Character continuity – the problem with long running TV shows and film sequels

I am just watching OMEN III for the first time in years and it struck me that Damien was set up in the first film as driving all animals mad with his evil presence – with the zoo animals going ballistic, when he is nearby, as if they just can’t bear him to be around them – and yet here he is, as an adult, riding in a hunt, with both pack dogs and horses not even batting an eyelid. In fact he is now able to control them to come to his aid in defence. It just doesn’t make sense. Not at least unless you make reference to him being able to cloak his evil presence, or to be able to use his power to bewitch animals now. Perhaps a small scene of him quieting the horse he was about to ride, might have indicated this newly developed aspect of his powers… (Something that was not rectified until the abortive OMEN IV with the stare down of a horse).

Things like this – the logic holes in characterisation always wind me up. It’s bad enough with one episode of a Tv show let alone something as prominent as a major film sequel / franchise. Obviously this occurred when they used other writers on the other sequels and on TV shows it is usually a result of the shows running on so long that they either assume that no one remembers the other details, or none of the original writers are working on that show anymore. For me that is just poor continuity and spoils my suspension of disbelief; pulling me out of the narrative and makes me question everything else, rather than just letting it all wash over me. But most of all it irks me!

Like the sitcom FRIENDS setting up a character phobia, e.g. Rachel having a thing about people going near her eyes or threatening to touch their own in her presence, and then contradict that in another episode, like when she accompanies Monica to see an eye doctor; something she would be totally unable to do if this phobia were genuine.

The other flipside is when long running daytime shows, the kind my girlfriend watches, those maddeningly naff shows of warring families and ridiculous vendettas, just introduce a brand new character and try and invent a long running backstory with some ham-fisted exposition. God forbid the audience members have to use their brains and work out who the character is, with slower reveals over successive episodes… is this just an American thing? That assumption that the audience is stupid? I hope not. And I hope that other people point out these things to studios so they treat their properties and the audiences that keep them in business with a bit more respect.

When you create characters and set them in a story – make sure you know enough about them and try to resist making stuff up on the fly in the heat of the scene, otherwise it may just come to bite you on the ass when you later get some feedback. All those questions that you use to detail the characters’ backstory are there for a reason. Use them.

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