Saturday, May 28, 2005


"Life is nasty, brutish, and short.
Ecce homo
'Northern Exposure'

Here's another series which I never watched on a regular basis and yet I tuned in for the season finale.
I only caught one episode this year - and that was because of the guest star, Danica McKellar.
But I did follow along throughout the year via the episode guides to be found online, and as the season's end approached, I started seeing all of these behind-the-scenes stories pop up. And they were all concerned with only one topic.....
One of the regular cast members was going to die.
Right away, I eliminated two people from consideration - Mark Harmon and the guy who plays the newbie.
The reasoning behind eliminating Harmon seemed sound - I think Harmon had no beef about staying with the show; he may have wanted the steady employ for awhile. And he offers an equal balance of interest for both sides of the gender gap among viewers. So that would give pause to the producers in thinking about offing him.
As for McGee (?) the newbie, all season long that character was set up to look like a sacrificial lamb and/or patsy. And I believe Mr. Bellisario and his staff are too smart to be that obvious.
So it had to be one of the other four.
Personally, I figured it would be David McCallum as Ducky Mallard. Maybe he was ready to take it easy; maybe he was ready to get back to New York and the theatre. Or maybe "Belisarius" found his cult status a bit too expensive on the bottom line to maintain.
I also considered Tony. But I admit it - I never had Caitlin pegged as a possibility.
And even as the seconds ticked away for anybody to be the casualty before the hour ended, I figured they'd go back to HQ and find either Ducky or the Goth Girl dead. After all, everything was fine at the crisis point. Caitlin had taken a bullet, but thank goodness she was wearing the vest.
And then - whammo!
Too bad they don't make vests for the forehead.
Shot rings out; Caitlin falls back with that nasty stomach-churning hole in her forehead and pooling blood under her hair. (And if you've watched these procedural shows in the past, you know what the exit wound in the back of her head must have looked like.)
And that was it. A shot like that left no time for any good-byes, no fading p.o.v. gazes by Kate. Nasty, brutish, and short.
And then the fireworks began online.
In various bbs which I frequent (Ain't It Cool? News, TV Squad, Lee Goldberg's blog), the talk-back threads had lots of complaints by the viewers outraged not only to have lost such a favorite character, but also because it was so nasty and over so quickly.
Like I said, I'm not a fan of the show, but it wasn't too difficult for me to find the story behind the decision to kill Kate. Hell, I practically stumbled over it looking for something else.
The actress, Sasha Alexander, felt burned out by the rigorous filming schedule for 'NCIS' and wanted to be let out of the series. And Bellisario saw this as an opportunity to throw the sonic screwdriver into the works, shaking up the dynamic between the remaining cast members.
(He probably also figured they had gone just about as far as they could with the love-hate relationship between Tony and Kate without the deadly Dave&Maddie curse striking the show's energy.)
But even those angered fans who knew of Alexander's willingness to leave weren't happy. They wanted her character to live happily ever after off-screen even though they'd never get the chance to see it. (Unless there would be an 'NCIS' reunion movie ten years down the road, and really, how likely might that be? It's not like the show has a guaranteed after-life like the 'Star Trek' franchise.)
But just leaving the show safe and sound wouldn't be a guarantee that she would get the fairy tale ending. In the Toobworld timeline, Caitlin could have left her home the first day of "retirement" and get killed in a car crash. Hey, you'd never know.
So I applaud this startling story-telling decision by the show's producers. Now they can not only bring in a fresh character, but also examine the effects of Kate's tragic death upon those she left behind.
For instance, most likely Gibbs would harden his resolve to bring down Ari; he could become as fanatical in the hunt as Ahab for Moby Dick, blind to all else. The Goth Girl might make the decision to put aside her punkish trappings and finally grow up. It's possible Tony could go too deep into the dark place after such a loss.
Who knows but the show's creators, and wouldn't the fans want to see them explore all the possibilities? (Although I'm afraid we are a culture that only wants the "illusion of change" as Stan Lee once described it.)
It might even intrigue me enough to tune back in this coming Fall to see how these characters fared. And since it is a business to the network suits, ultimately that's the main reason for all the creative decisions.
"Ars longa, Vita brevis as they say:
'Art is long, but Life is short'
Dr. Miguelito Loveless
'The Wild, Wild West'


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