One of the topics that has been discussed a lot at our recent Medialoper staff meetings is character blogs. Character Blogs are written from the point of view of a fictional character in a film, TV show, book or what have you. The internet is rife with these blogs, and when done well, the can be a powerful tool for promotion, backstory, or just to get deeper into a particular character’s head.
Booksquare just did a recent series of pieces looking at this phenomenon in the literary world, so I’m going to focus on a different medium, Television. (All of you who aren’t surprised, raise your hands . . . nobody? right.)
First off, an example of a successful character blog: Dwight Schrute’s Schrute-Space. At this point, I’m assuming that you know who Dwight Schrute, but in case you don’t he is the weird guy from NBC’s The Office. His blog, written by Rainn Wilson — the actor who plays Dwight — serves as an extension of the character that we see every week on the show. And, crucially, Dwight is exactly the type of guy who would keep a blog discussing his Halloween costume, or positing a crossover between Lost and Battlestar Galactica.
It fits in perfectly with the premise of the show, and the premise of character, and adds to our knowledge of both without distracting from the actual episodes.
Not so much with Detective Sam Tyler’s Blog.
Sam Tyler is the protagnist of BBC America’s awesome Life on Mars, which is turning out to be the best new TV series of 2006. The concept is this: he is hit by a car in 2006, and wakes up in 1973. He has the same name, is doing the same job, but his context is totally different. The show has so far set us up to believe that hasn’t so much time-traveled or verse-hopped, but rather that he is in hospital in 2006, and all of his adventures in 1973 are essentially coma dreams. Much like when Tony Soprano was in his coma earlier this year and experienced life as a traveling salesman.
In any event, no matter what the explanation is, there is no way that this guy would have a blog discussing what happened to him while he was in 1973. It kind of takes you right out of the premise of the entire series.
Worse yet, the “Diary Entries,” — as they are called — are essentially just recaps of each episode’s plot. So, for example, if someone to whom I was raving about the greatness of this show went to the BBC America site to check it out, they’d get totally spoiled. And because we are experiencing this show from Sam Tyler’s perspective, this blog really can’t add anything to it, because, as the show makes abundantly clear, he’s not sure what’s going on in the larger sense; he just knows that he has to show up and do his job.
So the whole thing is kind of pointless, a textbook case of how not to do a character blog. Which, of course, doesn’t detract one iota from the greatness of the show; but perhaps somebody in BBC America’s marketing department might need to rethink how to promote it.
I think you hit the nail on the head with this one: a dude in a coma going back to the seventies? Not so much a blogger. The hardest part of characterization is keeping the creator out of the mix. I admire the fact that Rainn Wilson remains true to Dwight (even as I’m wondering how we know it’s Rainn Wilson, but you know me, always picky).