Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Where There's a Series Kill, There's Dismay

Lee Goldberg notes that Jason Gedrick and Eric Balfour are Show Killers.

Why are Show Killers given so many chances despite having resumes littered with discarded TV series? I think we just notice these Show Killers because their careers start with consecutive failures and because their setbacks are widely publicized in today's information age.

Did you know that Robert Urich killed nine short-lived series, including ''It Had to Be You'' and ''Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice''? I don't think anybody would call him a Show Killer since most of his disappointments occurred after some early success.

Past success obviously does not guarantee series longevity in the future. Why should past failure be used as a measure of future success in such a fickle business where a hit series requires a rare combination of suitable performers, story telling, network backing and an accepting audience?

Jason Gedrick and Paula Marshall are usually tapped as two of the leading Show Killers. Who are the others?

First, I should define a Series Kill.
  • The series must air fewer than 30 new eps on US primetime network TV — the count does not include repeat showings. Busted and unsold pilots are excluded.
  • The performer must be a supporting or lead actor in the TV series — guest appearances and occassional recurring roles are excluded.
With these criteria I can easily query the trivialTV database to count Show Kills and then identify Show Killers.

Who really are the All-Time Show Killers? These performers started their careers with the most consecutive Series Kills:
  • 8 kills: Joe Morton
    • ''Grady '' (NBC, 1975; 9 eps aired)
    • ''Equal Justice'' (ABC, 1990; 26)
    • ''Tribeca'' (Fox, 1993; 7)
    • ''Under One Roof'' (CBS, 1995; 6)
    • ''New York News'' (CBS, 1995; 8)
    • ''Prince Street'' (NBC, 1997; 2)
    • ''Mercy Point'' (UPN, 1998; 7)
    • ''E-Ring'' (NBC, 2005; 14)
    • No lead or supporting role in a breakout hit.

  • 8 kills: Todd Susman
    • ''The Bob Crane Show'' (NBC, 1975; 14 eps aired)
    • ''Spencer's Pilots'' (CBS, 1976; 7)
    • ''Number 96'' (NBC, 1980; 6)
    • ''Star of the Family'' (ABC, 1982; 13)
    • ''Goodnight, Beantown'' (CBS, 1983; 18)
    • ''Have Faith'' (ABC, 1989; 7)
    • ''The City'' (CBS, 1990; 13)
    • ''Scorch'' (CBS, 1992; 3)
    • No lead or supporting role in a breakout hit, although Susman had a recurring role on ''Newhart'' as Officer Shifflett (1984-1989).

  • 7 kills: Joanna Cassidy
    • ''Roller Girls'' (NBC, 1978; 3 eps aired)
    • ''240-Robert'' (ABC, 1979; 16)
    • ''The Family Tree'' (NBC, 1983; 6)
    • ''Buffalo Bill'' (NBC, 1983; 25)
    • ''Code Name: Foxfire'' (NBC, 1985; 8)
    • ''Dudley'' (CBS, 1993; 5)
    • ''Hotel Malibu'' (CBS, 1994; 6)
    • No lead or supporting role in a breakout hit.

  • 7 kills: Paula Marshall
    • ''Wild Oats'' (Fox, 1994; 4 eps aired)
    • ''Chicago Sons'' (NBC, 1997; 10)
    • ''Cupid'' (ABC, 1998; 14)
    • ''Snoops'' (ABC, 1999; 10)
    • ''Cursed'' (NBC 2000; 15)
    • ''Hidden Hills'' (NBC, 2002; 13)
    • ''Out of Practice'' (CBS, 2005; 14)
    • No lead or supporting role in a breakout hit.

  • 7 kills: Jon Tenney
    • ''The Dirty Dozen: The Series'' (Fox, 1988; 9 eps aired)
    • ''Equal Justice'' (ABC, 1990; 27)
    • ''Crime & Punishment'' (NBC, 1993; 6)
    • ''Good Company'' (CBS, 1996; 6)
    • ''Brooklyn South'' (CBS, 1997; 22)
    • ''Get Real'' (Fox, 1999; 20)
    • ''Kristin'' (NBC, 2001; 6)
    • No lead or supporting role in a breakout hit.

