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When Characters Bid Adieu

Dave Randall

Posted on August 11, 2018 14:58

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There's a long history of writing characters off TV Series. The latest will be interesting, but far from the first.

On Tuesday, October 16, The Conners will make it's debut on ABC, and the world is begging to know the answer to the summer's tingling question: how will the series dispose of Roseanne Barr's character? Interesting enough, for a trending summer topic. Roseanne went from rebooted, Number One phenomenon, to cancelled with one racist tweet -- then resurrected without its troubled star. Odd, but par for TV strangeness.

The curiosity here is how writers will handle it. It's a little different from the shocking surprises that riddle the medium's past. We know Roseanne is gone. There are any number of character departures that have stunned viewers over the decades. Three come mind immediately; a few series plot turns that you may have forgotten:

1) MASH - Colonel Blake heads home, May 1975

McLean Stevenson wanted to headline his own sitcom, and announced he was leaving the CBS series at the end of it's third season. Writer Larry Gelbart gave his character a tearful, good-vibe final farewell. Gary Burghoff's Radar then broke the news to the wise-cracking MASH-unit surgeons that Blake's plane crashed with no survivors, a gobsmacking finish, especially for a comedy-drama, even though it was about war. The irony was that Stevenson's future efforts, his reason for leaving, were failures.

2) L.A. Law - Rosalind takes the elevator, May 1991

Diana Muldaur played Rosalind Shays, a shark of a lawyer, scheming and tough as nails, having a surprise affair with the law firms senior partner. The actress later said her character's breath-taking demise was a shock to her, too, and joked that maybe she'd asked for too much money. In the that episode's final scene, Rosalind made a snide comment, and stepped into an elevator shaft and plummeted to her death. Shocking is not an adequate word. Original comes to mind.

3) As the World Turns - Jeff Baker's car crash, August 1962

This one is least remembered today, but was shattering at the time. It was one of the first and most dramatic instances of a program writing off a character because the actor was posing a problem for them. As the World Turns had been on the air since 1956, and had risen to the top of the daytime Nielsen ratings. Actor Mark Rydell had played Jeff Baker for six years. Jeff and Penny Hughes (Rosemary Prinz) were daytime's most popular couple. To put the ratings into perspective, remember there were only three networks, and most of the viewing markets in the country had few independent stations. This soap's numbers were huge. Rydell would be sometimes be gone for weeks playing summer stock, and yearned to go to Hollywood. Producers also thought Jeff and Penny had become stale, despite their popularity. So on Friday afternoon, August 24, 1962, the live episode ended with a car crash that took Jeff's life and left Penny in a coma. It so shocking it was talked about for months and noted by Time Magazine as one of TV's most devastating moments.

Dave Randall

Posted on August 11, 2018 14:58

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Source: The Wrap

ABC has officially ordered a spinoff of “Roseanne” after canceling the sitcom last month, but fans aren’t quite sure whether...

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