Monday, May 19, 2008

Someone Is Going To Die

When "M*A*S*H" killed off Lt. Col. Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) in the 1970s, you know when the cast and crew found out? Second before they filmed the scene in which the actual characters found out. So the director of the show was able to film the characters/actors reacting in shock to the news, which of course, stunned the viewers as well.

If "M*A*S*H" came out today, we'd have a rumor mill started by TV Guide that would say, "One of these characters is going to die. Take our poll to see which one it is." Then the promos on CBS would run, calling this the episode no one can miss.

I bring this up because it used to be, back in the old days, producers liked the shock value when they killed someone off suddenly. It's one thing if the character is already dying, such as Mark Greene on "ER" a few years ago, to promote the episode in which he dies. That's expected (and was beautifully shot; the show never reached as high a point since).

But these days, the "someone is going to die" promos have almost become cliche, and half the time the person getting killed off isn't one of the stars, but one of the recurring characters.

I don't know when the trend started (I think it might have been "Beverly Hills 90210" when they killed off that recurring friend of Brian Austin Green's) but I do know that the trend has been incessant.

Someone is scheduled to die on "Bones" (Fox, 8 p.m.) tonight, and we know it won't be Booth (David Boreanaz), who was shot last week. And since we know it won't be Bones (Emily Deschanel), it becomes a sort of Russian Roulette guessing game as to whom it will be.

And tomorrow night, someone will die on "NCIS," which ironically managed to keep a pretty good lid on things when they killed off Kate (Sasha Alexander) a few seasons ago. No one saw that coming. In last week's blog, I listed whom I didn't want to die, but it's a virtual guarantee one of those characters is gone because they've been throwing so many hints that it's going to be Jenny (Lauren Holly) that it almost can't possibly be her.

The point is, death in real life is supposed to be a shock most of the time, and especially in shows about crime, so why not go back to making it a shock by NOT PROMOTING IT OVER AND OVER? The quick answer: the producers are trying to lure lapsed viewers back to the show by promoting the big, stunning item and keeping viewers guessing with their own death pools.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Following "Bones," which has been something of a disappointment since its post-strike return, "House" (Fox, 9 p.m.) has to risk his life to save Amber, aka Cutthroat Bitch. I hope it's not a spoiler to say House won't die, what with the show being named after him and all.

CBS wraps up its comedy season with the final new episodes of "Big Bang Theory," "How I Met Your Mother," "2 1/2 Men" and "Rules of Engagement," beginning at 8 p.m. Since the network hasn't run a promo of a death, I'm guessing all of those sitcom characters are pretty safe. I'm not so sure about "CSI: Miami" at 10 p.m.

If they let the contestants fight to the death on "American Gladiators," (NBC, 8 p.m.) it might make the show more interesting and jack up the ratings, which were abysmal last week.

ABC is all reality tonight with "Dancing With The Stars" winding down its season while "The Bachelorette 4" kicks off.

Finally, I think it might just be people dying socially on "Gossip Girl" (CW, 9 p.m.) and "One Tree Hill" (CW, 9 p.m.), but really, is there anything worse?


zodin2008 said...

I didn't realize someone one "Bones" was supposed to die, just be revealed as a big bad.

The only "obvious" choice to me is Sweets, because he's been added to the cast just within this season. But Sweets is such a loveable goofy character, I can't imagine it.

Of the current cast that's been around, the character I'd most like to see leave because he's creepy is Zack (Eric Mulligan). I have always found his character annoying. If it was Camille Seroyan, I don't think anyone would care.

I really hope they don't mess with Hodgins or Angela...after Booth Bones, I want to see them left alone. Everyone else is fair game.

Jennifer Burk said...

after lost last week heeter noted that for the first time in awhile the promo for the next week didn't include the words, "next week, someone will die."

nice post.

Phillip Ramati said...

Zod, my guess has been Zack or Cam, since they are the ones most extraneous. Sweets should be pretty safe, based on my interview a couple of weeks ago with David Boreanaz.

Jen, had to chuckle. You're right, Lost seems to promote deaths so often that it has become like white noise! Maybe they should run promos like "This week, no one dies!"

Jonathan said...

I was actually shocked by the big death on "CSI" this past week, but you're the main tv news site I read, and you don't ever talk about the show, so maybe that's why I didn't know. Either way, it was nice to be suprised.

And "Bones" has been fairly uneventful since the strike. Last week's was somewhat entertaining, but the stalker story felt rushed and pointless, and the main mystery was pretty obvious from the get-go. The hold-over from last season involving the basketball player has oddly enough been the best installment since the strike ended. Hopefully the big reveal tonight is worth it; it's a shame they didn't get to do the whole season storyline involving the serial killer, or maybe it's better. Who Knows?

The funny thing about "Lost," is that according to everything I've read on the finale is that a couple of people do die that are fairly important to the show. So, I wonder why they didn't use that in the promo. I'm guessing Jin, which kind of sucks because they were actually starting to use him more again. However, like last season with Charlie; maybe that's a hint. When they start focusing on a former main character that they've ignored for the past batch of episodes, they are about to be killed off.

Phillip Ramati said...

I figured with Gary Dourdan's legal woes and the fact that his contract wasn't renewed, there was a good bet they might opt to kill him on CSI. However, had they promoted a death on the show, most people would have guessed.

As for Lost, except for the Oceanic 6 and Ben, whom we all see off the island, I guess anyone is fair game. I'm fairly pessimistic about Jin's chances; not only do we see his grave, but Sun's reaction to her father last week certainly implies that he really does die at some point. But you never know.

Anonymous said...

Well, since Jin is likely to die and Claire is already dead, that really just leaves Sawyer as the only character we really care about and don't officially know his fate.

(at this point, no one cares about Locke's fate because he's become such a villain - everyone should just assume he'll stay on the island).

As for Sawyer, my sense is he's the guy who ends up in the coffin that Jack and Kate talked about in last year's season finale and first flash forward episode.

Phillip Ramati said...

Well, I'd argue that there are people who care about Juliet, Desmond and others. Sawyer is a possibility for the coffin, but as a wanted criminal, he may also have gotten off the island and is laying low.

I also think Locke still has his fair share of fans.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'll take a moment to point out that the greatest show to ever grace the medium we call television -- that would be "The Wire" -- has no such death warnings.
In fact, it thrives on the abrupt and unexpected.
One minute, you're watching Omar casually buy his soft pack of Newports at the corner store. The next minute, POW! that little sh** Kinard pops him in the back of the head.
And just like that, one of the show's most popular characters is toast.
Those are what you call TV writers with balls.

Phillip Ramati said...

Anon, check out Tuesday's posting, but you are correct, which is why I often prefer the cable/pay TV/ BBC way of promoting things, where big deaths and plot twists aren't teased.