Lots of people have tried to get shows about the border going for years, and this one looked like it had a winning formula, but I found the show to be grating, largely because of the tick-driven performance of the Diane Kruger, who plays a detective with a pretty series case of Asperger’s.
There are a couple of problems with this:
First of all, it literally makes no sense that she would keep her job. This is post-employment America, where people get fired at the first hint of a problem and replaced immediately from an ocean of the overqualified. Increasingly heartless employers have zero tolerance for any sort of abnormal behavior. We no longer live in a world where people shrug and say “Whatcha gonna do, we can’t fire ‘em.”*
But more importantly, it makes no sense thematically. Yes, it’s great when TV heroes have flaws, but those flaws should resonate with the setting and the theme.
They should have problems that are inherent to their role in life:
- Walt the chemist on “Breaking Bad” is, as the tagline says, “extremely volatile”.
- Don the ad man of “Man Men” is a manipulative liar.
- Ted on “How I Met Your Mother” has an overly romanticized view of life.
It’s even better when their flaw makes their workplace an especially unsafe space for them:
- Dr. House and Nurse Jackie both have pill additions.
- Sam the bar-owner on “Cheers” is a recovering alcoholic.
- Carrie on “Homeland” is fighting a particularly paranoid case of bipolar disorder, but she has a job that requires her to suspect everybody.
- It could be a problem specific to the setting, such as a secret lover on the other side, a hidden family history, or a sideline in smuggling...
- It could be a general issue we associate with the border: bigotry, violence, drug addiction, drug dealing, rage, corruption, blind obedience to unjust laws, refusal to accept change, a cowboy mentality, etc.
- Or if you wanted to get more abstract, you could even say “lack of boundaries”, or “slipperiness”…
Unless your show is on CBS, your main character needs a big flaw, but please to make sure to choose a flaw that resonates with (and is magnified by) the setting of the show.
* But wait, what about Monk and Sherlock Holmes, who were just as twitchy? Didn’t they get to solve crimes? Yes, but they weren’t police employees. They were specialists who were brought in on hopeless cases where the value of their insights outweighs the liability of their neuroses. The heroine on “The Bridge” is full-time and taking any call that comes in!