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Topic: MANNIX and "Changing Artists" Post ReplyPost New Topic
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Eric Jansen
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Posted: 03 July 2018 at 11:04pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

I've mused about this before, but a couple of recent (to me) events have really brought it to mind again.

A little before my time, I've been enjoying watching MANNIX for the first time late night on MeTV and they just switched over, after playing the final episode last week, they just started playing the series again from the very beginning, with the first episode from 1967.  The first season is totally different than the last season, with the former definitely a 60's show and all the 70's episodes definitely children of the 70's.

The 1967 Joe Mannix has a very neat close-cut haircut, wears trim-fitting suits, drives a convertible, and works for a big detective agency that has a heavy reliance on its giant computers and with Joseph Campanella as his boss (who gets irked at Mannix's "old-fashioned" maverick ways).  The 70's Mannix, on the other hand, works for himself, has bushy hair, wears sports coats, and his almost co-star is African-American Peggy, his equal as a person, and often social issues of the day pop up in the stories.  Not only was there a shift in premise, but there was also a shift in the look and feel of the series after that initial 1967 season.  And the show lasted eight years.  (Not sure if the "square peg detective in the round hole high tech agency" premise would have lasted half that long.)

Likewise, I remember there was a shift in look and feel between the first and second seasons of LOST IN SPACE and probably a few other shows that retooled after their first season.

In comics, if a comic isn't quite working (or if it's just time for an artist and/or writer to move on), it's quite common for a new creative team to come in and totally change the look, feel, and sometimes premise or main thrust of the series.  But this is definitely less common on TV.

The TV show SCORPION just got cancelled.  I did enjoy the show, but it could get predictable and was perhaps a bit too silly/goofy/lighthearted/dumb sometimes.  I have to wonder--if the show wasn't quite working and was about to be cancelled, why not try giving it a "new look" first?  If SCORPION was sort of a "Mark Bagley look" show that wasn't working and MIAMI VICE was sort of a "Marshall Rogers look" or "Paul Gulacy look" kind of show, why couldn't SCORPION be shifted and try the Rogers or Gulacy approach for one season?

AGENTS OF SHIELD shifted a bit more in story and look the last couple of seasons, and improved greatly.  There was a WAR OF THE WORLDS show years ago that shifted the other way--I liked the first season and original premise, then it got weird and almost unwatchable after that.

So, my questions to you are:
1. Any other TV examples of obvious shifts in quality, tone, feel, look?
2. Any insight as to why more failing shows don't do this?
3. Any other shows (past or present) that you'd like to see get a new "artist"?
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 03 July 2018 at 11:26pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Iíd argue against AGENTS OF SHIELD being an example of what you are talking about. While the show most definitely improved, at no point did it ever feel retooled or had a shift in tone. It just recognized what worked and what didnít, as a lot of shows do.


 QUOTE:
Any insight as to why more failing shows don't do this?

Because itís mostly a horrible idea? Why throw good money after bad when there are dozens of pilots to replace it? It only really makes sense for the sake of ďtalent relationsĒ or if a show is still trying to find its voice in the first season and the audiences respond to something in particular. As for a long-running show, I think alienating remaining or former fans is the wrong way to go. Why damage your showís legacy by throwing up something completely different that might not work. Thatís what spinoffs are for. (Like Season 9 of SCRUBS should have been.)


 QUOTE:
Any other shows (past or present) that you'd like to see get a new "artist"?

Nope. 


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Jim Muir
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Posted: 04 July 2018 at 2:09am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

This is a really bad example, but here goes:

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century - season two abandons the
whole premise in favor of a Battlestar Galactica ripoff.

Also what about UK comedy Blackadder?
Season 2 onwards (due to the partnership of Ben Elton and
Richard Curtis) is lightyears ahead in quality, tone and
look/feel of the first series.
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Andrew Saxon
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Posted: 04 July 2018 at 3:18am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Burke's Law reinvented itself as Amos Burke Secret Agent to cash in on the spy craze of the 1960s. It was a bad decision as the revamped show was cancelled after 17 broadcast episodes.
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Eric Jansen
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Posted: 04 July 2018 at 4:16am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

Because itís mostly a horrible idea? Why throw good money after bad when there are dozens of pilots to replace it?
________________

Well, obviously I disagree.  I'd like to see more good shows with good premises last longer and not be cancelled just because the producers initially chose the wrong approach.

