TTSCC Characters in Scene Counts thru Season 2

Something that comes up on various forums a lot is how often some characters are appearing on the show. For Terminator – The Sarah Connor Chronicles, there has been a fair amount of debate about whether Cameron is getting short-shrift when it comes to air time. Of course there are also many who complain about a lack of time for John, Sarah, and Derek as well.

ttscc-s2cast-spreadsheet-260In an effort to put some data behind the grousing, I’m setting up a table that addresses what characters are in what scenes. This is not a scientific gathering. Instead of defining a scene as “per shot” as it would appear in a script, I’m being a little more flexible in the interpretation. The through-line has to be continuous in the same set, even if editting broke it up into separate shots. Also, a character is only counted if they actually do something “useful”. This means that someone who is only in the background generally isn’t counted.

The tally includes only the main characters and major recurring characters. This does not directly relate to screen time, but does correlate. (I.e. While the time on during a given scene could be over 5-minutes or just seconds, generally speaking, the more scenes you have the more air time you get.) Note that for 0204, I’ll be counting Summer Glau scenes as Cameron regardless of whether she was playing Cameron or Allison.

Analysis follows the table.

Green cells: Character in 50% or more of the scenes.
Yellow cells: Character in 33% to 50% of the scenes.
Lt. Red cells: Any of Sarah, John, Cameron in 10% of scenes or fewer.
Lt. Gray cells: Sarah, John, or Cameron in fewer scenes than supp. character (not including Derek)
Dk. Gray cells: Active character did not appear.

Episode T
O
T
A
L
 
S
C
E
N
E
S
S
A
R
A
H
J
O
H
N
C
A
M
E
R
O
N
D
E
R
E
K
E
L
L
I
S
O
N
W
E
A
V
E
R
C
R
O
M
A
R
T
I
E
J
O
H
N
 
H
E
N
R
Y
C
H
A
R
L
E
Y
S
A
V
A
N
N
A
H
J
E
S
S
E
R
I
L
E
Y
0101
Pilot
62 37 34 30   6   12   4      
0102
Gnothi Seauton
59 36 19 29   1   2   2      
0103
The Turk
36 15 11 11   6   6   0      
0104
Heavy Metal
41 20 19 19   7   3   0      
0105
Queen’s Gambit
47 24 17 16 12 5   2   4      
0106
Dungeons & Dragons
42 13 8 12 26 0   0   10      
0107
Demon Hand
49 19 8 14 9 15   0   0      
0108
Vick’s Chip
54 24 21 20 21 0   4   0      
0109
What He Beheld
47 19 18 13 15 9   5   6      
0201
Samson & Delilah
36 18 16 15 6 3 4 3   8      
0202
Automatic For the People
50 27 10 19 13 3 2 0   3     6
0203
Mousetrap
39 13 14 9 12 3 2 12   12     5
0204
Allison From Palmdale
41 8 10 24 0 4 2 0   0 1   0
0205
Goodbye to All That
46 19 18 10 25 4 3 0   0 0   0
0206
The Tower Is Tall…
46 14 14 13 10 3 14 0   0 8 5 0
0207
Brothers of Nablus
44 16 7 15 8 8 5 12   0 0 3 5
0208
Mr. Ferguson Is Ill Today
42 14 18 15 7 11 0 10   0 0 0 12
0209
Complications
44 14 10 9 16 2 1 1   0 0 14 0
0210
Strange…
38 19 7 10 9 10 6   2 0 0 4 5
0211
Self Made Man
42 1 6 24 0 0 0   0 0 0 0 4
0212
Alpine Fields
40 15 0 4 23 0 0   0 0 0 7 0
0213
Earthlings Welcome Here
43 24 6 4 0 3 1   2 0 0 6 12
0214
The Good Wound
40 17 5 4 8 2 6   2 0 0 3 3
0215
Desert Cantos
34 19 12 9 11 2 3   0 0 1 0 0
0216
Some Must…
41 35 13 4 0 0 0   0 0 0 0 0
0217
Ourselves Alone
34 12 13 13 5 0 0   0 0 0 6 11
0218
Today Is the Day, 1
33 6 8 7 5 5 5   4 0 4 12  
0219
Today Is the Day, 2
26 5 6 5 3 1 1   2 0 0 15  
0220
To the Lighthouse
47 22 17 10 9 5 5   4 8 1    
0221
Adam…
61 18 15 14 4 14 10   8   18    
0222
Born to Run
52 17 14 14 1 11 13   7   0    

Analysis

The fun part of any table of data is making sense of it. I did a little pre-processing with color some cells, but obviously there is much more information to be mined. Let’s see what we can see…

First, let’s take a look at a chart that maps out the total scenes as well as the scenes of our three principles:

ttscc-tally-01b-1090

The first thing that we notice is that the number of scenes per episode has steadily dropped as the series has gone on until the last 2 or 3 episodes (coincidentally, considered by the writers to be the best episodes of the season). Part of this is because of fewer inserts of recorded info (DVD, VHS, Vick’s Chip). We see a similar drop for the main characters as well, but there is a precipitous drop for John around the time of 0210, and a similar drop for Cameron at 0212. This was about the time that the series delved into Sarah’s private adventure of the mind. John and Cameron rebounded at the end of the season to levels not seen since 0209.

