Oh, wait. it is!
The plot device. In the hands of a skilled writer it can be apparent in the story yet unnoticed until it is used to resolve the action. In the hands of a bad writer, it can bring the action to an abrupt halt or throw everything out of joint in a contrived revelation to the characters. An example that crosses both boundaries of good and bad is the Ruby Slippers in The Wizard of Oz. The Ruby Slippers are the main motivation behind the Wicked Witch of the West’s pursuit of Dorothy, even more so than the fact that she did a house drop off the top ropes onto her sister. However, after the witch is destroyed they serve no real purpose until we she misses the balloon ride to Kansas. Feeling distraught, she is then told by the Glinda that she could use the Ruby Slippers to River Dance her way back home. The whole time she had the method to get home but it was a little contrived that after all this, all she had to do was click her heels. It’s a bit of lazy writing in my opinion.
The same goes for television shows, primarily in the genre of a soap opera. Now before I get blasted here, you can classify a Soap Opera as something you watch during the daytime while eating bonbons or you can look at what it is derived from, the serial drama. In both cases, the storyline progressives across multiple episodes, sometimes seasons, and yet sometimes they are tidied up or ended with a bad plot device.
In one of my many white board sessions, trying to explain how LOST’s time travelling conundrums work, I felt a sharp pain in my head. I was getting frustrated because I get what’s going on due to my several years of watching these kinds of shows like Quantum Leap and Back to the Future. She can’t grasp the fact that both sets of characters are being shown on screen in the same episode but 33 years apart from each other. Maybe the lack of the “Whoosh” sound is the problem. Anyway, that sharp pain didn’t give me a lot of worry, but considering recent events like my Mother in Law having a brain tumor and one of my friends from high school dying from brain cancer, I thought that maybe this was more than just a headache. It’s not. Don’t worry. You have to have a brain before you can get cancer in it.
But that sparked a longer debate between me and the misses. It seems that a lot of top notch television shows are using brain tumors to further their storyline or resolve them. If your DVR is at 98% because you’re behind on shows like I am, you may want to skip the next paragraphs.
ER – Dr. Mark Green
In the series 15 year history, it’s not hard to believe that a main character would develop a brain tumor. In this case, the actor wanted to move on to other opportunities and his character was written out after dying from a brain tumor.
HOUSE – Dr. Gregory House
OK, this is a false positive. House only faked a brain tumor but still, I’m seeing a pattern.
Grey’s Anatomy – Izzie Stevens
There it is. The tri-fecta of television doctor’s “suffering” (I know...see HOUSE) from a brain tumor. In one of the most bizarre turns on the tube, Izzie’s skin cancer metastasizes into a brain tumor. The first clue may have been her hoping in bed with dead Denny Duquette. The real clue for those with forensic television plot line backgrounds would have been the clinical trials that Derek and Meredith had been conducting. Bad bad bad.
Bones – Seeley Booth
At least by giving Booth a brain tumor, we get some hysterical hallucinations. I don’t mean dead soldiers helping him out of a ship that is rigged to explode. I mean seeing and talking to Stewie Griffin, an animated character from the Family Guy. It also drives the plot to make Booth the Baby Daddy to Bones’ Bundle.
All My Children – Jonathan Lavery
Of course, a Soap Opera is the brain tumor’s playground or at least the devilish writer’s playground. Although, it happened three years ago, I point out this instance because the discovery of a brain tumor in this character lead to a Deus ex machine type resolution to his storyline. Lavery came onto the scene, physically abused his girlfriend, killed his brother, and tried to blow up his other brother’s wife and friend, killed yet two more people (one a prominent character on the show), and then supposedly blew up in an explosion. After awhile it was discovered that his sister was taking care of him and he was admitted to a hospital and operated on to remove the evil tumor that caused all his mayhem, leaving him with the mental state of a child.
Eli Stone – Eli Stone
Not a brain tumor, but an aneurysm drives the entire plot of this prophetic show about a Lawyer with a conscience. Yeah, it got cancelled. Too unbelievable. Not, the fact that he had visions of George Michael dancing in his living room but that he had a conscience.
Desperate Housewives – Noah Taylor
Before zipping ahead five years into the future….yeah OK, Hello? LOST much? The show had a character named Zach whose mother not only killed herself in the pilot but provides narration from beyond the grave. Turns out Zach was adopted and his maternal grandfather, dying of a…you guessed it, brain tumor, was willing to leave everything to him if he proved himself a man. He did by unplugging grandpa’s life support, killing him.
Life on Mars – Det. Sam Tyler
Being an import of the BBC version of the show, it was hard to believe that the reason behind the problems with Sam Tyler’s grasp of reality would be a brain tumor. Yet, fans speculated on message boards and forums that the series would end with him having one. Nope, turns out he’s an astronaut with a garbled simulation running in his head….probably on Vista.
The Unusuals – Eric Delahoy
Trying hard to be like M*A*S*H and actually scoring well in some areas, this comedy drama has one of its characters dying of brain cancer. This leads to his over the top attempts to either be a hero or kill himself.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Joyce Summers
Ok, it was 10 years ago, but come on, but one of the best uses of a brain tumor in a show was the fifth season of Buffy. Although, the brain tumor was successfully removed, an aneurysm ultimately killed off Joyce Summers and leaving Buffy to not only save the world from the Hellmouth, but also run a household and help raise her teenage sister, Dawn. One of the best episodes of the series, The Body, featured no soundtrack and delves into the human nature of its lead character, a strong heroic figure that can kill demons, vampires, and all other sort of supernatural beings yet cannot save her own mother from death by natural means.
Well, that’s all I got but I’m sure I’ve missed a few and hopefully, you all will feel free to point them out. It is sweeps after all. There’s bound to be a few more shows out there with characters who have brain tumors. In fact, I think Fox just greenlit a show this fall about a brain tumor living in New York City, trying to make it as an actor. Is he kidding? Good night, everyone.