Thursday, May 1, 2014

Addition Through Subtraction - Entertainment Edition

Doug: Almost two years ago we had a conversation on comic book series that "jumped the shark", a reference to the Happy Days episode when Fonzie, well... jumped a shark. For many, that was the death knell for that series. While a few mentioned television series, the main focus was on comics. But today we're going to flip that topic over and discuss changes that were for the better moving forward. Since we looked at comics a week ago, today we're going to focus on television series, film series, and musical acts. As we did last week, we'll open this up to all time -- no need to stay stuck in any Bronze Age parameters for this discussion.

Doug: I'll make no claim to the acting talents of either of these men, but I'll just say that I enjoyed Bewitched more after Dick Sargent replaced Dick York as Darrin. Perhaps it's because the program was then in color, as opposed to the early years when it was still in B&W (or was that only because all we had was a B&W television?). To my sensibilities, Dick York seemed to whine a bit too much, and his constant befuddlement (often heading towards anger) bothered me even as a child. But I want everyone to at some point today make this jump to a site with some information about Dick York's last years -- pretty touching stuff.

Doug: To say that Ringo Starr's replacement of Pete Best was an upgrade for the Beatles might be the overstatement of the century. But are there other musical replacements that come to mind?

Karen: My partner asked me to contribute to this post, and one of the first cases that came to mind was the disappearance of Yeoman Rand from the Enterprise by the second season of the original Star Trek. Having a love interest for Captain Kirk on the ship was far too limiting -by removing the character, it opened up more possibilities for Kirk with guest stars, and besides, could anyone see the Captain settling down with one woman?

Doug: So there are a few examples from us. How about our readers' thoughts on the matter?


Anonymous said...

Where is the evidence that replacing Pete Best with Ringo Starr actually made any difference? The change was made before the Beatles were famous so it couldn't have improved their popularity in any way and I'm sure the Beatles would have achieved international success whoever their drummer was - are we saying that the Beatles would never have made it without the drumming of Ringo, that's ludicrous ! The idea that Ringo is the "natural" fourth Beatle is just hindsight - if the Beatles had been John, Paul, George and Pete everybody would accept that line-up without question.

Doug said...

I'm not sure about "couldn't have improved their popularity in any way", Colin. Ringo Starr has an awful lot of charisma. You could certainly argue talent -- it's been said that on some of the later Beatles tracks, when rifts had taken place between the band mates, that Ringo didn't (or wasn't allowed to) play in some recording sessions.

I'm not hating on Pete Best, and that's not the point of the post (just like last week's discussion of creative or character changes in comics). We want to discuss why the change was more to our liking, rather than dwell on what had come before. Obviously some of that will creep into the conversation.



Doug said...

I'd add that, like yesterday, this is going to be a pretty subjective conversation. That doesn't mean that people can't argue their case, but sharing opinions, perceptions, etc. is what this is about.


dbutler16 said...

I can think of a bunch of instances where a cast member, or band member, was replaced or left (Bonanza, Andy Griffith Show, Cheers, Good Times. Van Halen, Genesis) I am at a real loss to think of one where it was an improvement, though I'm sure there are some. I agree with Karen that Yoeman Rand cramped Kirk's style, though that example would not have occured to me.

Edo Bosnar said...

I tend to agree with Karen about Yeoman Rand being dropped from the original Trek - I can say for the most part that I don't really miss her in those later episodes. I think it would have been better if, instead of a potential love interest for Kirk, she had simply been another regular crew member.
And sticking to Star Trek, I would say that Voyager got better after Kes was dropped and 7 of 9 was added - and no, not just because of that form-fitting bodysuit (honestly, I can say that had nothing to do with it). Kes was a little too Pollyannaish for my tastes, while Seven was more conflicted and flawed (making her more relatable), had an interesting back story and was, quite frankly, much more useful in most of their adventures.

By the way, Doug, regardless of who played Darren, I never really liked Bewitched; just thought it was silly that any guy would pretty much always insist that his super-powerful wife should never use her super-powers, even for the simplest things.

Doug said...

dbutler --

In regard to Cheers, are you saying that neither Woody replacing Coach or Rebecca replacing Diane were good changes? Just curious. I generally thought Woody Harrelson was an upgrade, but not Kirstie Alley.

How about MASH? There were two notable changes on that program, with the departure of McLean Stevenson and arrival of Harry Morgan, as well as Wayne Rogers' Trapper John being replaced by Mike Farrell's B.J. Hunnicutt. Thoughts?


J.A. Morris said...

I'd say Ringo was an upgrade from Pete Best. Listen to some of those early Beatles recordings on Anthology 1. I don't think Best could've played the more complicated drum parts on songs like 'Rain' or 'Glass Onion'. I think the Beatles would've been successful with Best, but only in the way that Dave Clark Five was successful, not the biggest band in history. Chemistry is a tricky thing with rock bands, and the best (no pun intended) bands are often more than the sum of their parts.

Agree about Rand.

MASH is one of the few series where cast changes worked out okay. The show's creators knew what to do and went in different directions when actors quit. Potter and Blake are different as night and day, and that's why it worked. Getting a Henry Blake clone would've been dumb. Winchester was a great replacement for Frank too.

