Television: THE CURSE OF TV SUCCESS; You Would Think That Starring in a Successful TV Series Such as Ally McBeal Would Bring Happiness, So Why Is the Cast of This (and Other) Shows Dogged by Personal Problems, Asks Georgina Pattinson?

By Pattinson, Georgina | The Birmingham Post (England), July 15, 2000 | Go to article overview

Television: THE CURSE OF TV SUCCESS; You Would Think That Starring in a Successful TV Series Such as Ally McBeal Would Bring Happiness, So Why Is the Cast of This (and Other) Shows Dogged by Personal Problems, Asks Georgina Pattinson?


Pattinson, Georgina, The Birmingham Post (England)


Could the curse of Ally McBeal have struck again? Watched by millions of fans and the winner of numerous awards, the show's popularity is not in doubt. What is causing concern are the stars of the TV comedy drama about twenty and thirty-something lawyers.

First it was speculation about its star, Calista Flockhart. The stick-thin actress was accused of suffering from an eating disorder.

She has denied rumours that she is anorexic but she still looks as though a gust of wind would blow her away.

Her co-star Portia de Rossi, who plays Nelle Porter, also caused concern when she appeared looking painfully thin at a ball in Los Angeles.

Then it emerged that Lisa Nicole Carson, who plays Ally's sensible flatmate Renee, had been on an eight-day drink and drugs binge. She was finally sent to a pounds 1,250 a day hospital room in New York's Lennox Hill Hospital, put on suicide watch and checked by staff every 15 minutes.

In the hit show, Carson's character provides a shoulder for Ally McBeal to cry on. In real life, she admits that she drank vodka and smoked marijuana, as well as taking a hallucinogenic drug PCP.

She told an American magazine: 'I'm here drinking lots of water and trying to get the drugs out of my system.'

The cast is also splitting up. Two members are due to leave soon - Georgia, played by Courtney Thorne-Smith and Billy Thomas, otherwise known as actor Gil Bellows.

It is becoming known in American showbusiness circles as the curse of Ally McBeal. And it is not the first TV show to be stricken by a departing cast and dogged by rumours and even tragedy.

Hill Street Blues is the most famous example. Although the long-running police drama was an undoubted critical and commercial success, appearing in it seemed to guarantee personal disaster in one form or another.

First came the death from cancer of Michael Conrad, who played the avuncular Sergeant Esterhaus, only three years into the run.

Actor Daniel Travanti played Captain Frank Furillo and, like his character, battled with alcoholism. He eventually left the show.

Rene Enriquez, who played Lieutenant Ray Calletano, was found to have cancer of the pancreas and died in Los Angeles in 1990. Trinidad Silva died in 1988 in a car crash in California.

Then there was Diff'rent Strokes, the long running American comedy about a widowed millionaire who adopts two black boys.

The chubby cheeked child star of the show, Gary Coleman, became a big TV name - partly because his cheerfulness concealed a serious kidney problem.

But having earned $80,000 a week in 1984, he was reduced to penury once the show was axed and he sued his parents for mismanagement of his fortune. …

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