Friday, October 13, 2017

TV Shows that Continued without the Main Star, Part 4

               While all fans want their main star to continue throughout the entire show, sometimes things just don’t work out.  Thus, the producers are faced with continuing a hit show without the main stars, instead of ending the show.  Here are three more examples of television shows where the main star left.
                For six seasons, Nina Dobrev was the lead on the Vampire Dairies, a series on the CW about teen Elena Gilbert (Dobrev), who lives in a supernatural town, where she is torn between two vampire brothers, Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder), and had best friend witch Bonnie (Kat Graham).  During the sixth season, Dobrev announced she was leaving the show.  Her character, Elena was put under a spell to be in continual sleep, as long as Bonnie was awake.  Damon put her in a coffin, in order to wait for Elena to wake up again, 60 years later.  After Dobrev left, the focus of the show shifted to Stefan and Damon.  When the show was renewed for the eighth season, it was announced as the shows’ last.  Dobrev retuned in the final episode to wrap up her story arc.  The Vampire Diaries went for a total of eight seasons, two without its main star.
                Chad Michael Murray starred as Lucas Scott, one of two half-brothers who starred in the show One Tree Hill.  Lucas and his brother Nathan (James Lafferty) were half-brothers who, at the start, both wanted the same basketball position on their high school team, but slowly grew to bond together.  For the first six seasons, Murray played the lead role of Lucas.  However, contract negotiations fell apart for season seven, and Murray and costar Hilary Burton, who played his newlywed pregnant wife Payton.  Both stars left the show, with their characters riding off into the sunset with their newborn daughter, Sawyer.  The main focus of the show shifted to Nathan and his wife and family in the seventh season.  Like the Vampire Diaries, when the show was renewed for its ninth season, it was announced as the series’ final season.  Chad Michael Murray returned for a guest role in the seventh episode of the ninth season, his final appearance as the character.  One Tree Hill went for a total of nine seasons, three without its main star.
                Ron Howard, now better known as a director, was given the lead role of Richie Cunningham in Happy Days, a wholesome boy who was always trying to pick up girls.  Henry Winkler was introduced in season one as Fonzie and became the series’ breakout star in the second season.  While Ron Howard was still the billed lead, Fonzie was getting the majority of stories and focus.  At the end of the seventh season Ron Howard left Happy Days, and in the following years focused more and more on directing.  The show did not have a story at the end of the seventh season for Richie’s departure, but the beginning of the seventh season the characters were dealing with Richie and Ralph going to the U.S. Army to be stationed in Greenland.  Winkler continued to portray Fonzie for the next four seasons.  Ron Howard would return for three episodes in season eleven, including the filmed series finale (several new episodes, however, were aired after the series finale in the summer).  Happy Days went for a total of eleven seasons, four without its main star. 
                While all of the actors left for various reasons, they all had something in common: they returned during the final season to give their character a proper farewell.  The actors’ return shows that they loved their show and their fans of the show.  While the final season of any show is bittersweet, one thing that makes it better is the main star returning for one final visit, one last hurrah.  

Friday, October 6, 2017

TV Shows that Continued without the Main Star, Part 3

Many times, a show can struggle for one or two more seasons after the main star leaves.  While there are some exceptions (see Part 1 and 2 as examples), other shows just don’t have the same feel or magic as when the main star was leading the cast.  Here are some examples of TV shows canceled after only one or two seasons after the main star left.
                Topher Grace starred as Eric Forman on That 70’s show, as the awkward but lovable main character who along with his friends and girlfriend, grew up in the late 1970s.  However, at the end of season seven, Topher Grace decided to move on from the show.  His character, Eric Forman, decided to take a year-long teaching position in Africa.  At the end of the seventh season, Charlie, played by Brett Harrison, was brought in to take Eric’s place, but then Harrison was offered a role in the TV series Looper and Charlie was killed off in the opening episode.  Thus, Josh Meyers was brought in to play Randy Pearson, an employee at a record store who dates Eric’s ex-girlfriend.  In January of the eighth season, it was announced as the series’ last season.  Topher Grace returned for a cameo in the series finale.  That 70’s Show went for eight total seasons, one without its main star.
                Richard Dean Anderson, for the first seven seasons of Stargate SG-1, played the leader of the SG-1 team, Jack O’Neill.  In the eighth season, Don S. Davis, who played Major Garland Biggs, retired from acting due to ailing health and Anderson’s character was promoted to Brigadier General.  Anderson took the role to lighten the workload so he could spend more time with his daughter.  At the end of the eighth season, Anderson decided to leave Stargate SG-1, only showing up for guest appearances.  His character was promoted to Major General and reassigned to Washington, DC.  Ben Browder was brought in as the new leader of the SG-1 team, Cameron Mitchell, who stayed in that position until the series was canceled in season 10.  The show wrapped up loose storylines with two subsequent TV movies.  Stargate went for ten total seasons, two without its main star.
                The Office, the ensemble American sitcom based on the cult UK show, featured Steve Carrell as Michael Scott, the regional manager of the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin paper company.  At the end of the 7th season, Steve Carrell decided not to renew his contract, deciding to focus on his film career.  His character, Michael Scott, leaves with his fiancĂ©e to Colorado and says goodbye to each of the staff.  Andy Bernard, played by Ed Helms, who was introduced in the third season, stepped into the role as regional manager in the eighth season.  However, ratings slowly fell through the eighth and ninth season, leading to its cancellation.  Like That 70’s Show, Steve Carell returned for a cameo appearance in the series finale.  The Office went for a total of ten seasons, two without its main star. 
                While some shows manage to bounce back, That 70’s Show, Stargate SG-1, and The Office only continued for one or two seasons following the departure of their main stars.  While all there were ensemble series, nevertheless when the main star is no longer leading the series, sometimes some of the original magic is lost.  Viewers may tune out, saying the show has changed, leading to falling ratings which lead to the show’s cancellation.  

