Three TV writers (known from here on out as T1, T2, and T3) get together to brainstorm ideas for a new crime show.
T1: Ok, we want a show with some originality, but not too much. It needs to appeal to a lot of people. We want to give them something new but not too strange.
T2: How about we make the two leads a man and a woman? They don’t have to sleep with each other right at the start. We can wait a few episodes.
T3: Or maybe a few seasons. Ratchet up the sexual tension for years. Throw in all kinds of drama to keep them apart.
T2: To really keep them apart, we need to make sure they act out of character. They need to sometimes act much dumber than they are for reasons that don’t make sense.
T1: How about they never sleep together. They’ll be played by attractive actors who have a lot of sexual chemistry, but they’ll never have sex, ever.
T3: Because one of them is married?
T1: No. Because male-female friendship can be one of the things that makes our show fresh. The idea that men and women can be friends.
T2: In that case, let’s also have them be different races.
T3: Yes! Diversity cred.
T2: Though, whatever the woman is, we should make the man white.
T1: Yes! He’ll be an arrogant know-it-all who’s really smart and has a good heart, deep down.
T3: And if any of the fans want to see them have sex… that’s what fan fiction is for.
T1: The woman has to be smart but not unattractively nerdy, and assertive but not too pushy, and independent but also really self-sacrificing, and gorgeous but sometimes she eats hotdogs and her hair is a little messy.
T2: If we ever show her sleeping, she’ll need to have a full face of makeup, even in the middle of the night.
T1: Of course.
T3: She has to be like a mother to the male character. Like, she keeps reminding him to eat his vegetables and be nicer to people. She shouldn’t really have a sense of humor. Just a lot of fond and exasperated eye rolling at his shenanigans.
T2: Ok, but if they aren’t going to sleep with each other, who will they sleep with?
T1: The man will have some tragic ex-lover or ex-wife who died or betrayed him or something. The ex will be blonde.
T2: And fair-skinned.
T3: And if he gets together with anyone else on the show…?
T2: Also blonde and fair-skinned.
T3: Right, and she’ll be different from his ex in important ways. Like the fact that she’s alive and not evil.
T1: What about the female lead? She sleeping with anyone?
T3: Maybe she can have a sexual hangup. One that makes her super cranky. Sound good?
T2: Who cares. I’m getting kind of bored thinking about her.
T3: She’s an important part of the show. We need to give her stuff to do.
T1: She’ll be doing a lot. She’s supposed to be smart and tough. We’ll also put her through some traumatic moments.
T2: Trauma can get boring if it drags out too much.
T1: Don’t worry, we won’t follow up on the trauma. Something terrible will happen to her, she’ll have a nightmare or two, and then, you know, she’ll be ok again two episodes later.
T3: We need to make her complex. She needs to be as interesting as the male lead.
T1: That’s what fan fiction is for. Some of the fans get cranky. They say the characters are underdeveloped, the ethical issues are unexplored, the plots are underbaked. So they write their own versions of the story or fill in missing scenes.
T3: Oh, I know! The female lead is kind of a tomboy. But she also wears stiletto heels everywhere, and her hair is always long and lustrous.
T2: There you go. See? It isn’t hard to make her complex.