Likeability in TV Characters: Is It About Appearance Or Behavior?

I’m watching a tv show that I don’t really like. I know that’s a dumb thing to do, but I wanted something on in the background. I searched, and this show is the only thing on that I can tolerate. So I’ll live with it.

Right now, I’m actually more interested in a commercial that keeps playing during the break. It’s one of those commercials that has each of the characters from the main shows on the channel doing a little snippet. Some of those people are from shows I really like. Every time it plays, it’s making me wonder why I like those shows so much better.

Is the quality really that much higher? What actually makes me dislike this show?

Then, I realized. It’s the people on the show that I don’t like. That and their behavior. I don’t like the way they talk to each other – that whole disrespectful fighting thing that’s popular now is a big turnoff for me. I don’t like the decisions they make. I don’t even like the way they dress (though really, that’s not a big deal in comparison). On the whole, though, the premise of the show isn’t the problem. The people are.

With that in mind, I’m trying to just consider their work. And while I honestly don’t think the quality is as high as on some of the shows I like, they are good at what they’re doing.

That’s making me wonder how many other decisions we make based on likeability. I know all the talk about more attractive people having it easier, but really, how big of an effect is it? How much of the dislike is because of the behavior, and how much of it is because of the appearance?

My first instinct is to say that for me it’s mostly behavior. I can enjoy joking and razzing but only when it doesn’t cross the line into rude or disrespectful.

The more I think about that, though, isn’t that another kind of appearance? The way people choose to dress and groom themselves is a big part of their appearance, yes, but how they act is part of that, too. People act differently around different people and in different situations, so usually, it’s the behavior that’s consistent that most interests me – the parts of their behavior that stay the same no matter where they are and who they’re with.

The problem with a show is that you only see the people for a short period of time in the same circumstance. Even on cooking or home renovation shows where the people are supposedly acting like themselves, you don’t know how much is real and how much is how they behave for the camera. So if an actor or director could figure out the appearance and behavior that appeals to the most people, they’d have a really good chance for a hit.

Which explains why so many of the characters on shows are so similar. It also explain why there are a lot of shows I don’t like. So long as they think that behavior will sell, there will be shows that emphasize it. I guess I’m going to have limited viewing options until trends change.


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