Friday, September 29, 2017

TV Shows that Continued without the Main Star, Part 2

               In last week’s post, the three main stars were definitely considered the anchor of the show they had starred in.  However, for many ensemble shows, which feature a cast of six or seven, finding a “main” character falls, typically, to the leader of the group.  But when the “leader” of the group leaves, the dynamic of the group changes forever, as the new leader takes over.  Here are three more examples of a show which continued after the main star left [Spoilers]:
                In 1994, ER premiered on NBC and became of their biggest hits.  The original cast included Anthony Edwards as Dr. Mark Greene, the Chief Resident and later Attending Physician of County General Hospital in Chicago.  He was often seen as mediator and leader within the hospital and was considered the main character of the ensemble for the first eight seasons.  In the eighth season, Anthony Edwards wanted to branch off into directing and decided to leave at the end of the eighth season.  Dr. Mark Green was discovered to have an operable brain tumor and died at the end of season eight.  Noah Wyle, who played John Carter since the beginning of the show, was made the main character and took the position of Attending Physician.  ER’s staying power enabled the ensemble show to undergo many cast changes, lasting a total of fifteen seasons; ending seven seasons after Anthony Edwards left ER.
                C.S.I. Crime Scene Investigation premiered in 2001 and became a huge hit for CBS like ER was for NBC.  William Petersen played the main character for C.S.I., Gil Grissom, a CSI Level III Supervisor, the leader of a Crime Scene Investigation group in Las Vegas.  He played the lead role in the ensemble for the first eight seasons of C.S.I.  In the tenth episode of the ninth season, Peterson left the series to pursue more stage acting opportunities, while his character put off his retirement until a serial killer was brought to justice, but once that was done; he made his goodbyes to all the main characters.  Once he left, Lawrence Fishburne became Raymond Langston, the new lead character at the CSI.  Like ER, CSI’s popularity enabled it to survive Petersen’s departure.  C.S.I. Crime Scene Investigation lasted a total of fifteen seasons, ending six seasons after Peterson left the show. 
                Criminal Minds premiered in 2005 on CBS, one of the many “dark crime shows” to follow in CSI’s footsteps.  In the show, Mandy Patinkin played FBI Senior Supervisory Special Agent Jason Gideon, as part of the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit).  However, at the beginning of the third season, Mandy Patinkin abruptly decided to quit Criminal Minds, leaving in the second episode of the third season in 2007.  Patinkin later stated in 2012 he left because the toll of dealing with stories of women being raped and murdered every episode proved to be too much to handle: “It was very destructive to my soul and my personality” (  His character Jason Gideon leaves after his girlfriend Sarah is murdered and his co-worker Aaron Hotchner is suspended, finding the emotional turmoil too much.  Patinkin was replaced by Joe Mantegna, who played David Rossi, whose character returned to the FBI after being semi-retired.  Criminal Minds is starting its thirteenth season in the Fall of 2017, ten total seasons after Patinkin left at the beginning of the third season.
                While Anthony Edwards and William Peterson had long established runs as the leader, nevertheless the show was able to survive, thanks to Noah Wyle being promoted and Lawrence Fishburne cast in both respective shows.  Mandy Patinkin left after only two full seasons and two episodes in the third season, but Joe Mantegna was able to fill in the lead role and has been there ever since.  While the leader of the ensemble is important, each of these shows weathered the cast change of the main star and went on for several more seasons, continuing to entertain fans of the show.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

