The Episodic Table of Plot Elements
If you have ever watched commercial programming on television you may already be aware of this, but sometimes the shows repeat plot points. Surprising but true. It generally works something like the instructions on a shampoo bottle:
- Hire a core troupe of actors and put them in a setting, like a meat packing plant or a sewer treatment facility
- Go through the episodic table of plot elements
- After a certain period of time, usually 3-7 years, replace the actors and the setting, like the actuarial tables dept. at an insurance company
- Rinse and repeat
When watching a show with my wife, within the first 30 seconds I’ll shout out the plot variation as soon as it is recognized. Trust me, she really loves this. “Oh, god, no!! It’s plot #42. Wacky birthing episode ending with a touching isn’t-that-thing-cute moment. I’ll be on the computer. Let me know when it’s over.”
Here’s a few excerpts from the episodic table:
- A previously unknown family member of a main character comes to visit for a short time (father, mother, brother, sister, child, etc.)
- A main character is extremely distressed because an extended family member gets engaged, married, divorced, is involved in adultery or illicit love affair and/or dies
- Two main characters are involved in a marriage proposal, wedding, break-up, divorce, adoption, pregnancy and/or birthing
Even with those three limited examples from the table the possibilities are almost endless. I bet they could be used to generate over 500 specific plots. Mother and cousin come to visit. Father and sister die. Brother and niece get engaged. Mother pregnant, father having an affair. Father pregnant, mother having an affair. Yep, the permutations are practically unlimited.
When watching Northern Exposure the other day I noticed one of the rarer elements. “Looks like #138 coming our way,” I shouted. A mute traveling performer had been courting one of the main characters for several episodes. Sagely, I predicted, “I’ll bet the mute guy is moved to speak in a moment that will be especially poignant.” It was so touching, that I nailed it, I mean. My wife couldn’t have been more pleased.
The episodic table easily applies to movies, too. George Lucas, for example, often calls crap like this “notes” that are repeated across films, again and again and again and again and again. Did I mention again? To make this point I’ll now transport you from one galaxy far away to a make-believe land of medieval sex, violence and political intrigue. It won’t require that much suspension of disbelief.
Or, as I like to call it, “A Note Ripped From Star Wars By Game Of Thrones.” Introducing element #78: The Fake Greeting.
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I’m always up to my net high-jinx. Without further ado, I’m pleased to announce my latest project, the creation of a new television network. It’s called F.A.N. which stands for the Feckless Abyss Network. I even spared no expense and made the logo all by myself.
I like to hire cheap.
It’s my hope that FAN will become a household name. Our slogan is “FAN. You know what hits us.” And we hope you will, too. Regularly.
I’m still working out the kinks in the lineup but likely shows to be canceled during our first season may include:
- Weapons of News Destruction
- News With Spews
- Leave It, It’s Beaver
- Know Your Enema
- P.S.I. – Pounds Per Square Inch
- Death Island
- Termination Tuesday – Sudden Death
- The Last Least Loser
- The Dr. Philly Show
- Celebrity Rebar
For sponsors we are actively seeking banks, credit cards, pharmaceutical companies and fast food. That is, everyone except you, Chick-Fil-A.
Of course, the sitcom will be a mainstay and we have many exciting ideas for fresh and exciting content. Read on.
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The Little Business License That Couldn’t – Father/Son Edition
This was supposed to be yesterday’s post but was preempted by our breaking Rapture coverage. We now join our regularly scheduled post already in progress…
In some cultures when an elder passes away, it’s often equated to the loss of a “library.”
Gone with the elder is a lifetime of stories, knowledge and experience. The elder will live on, though, if those stories have been passed down to others in the community.
My boss is the owner of the small business where I work. He decided it would be a good idea to help his 16-year-old son start a business, too. Lord, you should see how he swells up with pride at the thought of his son becoming a capitalistic entrepreneur, a money-grubbing reader of the Wall Street Journal like himself.
For newbie readers of the blog, here are a few things you should know as way of introduction to my boss that should help you digest this post. Like my last boss, he holds himself up as a paragon of Christianity. That’s all well and good, at least until the hypocrisy kicks in. Both have, for example, fraudulent pictures of their retail stores on their websites, a peculiar commonality to be sure. Both of them took random pictures of buildings where their stores had never been located and photoshopped the name of their business onto the photos. And did a shitty job of it, too. Then comically and laughably put those images up on their ecommerce websites.
What are the odds of working for two assholes like that? And one right after the other? Am I lucky or what?
