselves overexposed to a stereotype, the antihero, who once tried to avoid stereotypes, what happened to the “strong, silent type”, the hero, Tony himself longed in the pilot episode of The Sopranos?, and, most of all, what happened to the happy ending? Half of them have ended up dead and the other half whose shows have still not finished, well… we are not so naive to believe Don Draper will live happily ever after, are we?
Talking about stock phrases from fairy tales, once upon a time there was Pushing Daisies, probably the last renowned series to star a traditional hero, good, with no dark secrets (unfortunately, both creator, Bryan Fuller, and lead actor, Lee Pace, have fallen into the antihero trend, the first one doing Hannibal and the second as the main troubled character of Halt and Catch Fire). The show was based on stories from the film noir, although the photography feature the entire color palette, with murders and private investigators. Its character were complex and had their own problems but they were not deeply disturbed, none of them tried to build a drug empire or turned out to be serial killers. The antihero was the industry’s attempt to humanize the hero, to show us their flaws. However, they have crossed the line, we can be greedy and not be Walter White, we can be angry and not be Dexter, we can be hungry and not be Hannibal, we can be ambitious and not be Frank Underwood… Instead, Ned, the pie maker, was flawed, he was selfish, he wanted the woman he had always loved for himself, never mind the consequences. That was human, that was the flaw within us all.
Pushing Daisies was cancelled, perhaps it was ahead of its time, but Ned and Chuck got their happy ending and we smiled one last time with and for them.
However, nowadays, there is no space for color, there is only gray. Let’s hope that “endings as it is known are where we begin”.
* This is not a critic to the listed series, some of them are part of television history.