Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sweeps Ain't Over 'til the Fat Lady Gives Birth

Births. Deaths. Weddings. All gimmicks to attract more viewers.

What can we expect over the next four weeks or so? A few weddings on "Desperate Housewives." A few babies (twins) on "Brothers & Sisters" and one more newborn on "Notes from the Underbelly." And your TV may even emit cadaverine with so many deaths planned.

But one of these events isn't enough for a single show anymore. Hasn't been for a while.

Double weddings date back at least to 19 September 1979 when Janet MacArthur & David Bradford and Susan Bradford & Merle Stockwell all exchanged vows on "Eight Is Enough." This practice probably goes back much further, especially on daytime soaps. Dual vows were everwhere in the '90s. "Empty Nest" (4/29/1995). "Picket Fences" (4/24/1996). "Just Shoot Me" (5/25/1999)

Two deaths. Too much? Hardly. Especially for a series finale — just think "Alias." Or the "Desperate Housewives" sweeps-stunt supermarket shootout on 5 November 2006. And "Grey's Anatomy" put its own take on the dual-death ep when Denny Duquette and Doc (the dog) both died last May. And "Lost" just seems to kill people off in pairs these days.

Can't picture a wedding and death in the same ep? Especially if one of the newlyweds passes on? Maybe you forgot about the two-hour opener for the 14th and final season of "Bonanza." Way back on 12 September 1972 Alice Harper married Joe Cartwright and then she tragically died before the night was over. For you late thirtysomethings, think about Cecil Colby's death on "Dynasty" after he married Alexis on 20 October 1982.

Having a birth and a wedding in the same episode is just too easy. Just have an expectant mother plan her wedding anywhere close to her due date, and you're bound to get two life-changing events on the same day. Often with comedic consequences, like the series finale of "The Drew Carey Show."

Birth and death. The cycle of life. Makes sense that these events are coupled. Here are some recent examples:
  • "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 12 Feb 2006)
    • born: William George Bailey Jones
    • died: Dylan Young
  • "Lost" (ABC, 6 Apr 2005)
    • born: Aaron Littleton
    • died: Boone Carlisle
  • "Scrubs" (NBC, 5 Apr 2007)
    • born: Jennifer Dylan Cox
    • died: Laverne Roberts
  • "The X-Files" (Fox, 20 May 2001)
    • born: William Scully
    • died: Alex Krycek
I'm waiting for the first show to have a three-in-one. All three events in the same episode. It might even go something like this.
A regular female character plans her wedding for the season finale — a month before her due date — so she can get married, enjoy her honeymoon and then come home and give birth at the beginning of the next season. The finale opens with the joyous wedding ceremony. At the reception, she goes into premature labor and by mid-ep she and her baby are in medical danger. At the 3/4-mark, both mother and child are recovering just fine. Just as the season closes, the mother has complications and dies. That would send the viewer through a rollercoaster of emotions.


RC said...

how funny...i love this post...

so true...

and the "all three scenario" would just be extremely emotionally crazy for one episode...a true shocker no doubt.

dr. tv (mike vicic) said...

thanks! happy to read that you liked it.

i would really love to see the all-three scenario one day. i'm guessing in two years some show will need to really push the envelope as ratings keep declining.

Anonymous said...

Well if you remember that episode of Law and Order where tat lady was kidnapped had the baby and out of no where died... surprising. Just had to add a wedding somewhere.