Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Should Steve Carell Quit The Office?

It must be a quiet week --the entertainment blogs are filled with stories about Steve Carell deciding to leave The Office.
NBC sources are saying there still might be a way to save the series and install a new number one personality. The strangest story so far has Ricky Gervais jumping in as a wholly new character.
remember he originally created The Office for British TV and then sold the rights to NBC. But TV's history seems to indicate the otherwise can sometimes happen.
And I remember way back...
When Shelley Long packed it in on Cheers in 1987 she'd already enjoyed five big seasons at the top.
TV columns were filled with dire predictions but Cheers not only survived it thrived with a new leading lady in Kirstie Alley and lasted another six seasons at the top.
Not much was heard from Shelley Long, however, she bombed out in several short lived TV series and some dreadful movies.
Much the same thing happened several times on M*A*S*H.
McLean Stevenson departed the show in 1975 after three seasons on top but failed to find sitcom fame of his own on several dreadful shows.
Also departing that year was Wayne Rogers who never again found TV sitcom fame despite repeated efforts.
M*A*S*H recast Stevenson with Harry Morgan and Rogers was replaced as sidekick with Mike Farrell and the newcomers lasted an additional eight years.
But when star Alan Alda decided he'd had enough in 1983 and quit CBS attempted to keep the concept going with something called AfterMASH.
I remember being on the set and telling creator Larry Gelbart that it might not go because viewers would be forever looking at the door, hoping to see Alda saunter in. And I was right.
Sometimes series try to go on after the star has left. When Michael J. Fox exited Sin City in 2001 (and 103 episodes) Charlie Sheen was plopped in but the series never really got its momentum back.
With Chico And The Man Freddie Prinze's suicide in 1977 should have ended the show. But NBC persevered and wiseacres were saying it would be retitled And The Man.
However a new Chico was added in the person of a cute 12-year old runaway(played by Gabriel Melgar). But viewers didn't buy it.
Another time I was on the set of a TV movie shooting in Toronto and star Valerie Harper said she wasn't going back to the shoe named after her for various reasons.
That was in the summer of 1987 but Harper did return --for one more episode before deciding she couldn't take it any more (she felt the kids on the series starting with Jason Bateman were being showcased at her expense).
NBC renamed the series Valerie's Family and killed off her character bringing in Sandy Duncan for a rocky four-years that saw the series never quite regain its steam.
In a bizarre note CBS then signed Harper for another sitcom called The City.
It even ran in the same timeslot (Mondays at 8:30) against Valerie's Family (subsequently renamed The Hogan Family).
Danny Ponce had played one of Valerie's kids on Valerie but on The City his sister LuAnne Ponce played Valerie's new daughter. Confusing, what?
Some departures are all for the better.
When George Clooney left ER for movies there was the predictable chatter about it ruining the show. Instead it thrived by changing cast members almost annually.
But CSI nosedived in the ratings when Bill Peterson handed in his notice and is only now beginning to pick up steam again.
My prediction about The Office: Carell is so integral to the series I'm hoping NBC will let this one die with some dignity.

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