If you’ve been hanging around Style Exploration for a while, you know that I have a lot of opinions when it comes to the world of television. So let’s have a debate about the preference between shows with a main character and shows with an ensemble cast.
What’s Your Stance?
I’ll be the first to share. Television shows with an ensemble cast are my personal preference. A majority of my favorite tv shows like Community and La Casa De Papel have ensemble casts. That’s not to say I wouldn’t give shows focused on the main character a try, but I personally prefer shows that have multiple characters and storylines to focus on. I usually don’t like the main character which leads to boredom because I’m just stuck watching someone I don’t care about. I will not try to persuade you though. We can talk about both sides and then you can see which side you fall on.
Let’s start with the main character. What would make someone want to watch a show with one main storyline and 10 different side ones? Well, let’s see, focusing on one storyline is actually a great start now that I think of it. With these shows, you usually have two storylines per episode, one following the main or central character and one following a secondary character. One show that I enjoy with one central character is Ugly Betty. I like that the whole entire cast from Betty to Marc to Amanda to Wilhelmina, was amazing to watch, but I was also very interested in seeing Betty grow throughout the seasons.
United States of Tara is another show with a main character that I enjoyed quite a bit. My enjoyment of the show also had to do with Toni Collette playing multiple characters simultaneously. I love seeing actors/actresses do that. It has to be like playing on a playground for them since there is just so much to do. Shows with main characters allow you to define the relationships between characters more while seeing them develop and grow. Interactions are prolonged because there is more space to play with. In The United States of Tara, you see her relationships with her husband and her kids and her sister as Tara herself, but you also see how those relationships are affected by her alters. I think main character storylines work best when the main character can actually be seen with a flaw.
There is one obvious con that I’ve already alluded to. A lot of main characters tend to be annoying and not likable. What do you do when you have to watch a whole show about a character you don’t like just to get peeks of the ones you do? The secondary characters don’t always get the same character growth or screen time as the main character. There may even be times where you find yourself half-watching the show. Main characters are usually presented as the ones who can do no wrong and have a solution to every problem like Zoey from Zoey 101. That’s not as interesting to watch as say characters who have flaws and grow from their mistakes.
Then there are the main characters who are like Nancy from Weeds. These characters don’t learn anything while everyone else has to pick up their pieces. Nancy had her fair share of flaws and mistakes, but she didn’t really learn from them to make better decisions. A lack of character growth creates the same repetitive and stale storylines. When you can guess what the character is going to do next, it’s time for the writing to be refreshed.
Television shows that feature an ensemble cast provide a lot more variation in character types and storylines. As someone who watches the show, you aren’t stuck with some character you don’t like…….unless you don’t like any of the characters. Ensemble casts provide flexibility because each character has their own character arc that is seen throughout the series. Community, for example, features 7 different characters with different strengths and weaknesses. My favorite character, who just so happens to be Britta, may not be someone else’s favorite character and that is the beauty of ensemble casts.
Ensemble casts are also more entertaining to watch because they tend to be made up of characters who don’t necessarily have any relation to one another. As the show continues you get to see relationships develop, and it’s interesting to see the different interactions between characters. There’s usually no clear bad guy or good guy, which I personally appreciate. Ensemble casts always keep you on your toes because they have more to work with. Misfits is a great example of a show where the interactions between the characters are so much fun to watch when they kind of just get thrown together.
The only true con of shows with an ensemble cast is the ability to get lost in the mix. When you have shows featuring sometimes four, five or ten or more characters, it’s easy to focus on some storylines more than others. This messes with continuity because you have one character that starts something in episode 10 and then you don’t pick that storyline back up until episode eighteen. It causes you to kind of pause a little so that you can remind yourself what happened before watching the episode.
So I’ve presented both sides of the story. Now the question is, which side did you find yourself on? Share in the comments!