TV Shows that Continued without the Main Star, Part 1

TV Shows that Continued without the Main Star, Part 1
                While many TV series have an element of ensemble element to them, at the same time, a selling point of a particular series is the main star.   NCIS and Grey’s Anatomy, two currently running shows, would feel very different without Mark Harmon or Ellen Pompeo in the main character role.  However, some series have gone on without the series main star, as producers are so convinced they have a hit show it can survive without the main character at the helm.  Here are some examples of those TV series.
                The Waltons, for the first five seasons, was a show about a family living during the depression on a property in Virginia.  John Boy, played by Richard Thomas, was the main character, who was an aspiring writer talking about his life growing up with his family (Earl Hamner, the creator of the Waltons, provided the narration in the series as an older John-Boy looking back).  While there had been stories about all the family members, it was anchored by John Boy’s presence and the older character’s narration.  In 1977, Richard Thomas chose to leave The Walton’s, for no other reason except that he felt it was time to move on.  Since the show was an ensemble, the focus shifted to stories about the parents and the other children.  Richard Thomas returned to reprise his role for a double-length episode and a regular episode following that one in the sixth season but didn’t return for the rest of the series’ run.  Eventually, in the shows’ eighth and ninth (also final) seasons, John Boy was recast with Robert Wightman playing the role of John Boy.  The Waltons had four total seasons without its main star Richard Thomas. 
                Valerie Harper, the actress best known at the time as Rhonda from Mary Tyler Moore show and the spin-off Rhonda, was given her own show in 1986, called Valerie.  In it, Valerie played a working mom with a 16-year old boy (Jason Bateman) and twin 12-year old boys (Danny Ponce and Jeremy Licht).  The show had a 10 episode first season and a regular 22 episode second season.  At the end of the second season, the show had become a hit, and Harper and her producer husband Tony Cacciotti, demanded more pay for the show, but the network refused.  Harper and her husband walked out, just as they did in the middle of Rhonda.  Three episodes into filming the third season without the main star, Harper, and her husband, were fired, and the entire show was rewritten so that Harper’s character dies in the third season premiere episode.  The show’s name was changed to Valerie’s Family in the third season, with Sandy Duncan filling the motherly role.  In the show’s fourth season, the name was changed again to The Hogan Family.  The Hogan Family went for three more seasons, for a total of six seasons.   Valerie’s show had four seasons without her, albeit with different names. 
                Two and Half Men Premiered in 2003, as a starring vehicle for Charlie Sheen, as a freewheeling jingle writer Charlie Harper, who must deal with his brother (Jon Cryer) and nephew (Angus T. Jones) moving with him after his brother divorces.  At the start of the show’s eighth season, CBS and the studio produced the show, Warner Brothers, already had an agreement to renew the show for its ninth season.  Sheen almost didn’t come back for the eighth season, but after negotiating for a pay increase $1.78 million per episode, he agreed to return.  Sheen entered rehab in January 2011, the third time in 12 months, and production of the show had to be shut down with sixteen episodes filmed.  Following his rehab stint, his much-publicized erratic behavior and criticism of creator Chuck Lorre cause CBS to cancel the season and ultimately to fire Sheen altogether.  Aston Kutcher was brought in the main character role as billionaire Walden Schmidt who buys Charlie’s house after Charlie Harper dies after being hit by a subway, and lives with Charlie’s brother and nephew.  Two and a Half Men lasted another four seasons without the main star Charlie Sheen, for a total of twelve seasons.

                Each of the shows continued on without the main star, whether it be the under good circumstances, in the case of The Waltons, or not-so-great circumstances, in the case of Valerie Harper’s show and Two and a Half Men.  Each of these shows provides examples of the producers and the rest of the cast finding solutions when the main actor, and thus the main character leaves the show, and thus show that a TV series can live on without its main star.  

