Sunday, January 16, 2011

Revamp Cramps

I expressed a certain degree of bewilderment this past week when I learned of NBC's plans to revamp Law & Order: Los Angeles halfway through its frosh season as a way of shoring up the series' declining ratings fortunes.  Like I said before, the decision by producer Dick Wolf to show lead actor Skeet Ulrich the door and replace him in the cop role with DA Alfred Molina may well end up paying creative and audience dividends in the longterm, but that doesn't change how utterly bizarre the entire premise of the change is.

The notion that Molina's character, heretofore depicted as a ladder-climbing political animal, has an entire history in law enforcement, unmentioned until now, that would allow him to seamlessly transition roles is one of those storytelling contrivances that would get a screenwriting student laughed at and/or yelled at by his instructor. Still, it's hardly the first time a show has been hastily revamped in the middle of its run.  Sometimes it pays off (four words: Saved by the Bell), and other times not so much (three more words: The College Years). To wit, HitFix's Alan Sepinwall has combed through TV history both recent and ancient to find similar such examples of the dreaded "retooling" and here's his list of the hits and the misses.

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