The Promise of Premise

Posted: July 19, 2010 in All, Comic Books, TV
Tags: , , ,

There’s a difference between a great character and a great premise.

They’re not mutually exclusive, but they don’t always go hand in hand.

I was thinking of this while watching the first two episodes of “The Ghost Whisperer” with my wife. She talks to ghosts and helps them find their way(The Ghost Whisperer, not my wife.). Not the first time it’s been done. But maybe the first time it’s been done on an hour long weekly show.

There are hundreds of variations. Different things ghosts need before they move on. Do they even want to? Can they and their loved ones say goodbye?

It’s a good premise. And a regular series needs a good premise. Something you can sink into in front of the couch every week. The shows creators make a promise to you that you’re going to get some of the same ingredients every week, but maybe in a different recipe once in a while to shake things up. You know that the story is going to be about a ghost losing its way.

Other shows are the same. You know that House is going to have a medical mystery. You know Monk is going to feel uncomfortable about something.

So that’s part of it.

In comic books, I’ve seen very few premises. Often, if there is one, it gets lost. I’m using comics because it’s a serial medium.

The X-Men are heroes who defend a world that hates and fears them. This sometimes gets lost in them fighting the villain of the month, or each other. Spider-Man has the Parker Luck, but not much else. Batman has monomania and vigilantism.

The other part is character.

We don’t care about the premise if we don’t like the characters living within it.

I think that you can have one but not the other in certain circumstances.

I liked “Noble Causes” because it had a great premise, and the characters were decent. It seems like a lot of the independents that are going to survive do so because there is a premise that you can explain in one sentence. For example: “Invincible” is about the son of Superman.

But a premise can quickly become a gimmick.

If the premise is all there is, then it’s just window dressing. You have to have both: premise and character.

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