Tragedy and challenges

John Spencer, who plays Leo McGarry on The West Wing, has passed. Only 58, although he always looked older than his age in everything I’ve seen him in (at least, everything since his work on The Patty Duke Show). This is sad, of course, for those who knew him and cared for him.

But this sets me wondering about the practical reality of what’s going on in the West Wing writers’ room the next time they gather. Not that this is a hard death to deal with in context; Leo had a heart attack last year, and while he has been quite involved in the current storylines, it’s as a VP candidate. You write in his death, you say that Santos gets a sympathy boost in the polls, you pick another veep candidate, maybe from the show, maybe someone new.

The real trick is: what if the goal was to have Santos win the election, and use Leo as one of the few characters who bridge to the next season? (That would be the real goal… to jettison most of the long-running characters to reduce production costs, but keep enough to bring the old fans back.) Then, the loss of Leo leaves a real hole in their plans for the future chemistry of the series.

(I maintain my suspicion that they will have the viewers “vote” to chose next season’s president.)

Published in: on December 16, 2005 at 10:16 pm  Comments (2)  

Development developments 2

Word is spreading around the media that a couple of networks are interested in possibly taking over Arrested Development from Fox. Honestly, I cannot imagine why ABC would want this show. Showtime makes a bit more sense, though, since what Showtime’s business model calls for is not shows with huge ratings, but shows with strong addicts. If a million people are willing to pay that monthly subscriber fee to keep seeing Arrested D., then even the high price of making that show would be justified.

Still, this sort of talk happens around many cult-favorite series, and it’s rare that a show will actually get picked up like that. Since the year that ABC showed off by dumping three semi-successful series for other networks to pick up (Wonder Woman, Bionic Woman, and The Tony Randall Show), how many actual network-to-network transitions have there been? Taxi, The Paper Chase, JAG, Buffy, and that’s about it that comes to mind. (I’m not counting network-to-syndication transititions like Charles in Charge and 21 Jump Street.) The Paper Chase is the only one of those that went to cable.

Me, I’m still not convinced that Fox wants to let go; they may want to switch to a short-run season every year, as a prestige piece (and DVD driver). We shall see.

Published in: on December 15, 2005 at 10:45 pm  Comments (2)  

Secretly famous?

I’m not saying that I’m getting older and out of touch, mind you, but when Mrs. Nat’s TV and I pulled up the listing for last night’s Saturday Night Live and saw the guest host (“Dane Cook”) and the musical guest (“James Blunt”), we realized that we had no idea who either of these gentlemen were. We’d never, to the best of our knowledge, heard the names before.

Published in: on December 4, 2005 at 6:05 pm  Comments (4)  

Various minor notes

Reunion has gotten the ax, so either they’re going to rework the mystery to finish it up in the few episodes they ahve remaining, or they will just leave it unsolved. In either case, it’s not as intended… and I suspect that a number of potential viewers didn’t dedicate their time because they knew it might get axed before the end.

And speaking of cancellation, I should note that Arrested Development has not actually officially been cancelled yet. The season has been curtailed… but they did that last season as well (admittedly, less drastically, doing 18 episodes rather than this year’s 13). Odds are it won’t be back, but it would be interesting if Fox kept this alive as a prestige project, 13 episodes or so a year.

Tuning in to Stacked, I saw the last few seconds of That ’70s Show, and Don Knotts was there playing what was obviously supposed to be Mr. Furley, his characters from the later seasons of Three’s Company. What I didn’t see was if they called him “Mr. Furley” and this was a legitimate official crossover, or if it was merely suggested.

Any thought that the death on Las Vegas last week was merely a “blowing away” was scotched quite quickly in this week’s episode… but the odd handling of it generates a very small suspicion that Lara Flynn Boyle didn’t know she was getting killed off; it was the sort of death scene you can shoot without the actor knowing it’s a death scene

I just realized that I forgot to note to the Buffy nuts reading this that Tom Lenk popped up on House last week.

Published in: on December 1, 2005 at 12:53 am  Comments (3)  
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