The last boss did it because everything about his business was a lie. The new boss did it to prove to suppliers that he has a retail location or else they wouldn’t sell him product. (He doesn’t.)
They have other things in common, too. Like lying on their websites about products being “in stock.” The argument here is, “Once you get their money, you can usually talk them into something else. Above all else, keep that money!” Note that the customer’s actual needs don’t factor into this equation.
The new boss goes a little further with his elaborate house of cards and lies. That’s because he’s been “blacklisted” by manufacturers of the products he sells because he breaks their rules. So he establishes dummy companies with fake identities and has mail drops across the country so he can keep buying from the places where he’s been blacklisted.
“I’m a good Christian and a good person who’s saved. I’m going to heaven and you’re going to hell. And I break the shit out of commandments like ‘thou shall not lie’ based on my own wants and justifications. Most people like me believe the ends justifies the means.”
It’s always touching when father and son meet and come together in precious family moments. There they were in the office working together on the new ecommerce business which was going to be remarkably similar to the existing one. Just a different flavor of widgets from the product catalog. There they were, as father and son, discussing business names, logos, products, websites, and more. Aye, so touching. It brings a wee tear to me eye.
It was decided that the son’s company would use one of the boss’ existing suppliers. Now this is a bit interesting. With this supplier there’s a woman who is our account manager. The boss has worked hard to cultivate his relationship with this woman. It’s a tactic to get good deals and ply her for information. To this end he frequently checks in with her on the phone, faking sincerity, cracking jokes and demonstrating his most impressive business acumen. (Excuse me while I go projectile vomit.)
He even went so far as to meet her at the industry convention in Las Vegas where they had a meeting and she bought him dinner. Yes, he’s a true player extraordinaire.
The point is that his relationship with this woman and his supplier is very important to him. For his own selfish reasons, of course. And it’s something he’s rather proud of.
He got the supplier on the horn to establish an account for his son’s new venture. That company would need its own account for buying things. And he was told by this woman he has befriended that part of the process was that a business license would have to be submitted.
At last! The heart of the matter.
You see, a business license from the city would cost money. And, above all else, the boss (just like my last one) is a freakin’ tightwad. This presented quite the quandary. It’s basically “I want something but I don’t want to spend the money to get it.” What to do? What to do?
Photoshop to the rescue! The boss put his arm around his son, grabbed his business license, and the download of knowledge from one generation to the next was about to begin! “What we need,” he explained wisely, “is to photoshop this document so it looks like it’s yours. It just needs to look real enough that they’ll accept it.”
It’s another touching Hallmark moment between father and son! Quick! Somebody get me a Lifesaver! [sniff]
Tom B. Taker
Ah. Tradition! The boss is helping his son start a company. Teaching him the basics like how to forge a business license in Photoshop.
May 16, 2011
And so the son earnestly went to work, hunched over his computer, original document in hand, his nose to the photoshop. And I have to admit. He did a good job. A damn good job. When he was done he had a fraudulent document that would even fool me.
The apple had not fallen far from the tree.
The fraudulent document was sent to the supplier and all was well with the world. Just another successful day of “business” in capitalist America.
The boss got a call from his supplier friend. It seemed there was a minor problem with the document he had sent. You see, she took the extra step of calling the city to verify the document’s authenticity. It seems that – somehow – the city had no record of that business!
Mwuhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Eat that, motherfucker!!!!!!!
Sometimes even I have to admit – positive things can happen in this world! Truly they can! Verily I say unto you!
So yeah, that’s the way this story goes down. The boss took a powerful shit on the relationship with the supplier he had tried so hard to cultivate. I guess you could say this is where “What I want” meets “reality.” I have to admit, it was quite a refreshing moment. It almost makes life worth living to be able to witness moments like this.
He basically told her: I don’t respect you. You are dumb enough to fall for this. I am not trustworthy and I lie to you.
That woman must be an angel! I’d like to buy her a beer!
Is the boss contrite? Did he fess up and apologize? Has he learned his lesson? Any regret or remorse for what he’s done? Of course not! He acts as if nothing happened. The only emotion he’s expressed is irritation at getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
The end of the story is that the boss went to the city and forked over the money for a real business license and sent that real document on to the supplier. They are now considering his “application” and taking their sweet time, too. Ha ha ha!
Where do assholes comes from? The answer isn’t that surprising. They are carefully handcrafted by existing assholes. Great assholes aren’t born – they’re made.