Friday, September 15, 2017

Two Vloggers Living out Their Dream of Traveling the World

               Have you ever wanted to drop everything and see the world?  To actually wander the world and see all the things you wanted to see?  While most people have brave aspirations, but not initiative, there are some who actually did it – who actually have traveled the world, seeing and doing everything that most people only dream of doing but never actually do.  While there are probably many who we may never meet, a select few post online of their experiences for all of us to enjoy.  Here are two of them. 
                In the Chris Across the World YouTube and Instagram account, Chris solo travels across the world, experiencing the culture and the people, focusing on adventure, simplicity, and love.  A free runner and adventure enthusiast, Chris started his adventure with Chris Across America in 2010, where he visited every single state and vlogged about his experiences, ultimately making a compilation video of him in doing flips and tricks in every state.  A huge lover of Asian culture, Chris also filmed Chris Across Hong Kong A to Z, where he visited 26 alphabetical places/things that represented Hong Kong.  Then Chris went on what was arguably his most daring adventure yet – a trip across South America.  Chris again set out to film himself free running and flipping in every single country and experiencing the culture and people there.  His short but awesome South America vlogs fully capture the adventurous spirit inside Chris on his journey.  Recently, Chris returned to a place very dear to him, Japan, and went on various odd jobs and adventures, but he couldn’t be in one place for very long.  Chris decided to start filming Chris Across Asia.  In his most recent video, Prelude, Chris talks about how he is so excited about his latest adventure because he loves Asian culture.  His current location, South Korea, can be seen on his Instagram, where he posts incredibly gorgeous pictures of the landscape and significant landmarks.
                The Bucket List Family is exactly that, a family that travels and experiences the entire world, experiencing the culture, animals, and people in the country they are visiting.  They focus on adventure, culture, and service.  In 2015, Garret and Jessica Gee were a young family, with a toddler named Dorothy and a baby named Manilla, living in an apartment in Provo, Utah.  Along with his two college classmates, Garrett developed an app called Scan, which was sold to Snapchat for $50 million.  Being financially secure enabled Garrett and Jessica to think about what they wanted to do in the future, but the idea of settling down in a house did not appeal to them. They invested the money from the sale instead of using it.  Then, they decided to sell everything they owned at the time, and using the money from that to go on an adventure around the world for four months, and set up a YouTube channel just to show family and friends.  The first videos feature Garrett and Jessica talking about the adventure they are planning on doing and selling everything.  Their weekly vlogs feature Garrett, Jessica, and the kids talking about where they visited that week.  After recording a couples retreat in Rangiroa and Bora Bora, their family journey around the world began in Hawaii and proceeded through New Zealand, Australia, and Singapore.  After four months traveling, Garret and Jessica made the huge decision to continue to travel full time, staying self-sustaining by  partnering with brands, resorts and other companies to stay or be paid using their service or staying on their property in exchange for them posting about it on social media, creating a win/win scenario.  Recently, the Gees have made their way through Europe, visiting Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, and the Netherlands.  Currently, the Bucket List Family are at Disney World, finishing up Disney’s challenge to stay in all the different resorts over 30 days. 
                Whether solo traveling or with a family, these people are living the dream of seeing and doing all the things that they always wanted to do.  Check out these awesome vloggers who are traveling the world.  

Chris Across the World:
The Bucket List Family:

Friday, September 8, 2017

Four Movies Which Began At or Near the End [Spoilers..?]

               Linear storytelling conventions say that a story must begin at the beginning and proceed to the end.  However, there are some movies which deliberately start at the end to ask the audience the question: “How did we get here?”  Here are several movies which give the audience a quick glimpse of the end before starting the regular narrative.
                Memento is probably the first and most famous of these movies which start at the end.  In Memento, during the opening credits, a Polaroid picture starts developing into a dead man lying on the ground around his blood.  Then the movie tracks a few minutes backward, to Leonard, the main character, convincing another character, Teddy into an abandoned warehouse to kill him.  We soon find out that Leonard has anterograde amnesia, and can’t store any recent memories, so he writes down important information on himself through tattoos and on Polaroid pictures with notes on them while trying to find his wife’s killer.  From there, the movie switches between several short segments which go back in time to reveal how and why Leonard came to kill Teddy, to a linear story which Leonard tells to someone on the phone.  Memento was released on September 5, 2000, at the Venice Film Festival, and later on March 16, 2001, in the United States.
                Sunset Boulevard also famously begins at the end.  The first shot is of the main character’s body floating in the swimming pool outside a Sunset Boulevard mansion.  Then the story proper begins: the main character is a down-on-his-luck screenwriter named Joe Gillis, who is rudely critiqued in front of a studio producer by a script reader.  After he leaves, Gillis must escape men who want to repossess his car.  That’s when he turns into a seemingly deserted mansion, which actually belongs to former silent film star Norma Desmond, and from there the two people form an uneasy partnership as Gills tries to write her comeback piece.  Sunset Boulevard was released August 10, 1950.
                (500) Days of Summer also has a nonlinear narrative, jumping back and forth in time, with a “day ticker” to show the audience where they are in the story.  The movie begins on Day 488, with the main character, Tom, holding hands with Summer on a bench.  Summer is seen wearing a ring, and they both smile at each other.  Then the narrator gives a quick intro about Tom and Summer, ending with, “While this is a story of boy meets girl, this is not a love story.”  While not presently linearly, the movie details the complicated romantic relationship of Tom and Summer.  (500) Days of Summer was released on January 17, 2009, at the Sundance Film Festival, and on August 7, 2009, in the United States.
                Pan’s Labyrinth, a dark fantasy movie directed by Guillermo Del Toro, starts with a disturbing shot of an eleven-year-old girl dying and struggling for breath with blood on her face.  The story then flashbacks and introduces the story of the girl, Ofelia, who is the stepdaughter of Captain Vidal, a Spanish Officer, and her mother is pregnant with her stepbrother.  When Ofelia and her mother travel to meet Vidal in his mansion, a fairy finds Ofelia and leads her into the Labyrinth, where she meets a fawn who thinks she is the reincarnated Princess Moanna and must complete three tasks to achieve immortality.  Meanwhile, Vidal begins to show his true violent nature to the people around him.  Pan’s Labyrinth was released May 27, 2006, at the Cannes Film Festival and later on October 11 in Spain and October 19 in Mexico. 
                Whether presented in a non-linear fashion, like Memento or (500) Days of Summer, or more straightforward, like Sunset Boulevard and Pan’s Labyrinth, which are told in flashback, these movies all begin at or near the end.  They use the opening shot of the ending to get the audience asking, “How Did We Get Here?” and the audience keeps watching, waiting for the eventual tragic ending.  

