TV Tropes Tuesday: TV Tropes: Chuck Cunningham Syndrome

This trope is the opposite of Remember the New Guy.  Chuck Cunningham Syndrome is when a character is written out of a given series, but after that, there is no mention of him or her, even though the character was important to the show, nor is there any explanation for his or her sudden absence.  It would seem as though the character never existed in the first place.

The name of this trope came from the character Chuck Cunningham, the older brother of Richie Cunningham in Happy Days.  In Chuck’s final appearance he went up stairs holding a basketball, and was never seen nor mentioned again.

Now, why would this happen?  Often a character may start as important, but the writer or writers may gradually lose interest in them until they are forgotten about altogether.  Sometimes, conflict and drama behind the scenes leads to a character being written out, the actor being dismissed, and possibly as a result of the drama, the character being “forgotten” about due to a desire to put out of mind the conflict that lead to the actor being dismissed in the first place.

An example of that least reason is the character of Judy Winslow from Family Matters.  What many people don’t know about that show is that is is a spinoff of a show called Perfect Strangers, which had Hariette Winslow as an original character of that show.  Family Matters was supposed to focus on Hariette’s life with her family, but midway through season one, Jaleel White as Steve Urkel was introduced.  He was supposed to be a one-time only character, but his performance was so very enthusiastically received that he became a permanent part of the show; the show became centered around the Winslow’s family relationship with Steve.  This lead to Judy Winslow, played by Jaimee Foxworth to eventually get the shaft.  Her role in the show became smaller and smaller eventually having no lines and appearing in episodes just to fulfill her contractual obligations; after a demand was made (presumably by her parents on her behalf) for more money and more screen time, Foxworth was let go from the show at the end of the fourth season.  Her final scene consisted of Judy going upstairs to her bedroom to play on her NES.  After this, Judy was written out of the show, and treated as though she never existed.  Foxworth’s life was never the same, and she suffered through drug and alcohol addiction, became a porn star,  and lost her earnings from the show when a judge allowed her family to use her trust fund to settle their bankruptcy; despite this she managed to turn things around and live a fairly normal life.

Degrassi is one of my favorite shows, but one major issue with the show is that several characters were written out with no explanation.  The most noteworthy is Kendra Mason.  She is the adopted sister of Spinner Mason and first appeared in season 2.  After season 3, she was never seen nor mentioned again; supposedly, the actress’s parents pulled her off the show because they objected to planned storyline where Kendra would lose her virginity.  What made this example especially jarring was that Spinner had some dramatic experiences in the following seasons, and yet, she was not there to react to them or help support him through it.

Another example is from Edgemont, a Canadian teen drama set outside Vancouver.  Mile Ferguson, one of the principal actors, died in a car accident before the show’s first season even premiered.  After the second season, his character Scott Linton was written out and never seen nor mentioned  again.  When an actor dies, it can be difficult to know what to do with the character; depending on circumstances, never mentioning the character again, killing them off, or having them move elsewhere could all be accused of being insensitive.

Honestly, writers should avoid this trope.  It is lazy and insulting to audiences and readers.  If there is a need for a show to remove a character, they should come up with some explanation for his or her absence.  Also, one should make the effort to avoid


TV Tropes Tuesday: TV Tropes: Remember the New Guy

One of my favorite bloggers is Carrie-Anne Brownian.  I value her intelligence, creativity, and advice for writers.  She inspired me to blog about my own creative pursuits.  She made a post yesterday, where she reminded me of a an entry on TV Tropes known as Remember the New Guy. This trope involves a new character being introduced, and the characters act as though he or she have always been there even though they have never even been mentioned before. It can be a stretch to believe that a new character isn’t a new addition into the lives of the established characters.  I concur with Carrie-Anne’s advice, that if you want to introduce a new character, you should not have them already developed.  She points out that one should re-write the story to include the character, or write a passage explaining who the character is and what their background and relation to the established characters are.

Some examples of this trope include:

In That’s So Raven, the title character is harassed by a girl named Alana and her clique.  They had been enemies since fourth grade, ever since Raven got the part that Alana wanted in a school play.  However, Alana is never seen nor mentioned until season 2.  Some people could argue that it is possible that perhaps Alana was never mentioned because Raven and her friends don’t like to talk about her.  In schools, it could be more plausible to suddenly introduce new and fully developed characters, since they may not have the same classes together with the established characters, but if the characters are close friends on close enemies, if you like, it would be unlikely that they would never mention the new character at least once.

Another example from schools is Degrassi.  This trope is done right because two characters (Dave and Imogen) were introduced despite as having already been students, and nobody acted as though they had already been friends with them.  In fact, Imogen, in her first appeareance tells Eli that witnessed several of the events he went through during the previous season.

In my planned show SSCHS, I thought about using this trope, but making it plausible where a new teacher is introduced, but she’s not really new, and has been employed at the school for quite some time, and is known  in passing by the other characters, but because of scheduling, they rarely come into contact with each other; since they don’t know her very well, it would be implausible for her to never be mentioned.  Her role becomes much larger than before.

Another example, that did not seem to hurt the show is the character of Taylor Townsend of  The O.C.  She was first seen in season 3, and she was said to have history with the main characters.  She proved to be so popular among fans, that they suspended disbelief and overlooked the fact that it made no sense for her to  never at least be mentioned before.

TV Tropes Tuesday: TV Tropes: Everyone Owns a Mac

This tropes is one of many examples of how TV and film often depict a lack of realism.  This trope also involves another of my interests: technology and in particular Apple.

Everyone Owns a Mac is trope that involves depicting all or most of the characters in a work using Mac computers (and often other Apple products as well).  In real life, the vast majority of people use Windows PCs.  I myself have used them since childhood, but I have had experience with using Macs at the Apple Store and in school, since I am studying a field that often uses the Mac.

In fact, that may play a role in this trope.  Many, if not most, people in the film and TV industries use Macs.  Therefore, many of those who involved with creating film and television depict the characters using Macs even if it would be unrealistic for them to do so.

Often, characters that you see using Macs are creative types of people such as filmmakers, musicians, artists, and writers, but of course, you will see all types of characters often using them.

The trope can apply to other Apple products, but not all of them.  iPod are still the most popular MP3 players, in the real world, even though the popularity of the iPhone, iPad, and other smartphones and tablets has led to their gradual decline in popularity.  Therefore, it would not be unrealistic to depict lots of characters in one work owning and using iPods.

Using iPhones could apply to this trope because in America, at least, the iPhone was available only on the carrier AT&T.  In February 2011, it was first made available on Verizon Wireless, then on Sprint in October 2011, and finally, in April 2013 it was made available on T-Mobile and all of the four largest wireless networks carried it.  So, while the iPhone is often seen used by TV and film characters, it still may not be realistic for everyone to own an iPhone, though it is becoming more and more realistic, but that  still does not even account for other popular smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy line, for instance, which is one of Apple fiercest competitors of the iPhone and iPad.  It may be more realistic for works set in the UK or Canada.

With regard to the iPad, it would not seem so unrealistic to me, as the iPad is the most popular tablet even though there are many competitors that make up a noticeable minority such as the Samsung Galaxy tablets, the Kindle Fire, and the Google Nexus.

Now, here are some examples of this trope.

In Degrassi, the more recent seasons depict all of the characters using iPhones regardless of their financial situations.

Author Stephen King often mentions Macs in books, if his characters use computers.

On Law and Order: SVU, the detectives are regularly seen using Macs, iPhones, and iPads in the courses of their investigations.

And there are many more on the page.