This seems to some kind of rule in TV-Writing 101: Need to demonstrate that a character is obsessive, uptight, fond of routine, and a bit of a perfectionist? Make them preoccupied with cleaning! No, like really preoccupied with cleaning. They don’t just keep their bookshelves organised or pay their bills on time – their sock drawers are colour-coded and their breakfast cereals are arranged by fibre content. And as an added bonus, they lose the plot whenever something deviates from their usual precisely timed schedule. Yeah, you know the (stereo)type. It’s one that’s probably cropped up in a few of your favourite shows. Check it:
Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory) Sheldon is perhaps the most current example of this phenomenon – although his obsessive tendencies are more geared towards…well, everything rather than merely keeping things clean, often to the detriment of his long-suffering friends, though any disorder he might have that prompts this behaviour remains canonically ambiguous. That said, his clothes, comic book collection and cereals are all relentlessly organised and carefully maintained, so ask yourself: if you had to choose, would you rather live with an utter slob or someone who’ll regularly disinfect the bathroom? Exactly.
Bree Van der Kamp (Desperate Housewives) Remember Desperate Housewives? Remember how it was super big and everyone was watching it, even the people who were embarrassed by the show title, but after a couple of seasons it more or less disappeared from the collective consciousness? Then you may remember flame-haired Bree Van der Kamp, the most Stepford-esque of all the housewives by far. Too bad her immaculate suburban house couldn’t contain all the drama that brewed within and without. Guess you can have absolutely darling place settings and still not know how to keep your husband from getting killed by a jealous pharmacist.
Monica Geller (Friends) Ah, Monica. Less annoying than Rachel and more…well, normal than Phoebe, not to mention the hopeful image of what awkward teenage girls could grow up to be if they just grew out of their awkward phases and developed those latent model good looks. Not unlike Sheldon, Monica didn’t start off an utter clean freak who couldn’t sleep when she left a pair of shoes in the living room…but turned into one over the course of the show, with different writers playing up her neatness to increasing caricature-like effect.
Emma Pillsbury (Glee) The doe-eyed guidance counsellor who made having OCD look adorable – just look at the way she polishes her fruit as lunchtime before she eats it! – at least, that was what she was like before the show completely went to the dogs from the latter half of Series One onward. Emma’s issues veered from charmingly quirky to serious and dramatic depending on whatever preachy moral the show felt like getting on a soapbox about that week. But look at how neat her flat is!
Danny Tanner (Full House) This one is particularly ironic when you consider how the saccharine main character of the show was played by Bob Saget – whose filthy stand-up comedy could only be matched by Danny’s suburban dad obsession with cleanliness and order in a house that eventually grew to contain ten people and a dog. But the house contained ten people and a dog! Can you blame someone for wanting to break out the carpet cleaner every now and then?
Recall any more intensely neat characters from your favourite TV shows? Talk about them in the comments!