12.21.2006

I blame Adam Baldwin.

Don't get me wrong. Adam Baldwin is a great actor that I enjoy watching, whether he's good, evil, sarcastic, dimwitted, ambiguous, or any combination of the above. But he doesn't have a good track record with television shows staying on the air. I first noted his work in The X-Files, playing sinister super soldier Knowle Rohrer. He appeared toward the end of the 8th season and had several more appearances in the ninth and final season, including a prominent role in the finale. Of course, nine years is a good run, so at the time I didn't note any connection.

Baldwin, no relation to Alec's clan, then went on to stand out in the ensemble cast of Firefly. It was a brilliant, well written science fiction series with Western elements and great characters, and it was completely mishandled. The episodes were aired out of sequence, relegated to Fridays, and not every episode produced was aired before the network pulled the plug. Fans rallied, and eventually got a conclusion of sorts to the adventures of Baldwin's Jayne Cobb along with his captain and crewmates in the form of the film Serenity.

Adam Baldwin kept busy between his doomed series and its cinematic follow-up. He joined the cast of Angel as the sinister Marcus Hamilton, just in time for that show to abruptly get axed in its fifth and possibly best season. At least he got a memorable fight sequence with the title character in the final episode. For the second time in his career, he had joined a popular series in time for it to end. Around this time he also appeared in two episodes of Stargate SG-1, which has been canceled as of this year, and he did some voice work on Justice League Unlimited, right before that was canceled last year.

In the Summer of 2005, a few months before the release of Serenity, The Inside debuted. It was a pretty dark crime drama about FBI profilers who get inside the minds of the most twisted criminals and try to figure out their next move. I didn't have high hopes for a show that started at a time of year when no one was watching TV, but I got sucked in to it nonetheless, as much by the attractive lead Rachel Nichols as the complex and creepy boss played by Peter Coyote. And of course, amid this great ensemble in a series which had only 8 of the 13 episodes produced actually air, was Baldwin playing sarcastic agent Danny Love. A pattern was most definitely forming.

When Day Break premiered six weeks ago, I gave it a chance because I had nothing else to watch on Wednesdays until Lost returned. The concept of someone reliving the same day over and over again is not original, and has been done in everything from Star Trek to Lois and Clark to the movie Groundhog Day. People most familiar with the concept from the latter film, compared the series to it before it even aired, and dismissed it. Yet in its execution, this crime drama starring Taye Diggs as a cop framed for the murder of a senator as part of a larger conspiracy bore more of a resemblance to 24. I remember a time when I was skeptical that the gimmick of a show about one day in which each episode is an hour of that day seemed iffy to me. Then they pulled it off, and I wondered how they could possibly do more seasons. Well, the same thing happened with Day Break. The changes Diggs' character made each time the day reset lead to very different outcomes, and the consequences of his decisions lead to a new path each time, sometimes dangerous. The biggest hook for me was when it was revealed that while the day reset, he did not, and injuries sustained on one day would carry over to the next reset. He could die. It also didn't hurt that the newcomer Moon Bloodgood, playing his doomed girlfriend, was a unique and exotic beauty. After she's brutally murdered on the first day, and he wakes up in bed with her alive at the beginning of the same day, the high stakes are established. He must not only solve the case and clear his name, but keep her alive and hope that when tomorrow finally comes, it's after a day in which he gets everything right.

Even X-Files alumnus Mitch Pileggi had a role amid the ensemble of interesting characters, and the more I got in to the show I had only one concern. Playing Diggs' ex-partner, his wife's ex-husband, and troublesome internal affairs agent was none other than Adam Baldwin. My first reaction upon seeing him was positive, followed seconds later by the realization that the show would be canceled. Yet while three of his previous shafted series were on FOX, notorious for not giving shows a chance, this was ABC, a major, reputable network. More importantly, the show was designed as a finite series, with 13 episodes already filmed, and a story arc that would conclude at the end of those episodes. It was an interesting approach to television, rather than extend plots to keep shows going, it could have a good ending before it was forced to drag the story out or end prematurely. So when I read rumors online and saw a ”Save Daybreak” page, I was hopefully skeptical.

I tuned in Wednesday night at nine, anxious to see where the show went after a shocking revelation last week. To my horror and disgust, I watched a few minutes of Jim Belushi in a rerun of his horribly formulaic and dated sitcom, the kind that still relied on one-liners and a laugh track. He played the ignorant husband, eating junk food with his fat buddy and making derogatory comments about women and finance before his too-hot-for-a-guy-like-that-in-real-life-wife™ zinged him by pointing out that Oprah owned an island and she was sick of stereotypes. She then ironically zinged herself by asking another woman if she'd like to throw on an apron and help her bake cookies. The canned laughter really loved that one, while I searched frantically for a fork to remove my eyeballs.

So apparently, even though there were only 7 more episodes left of Day Break, the network decided the ratings weren't good enough, and they'd be better off with reruns of a crappy comedy. They might be airing the episodes online, and if they do I hope the hits they get on their website prove that they made a grievous mistake. The Nielsen system is horribly outdated, and it seems there's more and more of a disconnect between the shows people watch and the shows networks think they watch. I thought the system relied on some device attached to select viewers homes, which of course wouldn't know if someone recorded a show to watch later, or had the television on and left the room. In my research, I found that they mainly rely on a written record from viewers, and I came across comments from one former Nielsen participant who said he'd sometimes mark down that he watched a show, even if he taped it and watched something else, because he didn't want a show he liked to be penalized for that. It's a ridiculous method of research, and in no way really reflects what's happening.

So maybe it's the Nielsen's fault, or maybe it's Adam Baldwin's. I like his work a lot, but I'm starting to think that either he has bad luck, or he is bad luck. Maybe the masses writing to ABC will get those final episodes to air after the holidays, or maybe Day Break is finished. If it is, then Baldwin's reign as a great actor, but a serial show killer, will continue....

3 Comments:

Blogger Otis said...

Although I never watched the shows you talked about, I feel your pain. I will never forgive television/Neilson for cancelling Arrested Development.

12/21/2006 10:23 AM  
Blogger TheWriteJerry said...

Actually, I believe that the common thread to be blamed here is not Baldwin, but MCF, who watched each one of these shows...

We might need a "Stop MCF From Watching The Good Shows" campaign.

12/21/2006 12:55 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

Holy Peter Petrelli moment! J-No might have hit something there!

I'm not the bad guy....I'm not the bad guy...

12/21/2006 8:08 PM  

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