  • 7 kills: Hector Elizondo
    • ''Popi'' (CBS, 1976; 10 eps aired)
    • ''Freebie and the Bean'' (CBS, 1980; 7)
    • ''Blaine'' (NBC, 1983; 5)
    • ''a.k.a. Pablo'' (ABC, 1984; 6)
    • ''Foley Square'' (CBS, 1986; 14)
    • ''Down and Out in Beverly Hills'' (Fox, 1987; 8)
    • ''Fish Police'' (CBS, 1992; 3)
    • ''Chicago Hope'' (CBS, 1994; 141): breakout hit
    • ''Kate Brasher'' (CBS, 2001; 6)
    • ''The Dating Experiment'' (ABC, 2003; 4)
    • ''Century City'' (CBS, 2004; 4)

Elizondo leads all performers with ten career Series Kills. Urich is a close second place with nine Kills.

And what about Jason Gedrick? You can read Alan Sepinwall's analysis of Gedrick's career. The sticking point is ''Murder One.'' Should we count all eps even though he left after one season? Should I increase the number of eps in the definition of a Series Kill?
  • Jason Gedrick
    • ''Class of '96'' (Fox, 1993; 17 eps aired)
    • ''Sweet Justice'' (NBC, 1994; 22)
    • ''Murder One'' (ABC, 1995; 36)
    • ''EZ Streets'' (CBS, 1996; 8)
    • ''The Beast'' (ABC, 2001; 5)
    • ''Falcone'' (CBS, 2000; 9)
    • ''Boomtown'' (NBC, 2002; 24)
    • ''Windfall'' is currently being shown on NBC.
I've chosen to remove him from the list of Show Killers based on the relative longevity of ''Murder One.'' You may disagree.

And Eric Balfour? That dog must still hunt. He only has five Series Kills to start his young career.


Guyot said...

I actually think 'shot but not picked up' pilots do count... because the same names lead this category.

I know of at least 3 pilots Miss Marshall starred in that never even made it to air.

When you add these to the shows that aired, it tells me that these people are getting more chances than Steve Howe did.

dr. tv (mike vicic) said...

i think everyone might define a Show Kill a little differently, and no definition is more correct than any another.

my definition is a bit self-serving. i have not yet entered all busted pilots and their casts into my database.

Joshua James said...

Clooney had a quite a few kills before ER, didn't he? Including a sitcom starring Eliot Gould also titled E/R -

guyot, how are ya doing? Miss your bog, man -

Lee Goldberg said...

What about Steven Eckholdt...surely he has at least seven flops to his credit (not counting his unsold pilots).

dr. tv (mike vicic) said...

i think clooney had more failed pilots than short-lived series, and, of course, he's infamous for ''Sunset Beat.'' i show these clooney series kills before ''ER.''

- ''E/R'' (CBS, 1984; 22)
- ''Sunset Beat'' (ABC, 1990; 2)
- ''Bodies of Evidence'' (CBS, 1992; 16)

And he snuck in the first season of ''Baby Talk'' (ABC, 1991; 35). i'll leave it up to you (as with gedrick) whether to count such series as series kills.

Joshua James said...

Jon Tenny is doing well with CLOSER, now in its second season - just caught the premiere last night, it's kicking butt.

I got the Clooney list from a mag profile on him awhile back, he was interviewed and said he'd done like ten or twelve pilots, something like that.

dr. tv (mike vicic) said...

hi lee,

i show Eckholdt having a robust six series kills:
- ''WIOU'' (CBS, 1990; 13)
- ''Grapevine'' (CBS, 1992; 6)
- ''The Monroes'' (ABC, 1995; 5)
- ''It's Like You Know'' (ABC, 1999; 19)
- ''Grapevine'' (CBS, 2000; 5)
- ''My Big Fat Greek Life'' (CBS, 2003; 7)

do you know of other shows? there is a pretty long list of performers with six series kills. too long for me to verify my initial research and post.

Lee Goldberg said...

I think Eckholdt was also in THAT'S LIFE and recurred on lots of series, like HALF AND HALF and LIFE GOES ON, not to mention a bunch of busted pilots.

dr. tv (mike vicic) said...

re: Eckholdt

his name brings up the always tricky question of guest vs. regular performer. he did appear in three early eps of ''That's Life'' (CBS, 2000; 32 eps aired) as a guest. personally, i think it's hard to justify a series kill based on a single (or small number) of guest appearances.

my narrow definition is also self-serving since i don't have guest appearances in my database -- at this point i can only run automated queries for lead and supporting performers on primetime network series.