One of the big differences from season 1 to season 2 was the shift from group scenes, i.e. the team in common cause, to many single and pair scenes. You combine this with a decrease in the number of scenes and you end up with a much slower, less heart-pounding, pace to the series. Again, there was a shift back to this sort of formula with the final episodes of season 2.

The second season found the addtion of the characters Jesse, Riley, Weaver, and Savannah to the recurring cast (for all intents and purposes, Cromartie and John Henry take the same cast position). These additions served to siphon scene appearances away from the three main characters.

An interesting exercise in these sorts of charts is to count up the colored squares. Greens and Yellows show appearances in more than 33% of the scenes. Let’s see how our three primary characters did with those:

Season 1:

  • Sarah: 8 (89%)
  • John: 5 (56%)
  • Cameron: 5 (56%)

Season 2:

  • Sarah: 14 (64%)
  • John: 7 (32%)
  • Cameron: 7 (32%)

From season 1 to 2, this would indicate that both John and Cameron are in fewer scenes relative to Sarah.  While all the characters are now in 25% fewer of the overall scenes, a discrepancy appears when you look at the relative numbers as opposed to the absolute figures. If you do, then Sarah’s decrease amounts to a 28% relative drop, while John and Cameron receive a 43% drop. Yikes.

Let’s look at the negative data: the red and dark grays which say that a character was in 10% or fewer of the scenes, if at all (lower numbers are better).

Season 1:

  • 0 (0%) for all main characters.

Season 2:

  • Sarah: 1 (5%)
  • John: 1 (5%)
  • Cameron: 4 (18%)

Wow. Cameron took a hit. Then why were the average numbers more like John’s? Mostly because of “Allison From Palmdale” (remember that I counted both Allison and Cameron, otherwise those numbers would have been much lower) and “Self Made Man”. It should also be noted that the hits for Cameron all occurred after “Self Made Man” starting at 0212.

One last look at the colored squares: the main characters who were featured in an episode less than one of the supporting characters (this also includes the reds where this applies):

Season 1:

  • Sarah: 0 (0%)
  • John: 2 (22%)
  • Cameron: 0 (0%)

Season 2:

  • Sarah: 3 (15%)
  • John: 8 (40%)
  • Cameron: 10 (46%)

Once again, John and Cameron take the hits. Though they both have an equal total, Cameron has come out on the bottom end of the stick by a significant margin.

Now let’s take a look at a comparison of the main characters with the recurring characters. This will take two charts to cover which group Derek is counted in:

ttscc-tally-02b-1092

There are two interesting trends to note. First, it’s that the recurring characters have a slight upward trend in the second season which is combined with a decline of appearances for the main characters. In fact, if we include Derek as a recurring character, then the primary 3 characters are having trouble getting more scenes than the supporting cast. The second big trend is that the overall number of character appearances per episode drops conspicuously around the time of “Complications” 0209 and never recovers. It seems that the conclusion of the Cromartie storyline had a significant effect in character appearances.

What can we make of all of this data? First, it’s very clear that Sarah Connor is the main character. There isn’t even a close second. John and Cameron are about even for the next tier, though John has historically faired ever-so-slightly worse. Both John and Cameron take a slightly bigger hit than Sarah from appearances by the other characters.

Derek has been a tough character to gauge in this series. He isn’t featured as much as the mains, but gets only a little less scene time overall as John and Cameron.(The reason I didn’t include 4 mains is that Derek’s appearances are spotty…but when he does appear, he tends to get used. But, when he isn’t needed, he is simply sacrificed so other characters can have their day; in that sense he takes the hits that don’t quite reach John or Cameron.

When you combine the data with comments that I read on the boards, I’d recommened that the number of scenes per episode not dip below 40, with the ideal being around 43. There need to be more multi-principle scenes. Sarah does well with being in about 42% of the scenes, but more effort needs to be given to have John and Cameron in at least 30% of the scenes (again, more group scenes help this).

Its been interesting to see that the numbers are bearing out what a lot of fans have noticed as trends. Obviously, with many characters meeting their demise at the end of Season 2, some of the ratios are very likely to change in a Season 3.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: