I find stereotypes really frustrating. I know that they are based in reality (they have to come from somewhere right?) but I do get frustrated with the amount of writers that use them. I understand that sometimes, they HAVE to be used and can be used to change our views of a stereotype, but when it's every character in a show - that's not good.
For me there have been 3 shows that have really gone past the use of stereotypes and given us well-rounded and believable characters. If you can think of any others, please comment.
Battlestar Galactica (2004 - 2009)This was the first show that stands out to me as not using gender stereotypes. I think you could take out any of the actors and replace them with an actor of the opposite sex and very little would need to be changed. The characters are so well written and have not been attributed 'gender' characteristics that mean they are then tied to a particular sex. A female Gaius? No problem! A male Roslin? Go ahead!
The one area that BSG didn't really venture into was having many gay characters. Spartacus did and I dare you to say that any of them are stereotypes! From Agron and Nasir to Barca and Pietros, the show gave us a range of relationships. In a poll of the Top 50 Greatest Gay TV characters, thebacklot.com recently placed Agron at number 5, describing him as a "breath of fresh air". But the beauty for me was that any of the heterosexual relationships could have been changed to a gay relationship and vice versa. Because the characters are not stereotypes in any way (gender, sexuality, etc), they can be played by men or women, gay or straight. The only restrictions placed on the characters are possible historical restrictions given by the time period of the show. This felt like the first time a show genuinely saw past the sexuality of the character.
Scandal (2012 - )One of the final frontiers of US TV seems to be having actors and actresses of colour playing leads, as it seems that the networks have believed for so long that audiences would not watch these shows.
And then there was Scandal with the enigmatic Kerry Washington in the lead.
The characters in Scandal represent a range of ethnicities and not a one of them is a stereotype. For this reason, any of the actors, could be taken out and another actor of both a different colour and gender could play that role. It is superbly written. But one of the triumphs of the show has been to have a storyline involving 2 of the main characters in a relationship that clearly has implications due to the colour of their skin, but to never really directly mention it. The writers treat the audience with respect, not like idiots.
(I've got a feeling that as it grows, Sleepy Hollow may well fit in to this category too!)
This just goes to show, write characters, not stereotypes and the audience will love them. Makes me wonder if that is why some shows that we expect to do well, aren't??