Mysterical-Eye on TV & Film

Happy TV Hiatus

As I write this column, the holidays have come and gone. Many TV shows are on hiatus until February or later, and new midseason shows haven’t premiered. This is a good time, though, to react to recent TV news and indulge in some DVD nostalgia.

On January 5, NCIS’s Michael Weatherly announced he would be leaving the show at the end of this season. The fact that Weatherly’s character, Special Agent Tony DiNozzo, has been fully fleshed out over thirteen years makes his departure easier to take than say, Kate Todd (Sasha Alexander)’s, who was killed off after two seasons. Then again, DiNozzo has been the spark of much of the show’s humor as well as its younger man of action. I don’t see McGee (Sean Murray) or Bishop (Emily Wickersham) filling the action void as Kate, Ziva (Cote de Pablo), and Tony did. In those aspects, Weatherly is most difficult to replace.

Is it too much of a stretch to wonder if Weatherly’s departure puts NCIS’s renewal for Season 14 in doubt? If I were an executive, I’d want some assurance the show post-DiNozzo could still hit all the notes it does now.

Promoting a recurring humorous, physical character like Abigail Borin (Diane Neal) or recent DiNozzo ex Zoe Keats (Marisol Nichols) would be an easy transition, but there are also several episodes left this season that could introduce a new character.

What kind of sendoff would I like for Tony? What if he simply retires, as Ziva did, and reunites with Ziva as a bonus?

Also announced this month was the end of TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles after its seventh season, set to premiere in February. Like FOX’s Bones, Rizzoli & Isles was a fun, female-centered forensics-buddy cop show, but it clearly did not fit TNT’s 2014 move to darker, edgier shows that saw the Eric McCormack-Rachael Leigh Cook mystery series Perception canceled. Still, seven years is a fine run, and the stars and producers agreed with the network it was a good time for the show to end.

Speaking of Bones, it recently became public that executive producer Barry Josephson was suing studio Fox, claiming shady handling of the show’s profits, some of which he is owed. Producers Emily Deschanel, David Boreanaz, and Kathy Reichs have filed their own suits on the same grounds. Many are predicting this means the end of a show that was picked up last-minute last season.

Trying to put reality aside, I’ve enjoyed this season of Bones as I have them all. The “heartbreaking” fall finale saw Dr. Jack Hodgins (T.J. Thyne) paralyzed by a bomb set at a crime scene by the series’ latest killer. In interviews, Thyne nade the point that Hodgins and Angela have been the happy couple for the past few seasons, and the paralysis presents a meaty challenge for them to play. I look forward to it, but Fox hasn’t announced when Bones will return from hiatus.

While it didn’t do well in theaters last August, as a fan of TV’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series, I had anticipated an U.N.C.L.E. movie for years. At the family Thanksgiving party, a cousin raved about the movie on video, saying she enjoyed it more than the higher-profile James Bond movie Spectre. My brother mentioned the U.N.C.L.E. movie had come up on his Netflix queue. Not familiar with the TV series, he still enjoyed it, saying it was worth the $14.99 on Blu-ray I’d been thinking of paying, so we watched it together.

While not blatantly like the TV series, the movie strikes enough of the same chords that its inspiration is clear. Coming close to Robert Vaughn’s playful cadence, Cavill plays the CIA’s Napoleon Solo with a flair sadly missing from the current incarnations of Bond and Bourne. Hammer plays the KGB’s Ilya Kuryakin not quite as David McCallum did, but with the same sense that his volatility could churn to the surface any moment.

The movie covers their getting to know each other as the United States and Soviet Union team up in pursuit of a missing nuclear scientist. It’s really a race which superpower finds them first, and each man has orders to kill the other if necessary to win. Meanwhile, U.N.C.L.E. chief Alexander Waverly (Hugh Grant) has his own agent in place.

I found it a good mix of period tension and low-tech action. I regret that a sequel seems unlikely, but I did buy the Blu-ray after all.

In contrast, I was never much a fan of TV’s Spenser: For Hire. Robert B. Parker’s Spenser books were my first favorites in the P.I. genre, and I was disappointed in how wildly the TV show departed from them. Particularly in Season 2, Barbara Stock, who had played Spenser’s girlfriend Susan Silverman, was let go. This coincidentally mirrored a breakup in the books around the same time; however, the TV show then matched Spenser (Robert Urich) and Assistant D.A. Rita Fiore (Carolyn McCormick), a pairing that was and remains unthinkable in the books.

Again, though, I waited for a good price and bought the Season 2 set, and have come to think I judged it too harshly. While the show constantly struggled for better ratings, its departure from the books is nothing less than many of today’s book-inspired shows have done as a matter of course. Now I know that, to have the best life of its own, a TV show has to take chances with its source material, to prove viewers can get something out of watching the show that they can’t get from reading the books.

Until next time.

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