returning favorites

Why Can’t These TV Characters Get Good Story Lines?

Photo: Maya Robinson and Photos by ABC, FOX and NBC

No show can give 100 percent attention to 100 percent of its characters 100 percent of the time. It doesn’t work like that — not narratively, not structurally, and not budget-wise, when some performers aren’t in every episode. But there’s a limit to how absent a character can be before things start to seem out of whack. So far this season, a lot of characters — including some main characters — seem to be getting the short shrift, through lack of screentime or through crappy, dead-end non-stories, and sometimes both. Who’s getting the worst treatment right now? Oh, lots of people.

Rayna and Scarlett on Nashville
No one thinks for a second that Rayna is going to go through with marrying Luke, right? The whole “Ruke/Layna” nonsense makes it seem like the Nashville writers have never actually heard of a celebrity couple, and Rayna and her ex Teddy act like she’s never been on tour before. She has. Surely they figured out a way to parent their children in those circumstances. Rayna’s out-of-nowhere new friend Sadie (Laura Benanti, who also deserves so much more) took her on a high-speed thrill ride through town, even though Rayna survived a catastrophic car accident a mere season ago. Apparently this brought up no bad memories whatsoever, because Rayna’s character has no continuity whatsoever.

And then there’s Scarlett, whose stories have never been that great, and whose dopey li’l-ole-me routine is incredibly old. Her big plot now is that she has befriended the homeless man who lives in her alley. Secretly, he has a beautiful voice! Perhaps they will make music together and all learn a valuable lesson about America’s decaying support infrastructure! Haha, oh God, this show is a mess.

Saul on Homeland
Once upon a time, Saul was one of the best, most interesting characters on television; a knot of personal conflict with a beard. Now, less so.

Jasmine on Parenthood
Jasmine hasn’t had a substantial story line … maybe ever. But this season, rather than give her more to do than nag her man-child husband, Parenthood has decided to introduce two new teen-girl characters for us to not care about. Jasmine was a professional dancer; if Crosby’s business goes under, can her work support their family? (Seems like no?) Kristina got a whole cancer story, Joel got a lukewarm affair — why is Jasmine the only married-to-a-Braverman without a plot all her own?

April on Grey’s Anatomy
If Callie and Meredith can still be dynamic and funny and contain multitudes, April should be able to, too. Instead, she’s been relegated to background player so far this season, just there to listen to other characters describe their better, more substantive plotlines. Arizona and Callie are maybe getting separated — and April … is making Jell-O! Step it up, Kepner.

Glenn on The Walking Dead
Glenn’s one of our main dudes! I don’t care why that priest is sad or why that guy in the shed is how he is. How’s Glenn doing?What are Glenn’s thoughts? Does Glenn care about getting Dr. Mullet to D.C.? Can Glenn start his own new Glennville, with only cool people allowed? C’mon, Glenn.

Quinn on Scandal
I don’t want to go back to the time when Quinn’s major arc was her getting tortured, but she deserves more than being OPA’s official factotum. The show needs to figure out how to make her relationships with Charlie and Huck interesting again, which would be easier if Quinn herself (and we the audience) knew what was her fundamental motivation at this point.

Diaz on Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Diaz is the best, and there’s no amount of Diaz that would be “enough Diaz.” More Diaz. More Diaz stories. Give Diaz a spinoff, maybe.

Why Can’t These TV Characters Get Good Stories?