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The Lana Lang Effect: When TV Producers Play Favorites


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#1

Mr. Excitement

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 12:44 AM

It's a common, irritating, and little-remarked-upon phenomenon: producers of what are ostensibly ensemble shows singling out a lone favorite actor for increasing amounts of screen time and story emphasis while the rest of the cast goes begging.

For example, when Gene Roddenberry insisted on putting his mistress and later wife Majel Barrett into a noticeable role in the original Star Trek. Majel Barrett managed to escape with much of her dignity intact, as she turned out to be a fine actress and a dynamite Computer Voice, but still, this sort of thing makes for a jarring viewing experience. Thoughts? Favorite examples?
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#2

SunlessNick

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 12:57 AM

Horatio Caine. His screen time doesn't increase much; it was all about him from the start. But far too much of CSI: Miami is devoted to his self-righteous brooding about justice.
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#3

Morrigan8472

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 1:22 AM

The thing that popped into my head when I saw this thread was the Buffyverse. This is all third or fourth-hand information, but David Greenwalt, the executive producer of Angel, reportedly really liked the female lead Charisma Carpenter and by the end of the third season she had become a very saintly character and actually ended the season literally beatified, which was odd considering that she had started out on BtVS as a "Mean Girl" and while the transistion did make sense considering all she went through, it was odd that they would take her in that direction when she was more entertaining making tactless, snide, and hilarious comments. David Greenwalt left after the third season and the new rulers Joss Whendon and Jeffery Bell were not as big a fans of the actress, and in the fourth season they bought her character back and had her be duped into bringing about the apocalypse, slept with the main character's son, and murdered several people.

Another example would be on BtVS itself in the final season, when the lead actress Sarah Michelle Gellar announced in Entertainment Weekly that she was quitting the show (and effectively cancelling the show) supposedly before she told any of the cast or crew. Subsequently and possibly coincidentally, her character on the show turned into a heartless drill sergeant harridan. On the opposite end of the scale, there was Alyson Hannigan who was supposedly beloved by the writers and crew. and her character was literally turned into a goddess who (also literally) would get away with murder.

Just to remind, this is all third-hand knowledge that I heard, but it seems to make sense.
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#4

Mr. Shanks

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 1:28 AM

Could this be an example of why Spike stayed as long as he did in the Whedonverse?
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#5

Jeebus Cripes

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 3:08 AM

I was thinking about Spike when I read the title for this thread, Mr. Shanks. I have no insider info that could verify that. But he sure did get ample screentime. I also have to believe that someone behind the scenes on AtS was seriously in love with Amy Acker. The Fred character was a total Mary Sue.

But ye gods, I have to say the title for this thread is perfect. Lana Lang truly owns this one.
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#6

North

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 4:22 AM

I'm going to have to go with Marg Helgenberger on CSI. It's an ensemble, yet most of the stories revolve around her character. It's getting ridiculous.
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#7

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 4:42 AM

Hello, Mischa Barton! Now go the fuck away!

Edited by Spud14, Jan 28, 2006 @ 4:42 AM.

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#8

Gaymo

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 7:05 AM

Could this be an example of why Spike stayed as long as he did in the Whedonverse?

I think it was Marti Noxious who championed James Marsters. From what I know she wanted him in Point Pleasant as well and pretty much said so. Often.

Not that I hate JM, incidentally. He's still my blondie bear, heh.
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#9

JodithGrace

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 9:07 AM

Well, sometimes it works the other way too. Rumor has it that Cybil Shephard and Writer/producer Glen Caron (not sure of the name) had a major falling out around the time of Cybil's real life pregnancy with twins. As a result, Maddie Haye's character was totally destroyed that awful final season, culimating in the worst thing a writer can do to an actress, I think. Maddie lost her baby in its eighth month or so...right after Cybil had given birth in real life. I think it was just cruel to have her play that (luckily her own twins were healthy) and the whole pregnancy plotline was just so pointless, and only made her look like a total bitch, and David Addison a victim of unrequited love. I am still bitter about this show..how many years later?
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#10

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 9:51 AM

During my years of watching that angst fest of ER, I never really bothered to analyse things all that much. But, when Carol left and Abby Lockhart arrived on the scene, I was all psyched because this development would surely mean that the other female characters, like Lizzie and Kerry, would get more screentime? Boy, was I wrong. The show turned into The Astounding and Angsty Adventures of the Amazing Abby. I realised this and lost interest.

But yeah, nothing rivals the love that Lana Lang and her vagina get. Nothing.

Edited by ainoarwen, Jan 28, 2006 @ 9:52 AM.

