Saturday, May 7, 2005

A FAREWELL TO "THIRD WATCH"

For the last six years, 'Third Watch' never caught a break from its network, NBC. It was bounced all over the schedule - seven time slots in all! - and with very little promotion when compared to the Peacock's other drama series like 'ER', 'The West Wing', and the 'Law & Order' franchise.

And now it's too late. Last night, 'Third Watch' went out with a literal bang; a couple of them, in fact.

Actually it bowed out with "Crap", the final line of dialogue which was uttered by Sully. And I'm sure that summed up the feeling everybody on the show had in regard to their treatment by NBC.

Even for me, someone who didn't watch this show on a regular basis (Sorry, but I only have so much time in life for actual viewing. But at least did follow it in episode guides for Toobworld purposes), the finale was very moving and involving.

Many of the departed regulars came back for a quick appearance in that last hour; they even worked in Doc, who's in prison. Obviously Amy Carlson and Bobby Canavale couldn't show up as their characters Alex Taylor and Bobby Caffey, having died in the line of duty. Or they could have.... Not as ghosts, but as their current NBC incarnations - Amy as her 'Law & Order: Trial By Jury' ADA and Canavale as his gay patrolman from 'Will & Grace'.)

But who am I kidding? That never would have happened. It would have meant that NBC was making an attempt to drum up publicity for the show.

The network might claim that it did give 'Third Watch' several boosts through crossovers with other shows on their schedule. However, each of them presented problems of their own which still hobbled 'Third Watch'.

The first one was a crossover with 'ER'. A show about paramedics and a show about a hospital emergency room might seem like a perfect fit... except for the bugaboo mantra of "Location, location, location". 'Third Watch' took place in New York City while that wheezing, lumbering warhorse 'ER' is situated in Chicago.

It was almost painful to watch them do a backbreaking limbo to get a storyline which could allow them to work together. And even then, it wasn't a very compelling one and didn't involve enough members of the cast from either show to make it a truly powerful crossover.

As for the other two-parter, at least it was a better fit but as to why it happened, I can't say for certain. I don't think either party was served by the crossover.

This time, it remained in New York City and involved the viral forensic detective series 'Medical Investigations'. At least with that show, their main characters are free to move about the country and can interact with the casts of any other show on NBC's schedule, from 'Las Vegas' to 'Crossing Jordan' which is set in Boston.

But the crossover didn't really help either one in the long run. Being a new show, 'Medical Investigations' (one of the most boring titles on TV today) needed to be linked with a more powerful presence in the ratings, like 'Law & Order'. As dependable as 'Third Watch' always was, it wasn't going to provide that "oomph".

And of course, 'Third Watch' was too far along in both viewership averages and possible resentment from the network to expect any noticeable spike from being linked with a newbie like 'MI'.

I have never understood why, in the six years 'Third Watch' was on the air, it never had a crossover with any of the 'Law & Order' series. It seems like it would have been such a natural. Especially in this final season - Why didn't we ever see Faith Yokas working with Detective Stabler and Benson? Why wasn't it paramedics Carlos Nieto and Holly Levine who treated Detective Ed Green on the scene when he got shot a few weeks ago? Whenever there was a crime scene that was destroyed by fire, how come it wasn't the guys from the firehouse who responded to the call?

Surely one of those crime scenes on 'Law & Order' could have been located near the intersection of King and Arthur?

And the biggest head-scratcher of them all - why didn't Detective John Munch, the king of all crossovers in Toobworld - never make an appearance in that precinct?

Well, it's too late now; the 55 is gone - at least in the form everybody once knew it. If Dick Wolf had any real concept of a true TV Universe, he'd find some way to work mention of the events of this final episode into one of his 'Law & Order' shows. Especially as it was so cataclysmic, you'd think there'd be some talk about charges being filed, the loss of life in department ranks, perhaps someone was invited to the wedding.

At least they should tip their hat to a fallen comrade with a quick shot of a New York Ledger newspaper covering the story. After all, what happened at this inner-city Camelot was worth a week of front page headlines.

But I won't be holding my breath for that to happen!

At any rate, 'Third Watch' was the right show at the right time for helping a TV audience come to grips with the personal stories of First Responders on 9/11. It would have been a mortal blow to the show's credibility back in 2001, early 2002, had they not addressed what happened during the attack on the Twin Towers. (I think that was a major reason why '100 Centre Street' failed on A&E - it carried on as though the disaster never happened. How realistic could that be?)

Many shows have done stories about people whose lives were lost or touched in some way by 9/11, but most of those were fictional. 'Third Watch' brought us the actual firefighters, cops, and paramedics who risked their lives in insurmountable odds just to do their everyday job.

I think there's only one thing I might have added to the finale, as a grace note. At the end, I would have shown the inside of Sully's little cabin by the lake. And there on the wall would be hanging the begrimed coat of arms for the 55th Precinct, the Camelot located at the intersection of King and Arthur.

There's no way a dinky little blog about the TV Universe can ever hope to give the show the respect and honors it deserves, but there will one day be a small attempt - Someday, Detective Faith Yokas, as played by Molly Price) will be inducted into the TV Crossover Hall of Fame. It was her character that was most involved in both of those crossovers, with 'ER' and with 'Medical Investigations'.

It's not much, but it's all that I can offer to memorialize 'Third Watch'.

Oh... and this is a shout-out to Dick Wolf:

Get Detective Faith Yokas working as a regular in the 2-7! You brought John Munch all the way up from Baltimore to work in the 'Special Victims Unit'; why not bring in Yokas? She's just across town, for Crossover's sake!

BCnU!
Tele-Toby

1 comment:

B.LO said...

Maybe if more people like you actually watched the show each week while it was on, you wouldn't have to be writing its eulogy now.

Thanks a lot!

B.LO