Shows like CHEERS, NYPD BLUE, and VALERIE'S FAMILY retooled the premise when they lost their stars or co-stars and went on to thrive.  I would say that's a bigger deal than what I'm suggesting--basically changing the cinematographer and maybe hiring better writers and directors.  (SCORPION could have used better stories than just "The team is hired to fix a problem, the team makes the problem worse, then the team fixes the original problem and their own mess up" every single week.)

One good answer to my original question is the Ron Perlman/Linda Hamilton BEAUTY AND THE BEAST TV show.  They lost Hamilton when she got pregnant (in real life) and so they wrote her out and revamped for the third season.  The storyline got darker and more complex and the visuals got more cinematic.  If my memory serves (and if I can translate mediums properly), the look/feel went from maybe a Don Newton visual (still good) to more of a Bill Sienkiewicz (darker and scarier) approach.  The show still failed, but I attribute that to losing their star; at least the new tone kept my interest.

Some more examples along the lines of what I'm talking about: I believe MIAMI VICE went brighter colors and different music for their second season, and lost all the momentum the first great season gave them.  MILLENNIUM went from a confusingly written Dave McKean/Jock/Gaydos look in the first season to a more enjoyable and understandable Marv Wolfman/John Buscema/Tom Palmer type second season.

DR. WHO and STAR TREK are good examples of shows that went from more straightforward original versions (Dave Cockrum or Gray Morrow types) to new versions that were slicker and more sci fi-ish (like James Sherman or Paul Smith).


Edited by Eric Jansen on 04 July 2018 at 4:18am
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David Allen Perrin
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Posted: 04 July 2018 at 4:45am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

Lost In Space did a big tonal flip.

Fairly straight forward sci-fi early on......right into colorful, silly camp led by Dr. Smithís cowardly antics in the end.
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 04 July 2018 at 5:09am | IP Logged | 7 post reply


 QUOTE:
Well, obviously I disagree.  I'd like to see more good shows with good premises last longer and not be cancelled just because the producers initially chose the wrong approach.

See, this argument makes no sense to me. If the producers initially chose the wrong approach, how do you know itís a good show? There are some good shows that donít catch on, and as a fan of a lot of those, Iíd rather not see what I like about it changed just so that it can remain on the air.

There are shows that donít find their voice initially, but naturally discover what is working. HAPPY DAYS and FAMILY MATTERS shifted toward the Fonz and Urkel after the characters became popular. This is different from HAPPY DAYS trying to center itself around Ted McGinley after Ron Howard left or LAVERNE & SHIRLEY without Shirley.


 QUOTE:
Shows like CHEERS, NYPD BLUE, and VALERIE'S FAMILY retooled the premise when they lost their stars or co-stars and went on to thrive.

CHEERS had a retooled premise? Snobby Diane was replaced with neurotic Rebecca, but it was still the familiar love-hate relationship with Sam.
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Eric Jansen
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Posted: 04 July 2018 at 3:44pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

See, this argument makes no sense to me. If the producers initially chose the wrong approach, how do you know itís a good show? There are some good shows that donít catch on, and as a fan of a lot of those, Iíd rather not see what I like about it changed just so that it can remain on the air.
__________________________

Comic books do it all the time.  Why are TV shows some sort of "sacrosanct"?  Even movie franchises do it now.  Can you imagine if they just cancelled SUPERMAN once Siegel and Shuster left?  We'd never have the Curt Swan years, John Byrne's, or a thousand other issues.  What if they stopped the BATMAN movies after the Joel Schumaker era?  If something's goofy and stupid--but has a GOOD PREMISE--why can't we switch gears and do something darker, more dramatic, and smarter like the Christopher Nolan DARK KNIGHT movies.

