Showers over Windermere from Holbeck Lane near Troutbeck.

What Makes Must Watch TV

January 18, 2018

I was talking to some of FremantleMedia’s drama leaders and doing some reading / thinking about what makes compelling television nowadays – and there was lots of discussion around genre, format, location, style, story etc, but in the end it all came down (for me) to a great character.  Someone I couldn’t take my eyes off, someone I was intrigued by, mesmerised by – someone like Luther.

And business is like that too.  I love businesses with leaders who lead, who stimulate, challenge, who are flawed, human and generous.

Characters have Personality – as I figured out 50 years ago when the Headmaster expelled me from Lancaster Royal Grammar School – I explained it to Barbara, my best friend, that it was a personality problem.  I had one and he didn’t!!!

A TV character’s personality is based on:


They need / want / are hungry for something and spend their story trying to get that something.  We come to understand exactly what motivates them to be driven that way and understand that compulsion.


They are human, worried, fearful of something.  And we feel for them.


They must make hard choices.  We know what that’s like.


To us, to me, to the other characters.  Life is not an island.


Layered, good, bad, and/and, multi-dimensional and multi-layered.


Big characters / leaders are impressively good at something – anything – that matters and sets them apart.


And they must be flawed.  Just like all of us.


They must feel and be seen to feel.

In fact, the more I thought about this, the more I thought a great TV character is developed the same way we develop a Brand to become a Lovemark.  By adding Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy to Respect and Trust.

A compelling character has a memorable name, a history with some mystery in it, some secrets, a look, a voice, a touch, and makes us want to know them, to feel for them and to join them.

Characters and Lovemarks are developed in the same way.  Who knew?


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