The Curse of the Show Killers; Is It Really Possible That the Mere Presence of Certain Actors or Actresses Can Doom a TV Show? Meet an Elite Cadre Who Are Living, and Often Thriving, despite Conspiracy Theories

Newsweek, November 8, 2004 | Go to article overview

The Curse of the Show Killers; Is It Really Possible That the Mere Presence of Certain Actors or Actresses Can Doom a TV Show? Meet an Elite Cadre Who Are Living, and Often Thriving, despite Conspiracy Theories


Byline: Marc Peyser (With Anne Taulane)

After years of breathing HBO's fumes, Showtime thinks it may finally have a drama worth talking about. "Huff" stars Hank Azaria as a psychiatrist with more problems than his patients. He's got a racist mother (Blythe Danner), a sexaholic best friend (Oliver Platt) and, when we meet him, a patient who commits suicide in his office. And you thought Tony Soprano had headaches? When network executives introduced the drama to TV writers last July, they trotted out all the standard superlatives. "We think it's spectacular," said Showtime entertainment president Robert Greenblatt. Then Greenblatt did something genuinely impressive: he picked up "Huff" for a second season--even though it wouldn't debut until Nov. 7. There's apparently only one thing standing between "Huff" and success: Paget Brewster. Brewster plays Azaria's wife, though her acting isn't the issue. It's her karma. "When I got 'Huff'," she says, "I thought, 'Well, this poor thing is going to go down in flames now because I'm onboard'."

Brewster is the Red Sox--wait, now it's the Cubs--of TV actresses. She's cursed. After eight years in the business, she's starred in four programs and 16 pilots, all with the half-life of a gnat. Hollywood has a name for such people: show killers. They're actors like Jason Gedrick, late of "Boomtown," who has been on seven failed programs without a hit, and Jon Tenney ("Kristen," "Brooklyn South") who's struck out five times. (To make matters worse, Tenney's ex-wife, Teri Hatcher, is a star of ABC's megahit "Desperate Housewives.") These if-at-first-you-don't-succeed actors sometimes hit pay dirt. Before "ER" George Clooney was known as a "pilot killer," which means his shows were so bad, they never even got on the air. "I'm bad luck," he said 10 years ago. "Don't fly with me." You've got to wonder--where did all these show killers come from? What's it like when your career is partly defined by failure? And how come these people keep getting work?

Before we start getting angry letters from Jon Cryer's father, let's be fair. Television is a collaborative medium. Actors may be the most visible component of a show, but they're hardly alone on the sinking ship. "I've really come to learn it starts with the writing and the schedule," says Marcia Shulman, Fox's head of casting. "I don't believe it's ever the actor's fault." Some Hollywood executives say that the more failed shows an actor does, the better an actor he is. "It's a badge of honor," says Peter Golden, head of casting at CBS and Paramount TV. "An actor who keeps working works for a reason. You believe in him and hope the material is going to be the right fit." Which isn't to say there aren't less charitable reasons that the usual suspects sink year after year. Pretty faces often get hired in inverse proportion to their talent--how else to explain the cast of "Coupling"? Networks also sign holding deals with some actors to keep them from working for rivals. Executives will sometimes hire those actors to justify the investment. "I will give you that there are bad actors," says Golden. "I could definitely see the point of view of the audience who sees the same actor over and over and goes, 'Again?' "

Many actors insist they aren't bothered by the show-killer stigma. Or maybe they really are good actors. "At one point last year when I went for a meeting, I said, 'I just want you to know that I've never been on a show that's lasted for more than 13 episodes'," says Paula Marshall. "It was me making fun of the fact, because it's so not about me and everybody knows it." In La-la Land there are no bad actors, only bad roles (or time slots or directors). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Curse of the Show Killers; Is It Really Possible That the Mere Presence of Certain Actors or Actresses Can Doom a TV Show? Meet an Elite Cadre Who Are Living, and Often Thriving, despite Conspiracy Theories
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.