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#11

Jenn

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 11:48 AM

E.R. surely owns this thread with St Abby, Our Lady of Perpetual Screentime. They actally changed the format of the show from being an ensemble effort to focussing solely on Abby - her family, career, lovelife and shoe size. Never have I seen so many fine actors and potentially excellent storylines squandered for the sake of one character. Not only that, but it kind of ruined the character of Abby herself, because nothing makes you focus on a character's flaws and aggravating habits more than if it's all you get onscreen for an hour - week after week after week after week.............
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#12

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 12:11 PM

Seven of Nine

I remember this fairly decent version of Star Trek that had cool characters and lots of potential. It was cancelled suddenly though, and replaced with The Seven of Nine Show
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#13

nurse

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 12:52 PM

I've got a few actors/characters who were fine as a supporting character but as the major plot drivers, they suck:

1. Noah Wyle (Carter) on ER. I do admit I stopped watching the show loyally when Carol left, but I did catch a couple of episodes which made it clear that Carter was to be the "center" of the show. Noah Wyle is just not that good an actor as to be the "center" of any show. A supporting character, absolutely, but the main character, not so much.

2. George Clooney (Ross) - He can't act, period. I know everyone is raving about what a spectacular actor he is, but all he's doing is playing himself in different settings. This was brought into stark reality on ER when he was shoved to the front and couldn't bring the goods, just the smirkiness and greasy non-charm.

3. Poppy Montgomery (Sam) - Much like these other two, perfectly fine as a supporting character, but pushed up to the front and facing off against Anthony LaPaglia? Wow, she was outshone and outclassed.

4. Matt Leblanc (Joey) - Okay he did perfectly fine in an ensemble show like Friends, but the character and actor were just not capable of carrying a show all by themselves. They should have let the franchise go at the end of the Friends run.

Okay maybe my problem with the "playing favorites" is that sometimes the producers/writers pick characters I have no interest in seeing developed. Like on ER, I would have way rather seen Romano developed more from the jerk he seemed to be to something more. Maybe that's because what's-his-name is leagues above any other actor that was on that show. Of course, the way they've developed LaPaglia's character on Without a Trace the past couple of seasons makes me think that sometimes a little mystery in a character is fine. Before they drop a helicopter on them, of course.

Edited by nurse, Jan 28, 2006 @ 12:53 PM.

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#14

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 1:14 PM

Jack and Kate on Lost. They initially planned on killing Jack in the first episode, and why oh why didn't they? They killed the main character in the first episode of Oz, and it rocked. I so don't care about either of their backstories. I want more Hurley, I want more Sayid, I want more Locke, and definitely more Eko, but it's always Jack and Kate. Barf.
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#15

Logan

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 1:16 PM

Rodney McKay on Stargate Atlantis. I can take Rodney in small doses. TPTB seem to think that he is greatest thus giving the character center stage in a few of the episodes (Duet and Grace Under Pressure). I am ready to give up on this show. Seven of Nine, Kes, T'Pol and now Rodney McKay.
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#16

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 1:40 PM

Speaking of Stargate, I fear we'll have the same complaints about the character of Vala on SG-1 next season. The producers already seem to be in love with her, and she's not a regular yet.
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#17

sweetgal9

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 1:46 PM

Jack and Kate on Lost. They initially planned on killing Jack in the first episode, and why oh why didn't they? They killed the main character in the first episode of Oz, and it rocked. I so don't care about either of their backstories. I want more Hurley, I want more Sayid, I want more Locke, and definitely more Eko, but it's always Jack and Kate. Barf.


Word! Actually, Matthew Fox is given "star" treatment, and I'm not sure why. He is NOT the most popular actor, and Jack isn't the most popular character. I also hate the way they are trying to say that Jack and Kate are soulmates. No, they aren't. Unless you count chemistry-free, sibling-esque vibes as "soulmates".
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#18

areacode212

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 2:00 PM

I remember this fairly decent version of Star Trek that had cool characters and lots of potential.

Fairly decent? Cool characters? You're kidding, right? You mean like Tom "Captain Proton" Paris, the perpetually bitchfaced B'Elanna Torres, wussy boy Harry Kim and Neelix?! C'mon....Neelix.

Voyager did have lots of wasted potential, and I'll agree that Seven belongs in this category (plus, she was actually sleeping with a producer), but I think she made that crappy show watchable and in fact, almost pretty good (at least for a season or two).

Edited by areacode212, Jan 28, 2006 @ 2:01 PM.

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#19

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 2:08 PM

M*A*S*H got worse and worse as it became the Alan Alda Show, and Little House on the Prairie suffered the same fate at the hands of Michael Landon. Alda and Landon both made the same mistake of removing every flaw that made their characters halfway watchable.

