Does a hit TV show always fall apart with the premature departure of its leading star? I was asked to give my two cents on that topic Monday on The Bill Kelly Show, heard daily on Hamilton’s AM900 CHML.
The starting point was Kelly’s disappointment in the final season of House of Cards. Sure, main star Kevin Spacey was gone in disgrace after sexual misconduct allegations mounted, an early ouster in the #metoo movement. Kelly, like a lot of viewers, saw Spacey’s firing as an opportunity for co-star Robin Wright to step forward and shine and for the writers and producers to put a bow on the show that put Netflix on the map.
Instead, things fell apart. Spacey’s character, US president Frank Underwood, was out of sight but still lingering over storylines like a bad stink. New actors were added, good ones such as Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear, but, as Kelly saw it, the scripts seemed to let everybody down.
I have to admit I did not stick with the series, and what little I did see of Season Five seemed to indicate that House of Cards was played out well before Spacey’s departure. I also suggest to Kelly that this series may have been wounded by that other nasty, manipulative and soul crushing political drama playing every night on CNN: The Trump Presidency. Viewers did not need to turn to a fictional bad guy president for entertainment, especially at a time when many were trying to escape the real one.
So I don’t think Spacey’s departure torpedoed the series, although it clearly put the writer’s in a corner that derailed whatever original ending they may have had in mind. The final eight episodes, which are all available for streaming now on Netflix, comes to a messy conclusion with more loose ends than a Florida election ballot. Think the final episode of Breaking Bad — if you played it backwards.
The removal of Roseanne Barr from Roseanne, however, seems to have had the opposite effect. That writer’s room rebooted that series with vigour last winter and seems to have taken Barr’s banishment with the same jolt of creative energy. They’ve thrown themselves into the rest of The Conners, allowing John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf and especially Sara Gilbert to step up and take some big swings. Yes, Roseanne’s shadow still looms large over the series but the death in that family seems genuine and relatable, maybe even welcome — unlike the forced demise of Underwood on House of Cards.
Me and the other Bill kick the topic around for 12 minutes or so. You can listen it here.