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Even More In-Depth Movie Analysis from YouTube

                Ever wonder what makes a movie work, both in message and production?  Do you wonder how the themes play out in the film or just about the production of movies itself?  In this blog post, two YouTube channels will be covered, and one particular series on a YouTube will be discussed. 
                The Now You See It YouTube channel follows in the footsteps of Every Frame a Painting, in providing discussion on particular aspects of movie analysis in terms of the themes and storytelling methods.  Some of the subjects include: The Beauty of the Dinner Scene, How Film Scores Play with Our Brains, Settings are Characters Too, Dolly Zoom: More Than a Cheap Trick, the most recent being How to Do a Plot Twist.  Like Every Frame a Painting, the male YouTuber, Jack Nugent, of Now You See It never shows his face, but rather gives a voice over while clips from the movie he’s profiling are playing.  Unlike Every Frame a Painting, Now You See It also has a series of Supercut videos, where a particular aspect of movies is cut together in a montage set to music.  On this YouTube channel, there are Supercuts on space flight in movies (One Small Step), The Hero’s Journey and Touch.  Check out Now You See It for some awesome In-Depth movie analysis. 
                Filmmaker IQ, instead of focusing on themes and storytelling methods, goes into detail of movie production and the history of film.  Filmmaker IQ started as a camera review and help site, but then made the switch to film production.  Designed as a free film school, the channel was created by Dennis Hartwig and John P. Hess and hosted by John Hess.  John talks directly to the camera, cutting to stills or videos of the subject he is covering.  Some of the movie production videos include The Fundamental Elements of Film Music, The Science of Deep Focus and Hyperfocal Distance, Posing and Rendering CGI Characters, and How a Director Stages and Blocks a Scene.  Some of the film history videos include discussion of the history of Movie Title Sequences, The Hollywood Musical, the Mockbuster, and the origins of such things as the Auteur Theory and Acting and the “Method.”  Check out Filmmaker IQ for a great discussion on the production of movies and history of film. 
                Crash Course is one channel that does 9-12 minute video series on various college-level and high-school level subjects, such as Chemistry, Philosophy, and Economics.  In April 2017, Crash Course launched a new series on Film, the first part is about Film History.  In the first sixteen lessons, hosted by Craig Benzine (who has his own YouTube channel, Wheezy Waiter), various aspects of Film History were covered.  Starting with an Introduction to Film, the series went through the early days of short silent film throughout the world, and then followed as feature films began to take shape and films transitioned to sound, with an emphasis on film movements not just in the US but around the world, such as German Expressionism and Soviet Montage.  The final five lessons were about types of movies, such as Independent Film, World Cinema and Experimental and Documentary Films, plus a video on the impact home video had on the film business.  With that series over, the Film series transitioned to Film Production, hosted by Lily Gladstone, an actress who has been acting since 2012.  The first in the Film Production series premiered on August 24, 2017, about Screenplays.  Check out this series on Film History and Film Production on the Crash Course YouTube channel.
                Now You See It provides more essays about film storytelling and themes, while Filmmaker IQ and Crash Course’s film series provide discussion about film production and film history.  Check out these YouTube Channels and series about film-making and film storytelling.