TV Show Framework

by Dec 13, 2021


Core set of characters with personalities entering for a few episodes and then exiting. Or floating in and out of episodes. This provides stability and familiarity in the longevity narrative while also providing interest, intrigue, and a new reason to engage the audience. 

In some instances the main characters should act as supporting characters. As with Heartland, the show is about the main characters, but in some of the cases they act as supporting characters to either each other or to the supporting characters themselves. Jack at Heartland is the second most prominent character, but his role is mostly as a support character.  Gibbs from NCIS, is the main character, but more often he acts as a supporting character to his colleagues. 

You must have a nemesis that is vaguely defined. With the TV show Friends it was age or getting old. In the X-Files it was the unknown secrets. In Heartland it is the struggles of life. The nemesis can never be a singular person or organization or concept as when that is played out, you are left with the huge void in the storyline. This changes if the nemesis plays the Antagonist role. Movies can have enemies as they are a single point in time and do not have a series framed around them.

Romance not sex. People like romance and intrigue, but sex crosses the line for a wider audience. 

Enemy of the audience. In some cases it is good to give your audience somebody to dislike, be disappointed in, or even be angry at. In friends, Joey was often that person you were disappointed with, although he also acted as comic relief in that instance. At Heartland, Val Stanton was that enemy type of role. Likewise with Tim and Lou who are very self-centered. You can have a character that then later redeems themselves completely or occasionally redeems themselves. This acts like a valve, a hater valve where the pressure is released on occasion. 

As we learn from The Matrix humans are not happy with perfection, so characters cannot be. 

A moral high ground character that contrasts against the world. Even in Cheers, Diane was the moral compass. Even in this comedy there was a moral standard to push up against. 

Don’t introduce people with special abilities just to take the special ability away or not ever use it. Don’t make somebody wealthy and take their wealth away. Or somebody has a particular gift that is used to leverage them into the show but then that gift is not used to capacity. Going from superhero to common human hollows out the character. If you do not overstate the ability, you do not have to take it away. This doesn’t allow characters to stand on their own.  We see this often with NCIS how a new character comes in with this particularly heightened ability and then over the course of just a few episodes that heightened ability is muted. The depth of the character is shallow. I also see this a lazy writing and or poor planning. This is very confusing and unrealistic as in NCIS where Abby is also the hacker? Or when a character has an ability that later goes missing. The ability to fight but then they often get defeated easily. Mental acuity that somehow escapes them when they need it.

Characters will have one of the below that defines them, and some characters will have traits of multiple of these definitions.

Anchor Character

Strong character. Provides stability. The rudder keeping the show in the right direction. Someone everyone can look up to. 

Moral Compass

Takes the moral high ground. People look to them for guidance.

DIC (Director In Charge)

Person in charge. Pushes and pulls the characters and narrative. Hamstringing characters or pushing them beyond their comfort zone.


Takes the chances or risks. Allows the plot to stretch in the direction of their personality. Brings intrigue.

Friend or Enabler

Support character. Sounding board. Empathizer. Covers for other characters. Often giving advice. Giving into the stronger personality of their friend.

Bigger Than Life

This character is bigger than life. Can do things that most people can’t. Or has a bigger personality than most. Can also be that character of great form or appearance.


Comedic level 1-5

Level 1 brings relief to stressful or awkward situations. Tends to see some level of humor in most situations.

Level 5 is the jokester or prankster of the group.


This character is the one we look towards to guide us in compassion. Compassion for individuals or situations. Often the one that tries to help other characters get along.


Character that is always flirting or looking for romance or uses their sexuality to gain situational advantage.


The one that tends to mess up the most. Gets people into situations, or people have to get this character out of situations. Helps to create micro, and in some cases, macro plots.


FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt)

Character that shifts the plot focus by questioning something in its current direction. Allows the plot to steer in a different direction for a short period of time. Aids in bringing intrigue into a situation. Makes characters question themselves, decisions, or the situation, or make them reevaluate a situation or outcome.


Nemesis Level 1-5

Level 1: A Frenemy. Works situations to their benefit or is an antagonist to another character.

Level 5: villain


One who often find themselves in a mess most often created by themselves. This can be a flaky character, or a weak character. Someone who needs saving from situations.


Often we see this as a sub trait within another character such as an attribute attached to the anchor character. Also has compassionate traits. Everyone else looks towards this character to get them out of situations, or to guide them in a situation.

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Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

James 1:17