The die is (re)cast
Thursday March 31, 2011
IN 2000, when actor Michael J. Fox had to bow out of his top-rating sitcom Spin City due to illness, Charlie Sheen was brought in to replace him, with Sheen's deputy mayor, Charlie Crawford, filling the shoes of Fox's deputy mayor, Mike Flaherty.Though the circumstances are profoundly different, Sheen's hit comedy Two and a Half Men is now at the same crossroads. To recast or not to recast? John Stamos? Rob Lowe? Same character? New character? There are so many questions.Television producers have grappled with the dilemma on occasions far too numerous to mention, either because an actor has taken ill, has quit the series or, if their tiger blood gets the better of them, is sacked.History tends to favour one actor in a role, such as the original Darrin in Bewitched, or Richard Gibson's Herr Flick in the British comedy 'Allo 'Allo.What follows is by no means a definitive list but these case studies reveal some curious side effects when producers decide to play roulette with the cast.Scott RobinsonNeighbours, played by Darius Perkins then Jason DonovanWhen Channel Seven canned its cul-de-sac soap in 1985, it was bought by rival Ten and given a new lick of paint. Among the renovations was turning the awkward mouse-haired teen Scott Robinson into a confident bleached blond. Neighbours has never quite shaken the habit, with a stack of recastings since.Darrin StephensBewitched, played by Dick York then Dick SargentThe first actor to play the nebbish husband of witch Samantha Stephens was Dick York, whose trademark grin concealed the fact he struggled with debilitating back pain for many years. After four years on the show, his condition deteriorated and he collapsed on set. He was replaced by Dick Sargent.Jan BradyThe Brady Bunch and The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, played by Eve Plumb then Geri ReischlIn what could only be described as a moment of madness, the US network decided to resurrect The Brady Bunch as an all-singing, all-dancing musical show. Eve Plumb, however, had the good sense to stay away, so poor middle sister Jan was played by Geri Reischl. Plumb paid a heavy price: her absence fuelled rumours for many years that she had died of a drug overdose.Fallon Carrington ColbyDynasty and The Colbys, played by Pamela Sue Martin then Emma SammsWhen the Carrington family's headstrong daughter Fallon ran off with a European playboy and seemingly died in a plane crash, her husband Jeff wouldn't let go. Luckily he didn't have to: he moved to California, where his late wife turned up with a new face and an English accent."Miss Ellie" EwingDallas, played by Barbara Bel Geddes then Donna ReedThe Ewing matriarch was an integral part of the show, so much so that when Bel Geddes bowed out of the show due to illness, the character was recast with Donna Reed. Reed wasn't just unpopular with viewers, she was unpopular with the cast and the show's star, Larry Hagman, pressured the producers to bring Bel Geddes back to Southfork the following year.Becky ConnerRoseanne, played by LecyGoranson then Sarah ChalkeOne of the most successful comedies of the 1990s lost daughter Becky when actor Lecy Goranson went off to college. Sarah Chalke took over the role but after three years Goranson returned. "It feels like you've been gone for three years," her onscreen mother Roseanne said in Goranson's first scene back.Frank CostanzaSeinfeld, played by JohnRandolph then Jerry StillerGeorge Costanza's neurotic dad, Frank, made his first appearance in Seinfeld in the fourth season, played by John Randolph. When the producers recast the role with Stiller, they took the extraordinary step of reshooting Randolph's scenes from his one episode with Stiller for repeat broadcasts.Roman BradyDays of Our Lives, played by Wayne Northrop then Josh TaylorPutting to one side the whole issue of Drake Hogestyn's character, John Black, being unmasked as the "real" Roman Brady (a ludicrous plot detail the writers later reversed), audiences were left confounded when, after playing Roman on and off for roughly 30 years, Northrop was replaced in 1997 by Josh Taylor, who had spent a decade playing one of the show's most popular characters, likeable bartender Chris Kositchek.Ruth "Roo" StewartHome and Away, played by Justine Clarke then Georgie ParkerSummer Bay's original bad girl who, among other things, tricked Frank into marrying her then revealed at the wedding that the baby was not his. Flash forward two decades and the show's producers, hoping to capitalise on audience affection for legacy characters, has brought a grown-up Roo back to the Bay.