My first example, SCORPION, had a good premise but was getting caught in a dumb pattern and got cancelled before it could reach that magic 100-episode mark that (I think) is still preferable for syndication.  So, why not try a Michael Mann or Bryan Fuller approach for a season and see if you can extend the life of a good premise?
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Ed Aycock
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Posted: 05 July 2018 at 2:31pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

A DIFFERENT WORLD- a bland college sitcom vehicle for Denise Huxtable loses Denise (and Marisa Tomei) after Season One and becomes a socially aware, vibrant look at life at an historically black college.  It became so much better after that first season and the addition of characters like Kim and Freddy and the elevation of Whitley and Dwayne from cartoons to three-dimensional characters helped.
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 05 July 2018 at 3:59pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

The syndicated comedy-adventure series SHE-SPIES went from knowing and intelligent meta-humor to dour militaristic action in its second season.

David E. Kelley's PICKET FENCES was taken over by producer Jeff Melvoin and turned from a sharp, edgy examination of current events into a schmaltz-fest of sappy sentiment and soggy stupidity. Only when Kelley came back for a couple of episodes (one in which deputy Max admits she's sexually turned-on by the Pope) did the show regain any credibility as a piece of writing. 

Kelley's CHICAGO HOPE also lost its way following the departures of Mandy Patinkin and Kelley. It became a directionless gabfest in which the characters sought to find themselves and express their desires through a series of increasingly bizarre career changes. Kelley returned with a slashed budget and the season opener featuring a hilarious "Previously on..." segment that ably and succinctly mocked the efforts of his replacements, ("Kate, you can't become an astronaut AND continue as Chief of Thoracic Surgery!" "Why can't I do both??"; "Aaron, you want to add becoming a psychologist to your workload as Head of Neurology?" "Why can't I do both??") and then he brought Patinkin back to literally fire most of the cast; a triumphant moment for quality TV and a knee-slapper of a scene as well. 

SPACE: 1999 went from some engaging and thoughtful attempts at genuine science fiction in season one to "Monster-of-the-Week" in season two, even if they had to shoehorn in Maya, the shape-changer, to get that monster onscreen for some portion of the show's runtime. Of course, the producer in charge of the decline was Fred Frieberger, the same man who oversaw what he called Gene Roddenberry's "Tits In Space" show to its humiliating end. 

HEAD OF THE CLASS became a very different show under Billy Connelly than it had been with the surprisingly boring Howard Hesseman as the teacher. 

I don't know that retooling a program after its initial failure should be a go-to move in the network playbook. Viewers aren't likely to "find" the show all over again, especially if they've already decided against it based on earlier viewings, and you need to actually have an idea of how to change things for the better. Absent an actual creative vision as to how things could be improved, you're simply rearranging the deck chairs while "Nearer My God to Thee" plays in the background.

It should also be noted that many shows do in fact try to update and alter elements of their premise as time goes by in an effort to retain and rejuvenate viewer interest. It would be harder to compile a list of shows that remained successful over the years and DIDN'T change than to do the reverse. One can't say the networks don't try to keep things fresh. 

As for shows that I wish had tried something new before throwing in the towel, I have to admit my alternate-Earth loving self would like to have seen that Lawrence Montaigne season 4 of Star Trek, especially if Roddenberry could have been talked into coming back, or failing that, Gene Coon. It would have messed up everything, I'm certain, but I'd still like to know how it would have turned out for its own sake. 

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Eric Jansen
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Posted: 06 July 2018 at 12:12am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

I guess the answer to my own question as to why more shows don't shift gears/tones/looks when a show needs a shot in the creative arm is probably that TV shows are more like creator-owned comics than the connected universes of DC or Marve where periodic writer/artist shifts are necessary to keep books and characters alive for the long run.

A TV producer has that iron grip on his show and a tonal shift would require him stepping aside and letting someone else run with his baby.  Creator-owned comics have done this--I remember AMERICAN FLAGG, DREADSTAR, and JON SABLE, FREELANCE all continuing without their creator ("producers") and those shifts are almost always critical and financial failures.

When TV networks own a show--like THE TONIGHT SHOW or the various soap operas--they think more in terms of decades and those shows might indeed be given over to totally different showrunners every ten years or so, resulting in a different look and feel.  But for the shows that they buy (or license) and that are only expected to last six or ten years at most, I guess they're just satisfied with letting the producers do whatever they want and if it doesn't work after three years, it doesn't hurt them to throw it out and buy a new one.


Edited by Eric Jansen on 06 July 2018 at 12:14am
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