At least Alan Alda didn't make us look at his manly nipples all the time.
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#20

Turkish

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 2:44 PM

E.R. surely owns this thread with St Abby, Our Lady of Perpetual Screentime. They actally changed the format of the show from being an ensemble effort to focussing solely on Abby - her family, career, lovelife and shoe size. Never have I seen so many fine actors and potentially excellent storylines squandered for the sake of one character. Not only that, but it kind of ruined the character of Abby herself, because nothing makes you focus on a character's flaws and aggravating habits more than if it's all you get onscreen for an hour - week after week after week after week.............



If ER is gonna focus on one character moreso than the others it should be the lovely Neela.
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#21

CoderLady

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 3:23 PM

Rodney McKay on Stargate Atlantis. I can take Rodney in small doses. TPTB seem to think that he is greatest thus giving the character center stage in a few of the episodes (Duet and Grace Under Pressure). I am ready to give up on this show. Seven of Nine, Kes, T'Pol and now Rodney McKay. Logan


So very much Word on this. I have to mute the TV and go get a snack when the show gets turned over to him every week.

Y'know what I think? He's like the Mirror Universe version of the show's producer. Although David Hewlett looks enough like Peter DeLuise to be family, McKay is the total opposite of a DeLuise personality-wise. Instead of easy-going, friendly, personable and funny as hell, McKay is a nasty, bitchy, self-centered little shit. Just speculation, but it's the only interesting thing I can think of while I wait to unmute the TV.
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#22

scair

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 3:30 PM

I don't mind the character McKay; I think he can be hilarious, regardless of the fact that he is also self-centered and quite the egotist. However, it really bothers me that the writers constantly give him the lion's share of screentime while ignoring other characters that sadly need development. I think it's lazy, because they're not doing the work they need to on Sheppard, Weir and Teyla, and I think it's a little self-indulgent, because they obviously enjoy writing for McKay.
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#23

SenatorTCJ

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 3:38 PM

Three words: Joey Freaking Potter. She has "it" you know.

I concur with the mentioning of Marissa Cooper as well. Seriously, The O.C. needs her to fall off a cliff or something.
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#24

CoderLady

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 3:44 PM

Most excellent point, scair, and if I hadn't been foaming at the mouth so much it's one I would have made.

I think consciously or unconsciously, TPTB are having so much fun with their anti-DeLuise they're giving him way too much screen time. Not only is he totally grating but there are so many other interesting primary and secondary cast members who could use the limelight. You're quite right.
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#25

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 4:20 PM

I think the reigning duchess of this thread has to be Donna Martin, aka One Miss Tori Spelling. When 90210 began, she was there are the stupid comic foil, but as the show progressed and her daddy became more and more involved, the show became a weekly "Donna gets stalked/attacked/addicted/modeled/etc." barf-fest.

This culminated in the final episode, where Donna and David get married. It was supposed to be a doubloe wedding with Kelly and Dylan, but La Spelling insisted on all the attention to be focused on her and her gravity-defying canyon boobs.
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#26

GustyJames

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 4:26 PM

The worst one is Joey Potter. In S3, I was like, "This is still Dawson's Creek, right?"
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#27

blobbygirl

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 5:06 PM

ITA, orabrooch, even though I hate to admit I watched BH 90210, it was so laughable how Tori Spelling became the center of the show, when everyone knows it couldn't have been because of her ravishing beauty or talent.

And was anybody really that invested in her character? I've never heard anyone say that Donna was their favorite character on that show.
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#28

Melk

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 5:28 PM

Starbuck. Is there anything she can't do better than anybody else? Anything she can't get away with?
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#29

Jeebus Cripes

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 5:34 PM

Heather Locklear always seemed to be the center of attention on Melrose Place. Although, I will admit that Melrose usually did a good job of getting all the characters onscreen. But Locklear surely got unfair treatment. The "guest star" was really the star.

Word on Jack and Kate from Lost. That's why I fucking hate how large that cast is. They will never get the screentime they deserve because of Kate and Jack.
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#30

inzombia

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Posted Jan 28, 2006 @ 5:54 PM

Speaking of Stargate, I fear we'll have the same complaints about the character of Vala on SG-1 next season. The producers already seem to be in love with her, and she's not a regular yet.

If SG1 does becomes The Vala Show, I might actually have to start watching that piece of shit show. Claudia Black is awesome. She can take over and destroy any show that she wants.

As for BtVS/AtS: I didn't find Greenwalt's saintification of Cordy half as annoying as Whedon's saintification of Fred. That, and Marti Noxon should've kept her Spike-centric fanfiction ideas the fuck out of the show.
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