And Woody was a good replacement for Coach too.

But for the most part, actor departures tend to be the "Jump The Shark" moment for me with tv series.

I don't think it's aged well, but I was a huge 'Happy Days' fan in the 70s. But even as a kid, I knew the show was broken for good when Ron Howard (and to a lesser extent Donny Most) quit to direct movies.

david_b said...

Some come to mind..:

1) Barney Miller - Bringing Arthur Dietrich in to replace Chano was brilliance..!! Dietrich's dry humor added so much to the mix.

2) Back to TOS Trek - Replacing Jeffery Hunter with Shatner, John Hoyt with DeForest Kelly, and others.

3) AND for you Quark fans, having the delightful Ficus replace Dr. O.B. Mudd, who was in the pilot.

Any 'My Three Sons' fans..? Replacing Bill Frawley with Bill Demarest made for a much funnier show.

And for Karen, Mick Taylor certainly brought more to the Stones than Brian Jones' later years. Loved Brian to bits, but it was certainly time for him to depart (Anita Pallenberg's influence made sure of that..).

Anonymous said...

Sticking to what I know best, music, I would say the replacing John Curulewski with Tommy Shaw took Styx from mid-level band to the Superstar machine of the 70s to mid 80s. Not so much replacing but adding Steve Perry to Journey and then later replacing Gregg Rolie with Jonathan Cain made that band the mega hit machine they became. I'm not sure that adding Joe Walsh to the Eagles really did anything at all.

Those are just a few off the top of my head.

The Prowler (finds it hard to keep ear buds on through a cowl).

Doug said...

That being said about Perry, Cain, and Rollie, Prowler, I do enjoy those earlier years when Rollie and Perry split time on the vocals. Sure, the megahits came later, but I like that sound.

I would not say that Peter Cetera leaving Chicago provided any benefit. Their best years were well behind them by then, though.


Karen said...

I guess I was literally trying to think of times when removing someone -not replacing, just switching one for another -was the improvement. That's what "addition by subtraction" means to me. But if we're just talking about personnel changes, then there's a ton of them.

And David, yes, by the time the switch to Mick Taylor was made, Brian Jones had pretty much become a non-factor. Taylor brought a lot of creativity and vitality to the Stones, so much that he has never been properly credited for. Unlike Ron Wood, who has pretty much been a lap dog for 30+ years.

William said...

I thought it was an improvement when John Davey replaced Jackson Bostwick on the old Saturday morning SHAZAM! TV show. Because it always bugged me (even as a wee lad) that Bostwick looked nothing at all like Captain Marvel did in the comics (he didn't even have dark hair). So I was pretty pleased when, early in the second season, Bostwick was replaced by Davey, who looked a lot closer to what I thought a real life Captain Marvel should look like.

Edo Bosnar said...

Yeah, I definitely agree about Mick Taylor in the Stones.

Otherwise, I only seem to be able to come up with Star Trek examples: Worf becoming a regular on DS9 marked a real improvement in that show.

William said...

Hmmm, while doing a little research, I just learned that Jackson Bostwick was actually unfairly fired from SHAZAM because he missed one day of shooting because he was at the doctor getting treated for an injury he suffered while filming the show. Now I feel kind of bad that I said I liked the show better with John Davey in the role of Captain Marvel.

Pat Henry said...

Replacing Michael O'Hare with the charismatic Bruce Boxleitner was a great move for Babylon 5, one of the rare instances where a casting change makes a major improvement and one of the VERY rare examples of an obvious miscast in the lead role. O’Hare’s a fine actor, but he always reminds me a bit too much of the bad boss in “Office Space.”

david_b said...

Hmm, as I mentioned to Doug a few days back, I got to meet Mr. Bostwick at the vintage toy auction I attended. I did read the same incident write-up on wiki, but I just thank him for entertaining us, and recalled Les Tremayne's candid comments about the location shooting and how they all ate like kings because of the trememdous catering they had on locations.

Pat, great call on Babylon 5. I came in on Bruce's first year since a girlfriend was watching it at the time, and when I saw the 1st year episodes with O'Hare, I totally agreed ~ He didn't have any of the screen charisma that Bruce had.

Comicsfan said...

Pat, I'm with you 100% on Boxleitner.

As for Kirstie Alley replacing Shelley Long, by that point the character of Diane Chambers had just grown too annoying. I think perhaps Alley's character wasn't handled by writers as best as she could have been--certainly not on the order of replacing a mainstay like Diane--but IMO it was definitely time for a change.

Anonymous said...

Karen, you are absolutely correct. It should be addition by SUBTRACTION. To that end, I profer Sugarland, going from a trio to a duo, and the Dixie Chicks punting most of the group and sticking with a trio.

The Prowler (finds life is better after a nap).

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree about Yeoman Rand. While I don't think Kirk needed a regular love interest, the Enterprise was potentially more interesting with at least one regular female being a central character and making up part of the landing parties. The perspective she could have brought once the writers figured out where to go with the romantic thing was never really seen until the later versions.

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