Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sitcom casting changes:a sign of good times ahead or the end of happy days?

It is official,folks-Steve Carell is making the next season of The Office his last one on the show. While he will be missed,this may be a good move for the sitcom,due to many of it's current and former fans bemoaning the level of humor going down over time.

Casting changes on TV series are nothing new,yet when it comes to sitcoms,this can be a serious kiss of death for the show. Sometimes,the aftereffects can take awhile to settle in and completely kill off what viewers loved about the series in the first place,as with Designing Women.

With the double departure of Delta Burke and Jean Smart by season six and their subsequent replacement by Julia Duffy and Jan Hooks,the ratings were still good but the critical and fan response was not.

Julia Duffy wound up leaving at the end of that season due to her character's unpopularity and when Anne Potts packed up and left in season seven,no one bothered to replace her. Even in reruns,most fans prefer the earlier seasons to the latter which is a recurring theme with many classic TV comedies.

Let's take a look at a few other TV comedy casting hijinks that have,for better or for worse,made a major impact for those characters above and beyond their original supporting player status.

One of the strangest cases was the role of oldest daughter Becky on Roseanne;Lecy Gorenson originated the part but when the actress went to Vassar college in the fifth season,she was replaced by Sarah Chalke(best known for her work on Scrubs these days)for the start of the sixth season. Gorenson came back by the eighth year of the show but Chalke finished the series as Becky. To the show's credit,the change in Beckys was always acknowledged with a wink and a nod at different points,including some very TV savvy parody moments:

When Shelley Long left her role as pretentiously charming barmaid Diane in Cheers,it was considered a awful career move for her and the series,which lasted a few more seasons with Kristie Alley taking over the leading lady reins. That didn't keep Long from ever hooking up with her former friends from the place where everybody knows your name professionally.

Long did a guest spot on the successful spin-off from Cheers,Frasier,as Diane,who visited her former fiance in Seattle and managed to get him to provide funding for her play. Her theatrical piece turned out to be very inspired by their past mutual connection in Boston and caused the cool headed doctor to put on quite the performance himself:

One of the most talked about casting departures was Suzanne Somers' from Three's Company back in 1980,due to her asking for more money. Sadly,the days of female actresses being taken off their shows by daring to demand a better financial shake are still with us.

Somers was replaced at first by Jenilee Harrison and later by Priscilla Barnes,proving that bubbly blonde persona was not as disposable as the network seemed to think it was at the time. While she was never quite able to regain her previous level of fame,Somers will forever be considered a TV icon as Chrissy Snow to future generations of funny women:

Granted,Mystery Science Theater 3000 wasn't a sitcom but many of the faithful followers of that movie mockery series did go into mourning when host and show creator Joel Hodgson left the Satellite of Love(along with Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank) and turned the helm over to Mike Nelson,who completed MST3K's eleven year run.

While some may debate over which years were better,Joel or Mike,the sci-fi satire kept up it's high level of humor and ended rather well,not something that many other shows can say about themselves. An amusing face to face between the SOL hosts took place during the final season,as a welcome relief from watching Soultaker,and even another old fiendish friend dropped in for the raucous reunion:

How things will turn out for The Office after Carell takes his leave is as murky as the answer from a Magic 8 Ball,yet hope for a brighter and funnier future is not totally off base. The remaining set of players are talented folk able to reform an entertaining new dynamic that can revive the flagging spirits of the series and give us a plethora of fresh new punchlines and silly subplots to enjoy a few seasons more.

Having cast changes to deal can make a show stronger or weaker depending on the people both in front and behind the scenes who want to make it work. So,look on the bright side,folks-at least no one is planning on doing a doppelganger number here,which could be funny at first but turn real freaky as time goes on:

No comments: