Friday, February 29, 2008

Men in Trees

I started watching the show when it first came on. My first reaction was not an impressed one, but then I kept watching because I was home and it was on and it was far more interesting than whatever reality show it was scheduled against. Then it started to grow on me, and not just because I'm secretly in love with Alaska.

Last semester, my schedule kept me away from the TV when it was on, but now I'm catching up. I like being able to watch TV shows in rapid succession, it highlights things I wouldn't have noticed watching the episodes one at a time.

Mostly, these past couple of days, I've been struck by two things: characters and plot. You want archetypes? Men in Trees has got loads of 'em. Last night, I couldn't help but notice one in particular.

Ben is a character who's near and dear to my heart because he's a bartender/bar owner. He's also a nicely drawn bartender archetype-type character. I'm most impressed because it took me so long to notice what the writers were doing. In many episodes he's the one behind the bar who's subtly getting into everybody's business and acting as a foil for a number of the characters. As the show goes on, they develop this really great dynamic between him and Jack. Ben is the one who points out, to Jack, what the audience knows. Ben is the one who gives the "hey man, pay attention" talks.

Also, as the one who runs the one bar in the tiny Alaskan town, he's automatically a character who often fulfills the role of host in terms of bringing people together. His bar is something of a refuge (literally, even, in one episode) and sooner or later, everyone it town winds up there. For the sake of the show and getting plots moving, The Chieftain is essential. It's easy to see, from a writing perspective, why the bar and Ben exist. However, it's also easy to forget about the man behind the curtain and just have fun with the story.

Plotwise - they do a good job of building up relationships and making them unique. So, even when I realized they had two simultaneous love-triangle stories going on, I also realized that making that choice wasn't just a matter of laziness and that there were some interesting things going on by having the simultaneous plots. Cool.

So, while the show does certain things that are fairly easy to see why they were done and where they're going, the writers do a good enough job that the transparency doesn't bother me.

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