5 TV Rules That Aren't Rules Anymore

5 TV Rules That Aren't Rules Anymore

“The Sopranos,” “Game of Thrones,” and “Breaking Bad” have made story time a little scarier

Remember when you could watch TV to relax? Good luck with that now. Aside from a few steady sitcoms, scripted TV is a land of sudden death, missing friends, and risky, anonymous sex. Sitting down to watch your favorite show can be agony.

And, also, more fun than ever.

Some of TV's longest-standing rules are over, done in by groundbreaking shows like “The Sopranos,” “Breaking Bad,” and “Game of Thrones.” This coming season, “Homeland” does one of the oddest things we've seen. By not showing us something.

Here are five longstanding TV rules that aren't TV rules anymore.

1. No Promiscuous Female Leads: Remember when male characters spent their nights philandering as their wives and girlfriends looked sadly out the window? Why should the men have all the fun and fear of VD? Today's heroines are aggressive about casual sex. “Homeland” protagonist Carrie Mathison thinks nothing of picking up a stranger at a bar. “The Bridge” lead Sonya Cross doesn't even order a drink at the bar before dragging a guy home. She has no clue why he's interested in unnecessary stuff like cuddling and exchanging names. ABC's upcoming “Betrayal” features a woman carrying on an affair like a real Don Draper – except that she's more guilty about it, since it's a network show after all.

2. Lead Characters Can't Die: When “Game of Thrones” decapitated Ned Stark, it did in an old TV rule as well. Other shows have killed prominent characters – “Dexter” said goodbye to Rita, and “The Sopranos” to Chris-tu-fah – but “Thrones” killed off the guy at the center of everything. Oh, then it killed off his family. Message: Don't get too attached to anyone.

3. Lead Characters Have to Actually, Like, Be on the Show: Says who? A very prominent “Homeland” character is absent for the first two episodes of the upcoming third season. You know what? The show still works okay. Not that we're encouraging “Homeland” to be the latest to kill off a lead. “Boardwalk Empire” is also having fun with our expectations: After spending the summer hyping the arrival of Jeffrey Wright as Dr. Valentin Narcisse, the show didn't find room for him in its Season 4 premiere. He'll appear next week. We think.

4. Save the Cat: The late Blake Snyder earned well-deserved attention for his “Save the Cat” screenwriting manual, which advised, among other things, that the hero do something nice early in the story to win viewers’ sympathy. He could save a cat for example. Well. Netflix's “House of Cards” starts with our anti-hero killing a dog. (To put it out of its misery, but still.) Expect more dogs and cats to die as Hollywood embraces ever darker lead characters. AMC's “Low Winter Sun,” for example, begins with our hero committing a murder. Of course, with “Breaking Bad” lead Walter White going very far to the dark side, it may be time for a shift back to heroes who are heroes. Good luck, cats.

5. Give the People What They Want: “I think philosophically, in general, it's good to not give people – this is going to sound like a joke and it's not – it's very often dramatically good to not give the audience what they want,” said “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan on the show's podcast last week. “To make them wait for it. I mean what's more fun? Christmas Day, or the night before Christmas? I always thought the night before Christmas was more fun, because then it's like all possibilities are on the table.”

  • Sandra Goldberg

    We really are well on the path to doom, following in the notorious and infamous footsteps of the Roman Empire….has humanity changed at all or are we just as barbaric as the spectators at the arenas in days gone by?

    • hupto

      Well, one thing's for sure: humanity has gotten more ignorant of basic history. The Roman Empire fell around 100 years after it converted to Christianity.

      • Charles

        Right. Edward Gibbon (DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE) even blamed Christianity for bringing it down.
        All the well-known “decadent” stories of the Roman culture (Metamorphosis, Dinner at Trimalchio's, the stories of Caligula and Nero) date from the first century AD, 300 years before the Empire collapsed.

    • http://outinthestreetfilms.com/ Out in the Street Films

      The latter. Nothing gets by you.

  • Jordan Newell White

    This is why modern day TV is terrible and un-family friendly. How many
    times do I have to post that I long for another 1960s Batman show,
    another Lone Ranger, another Fraggle Rock, another Muppet Show, another
    Andy Griffith Show, another Flintstones or Charlie Brown or Huckleberry
    Hound, just another fun innocent show that both kids and parents can
    watch. Because there is so few of that these days
    that it is no wonder I quit watching TV, where the only show I watch is
    My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. TV is supposed to be an agonizing
    FAMILY FRIENDLY TV. This is like the 6th time today that I posted about
    something like this. Is G-Rated Content DEAD?????

    • http://outinthestreetfilms.com/ Out in the Street Films

      Let me guess. You also have a problem with Miley. Don't get along well with others, do you?

      But seriously, cartoons?

      • Becky Mercier


    • cerealspiller


  • Gene Masseth

    You might want to re-watch the opening of House of Cards. He kills the dog, but he does not shoot the dog.

    • tim.molloy

      Oh God, you're right. It's worse than I remembered. I'll fix immediately. Thanks.

  • inthebusiness

    and how about shameless???????

    • http://outinthestreetfilms.com/ Out in the Street Films

      Yeah, it's always been okay for the college age daughter lead to have explicit sex scenes, while her father wakes up drunk in the gutter.

      • Becky Mercier

        shameliess as a television show is awesome!! if you see this show you are paying for it, back to other coments…change the channel, set up parental rights, or turn it off and play candy land with your teenagers

    • Becky Mercier

      I am so tired of this. you have choices, either change the channel, set up parental controls, or turn the damn thing off and play candy land. isn't it bad enough that everyone forgot how to laugh, or what satire is, or even that television (in theory) reflects society's mores?? all you have to do is look at the greedy bastards on wall st. or the religious right always telling us what to do

  • http://outinthestreetfilms.com/ Out in the Street Films

    #4: Hollywood finally figured out Madonna's simple marketing genius: controversy.

    • Becky Mercier

      duh….everyone knew this at the time. it was commented on over and over. thus today, we have a Madonna wanna be who is known as miley cyrus, minus Madonna's talent