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Changing Faces


Darren Stevens. Becky Connor. Morty Seinfeld. James Bond. Even Batman. They're all characters that, for various reasons, have been played by different actors. Granted, in movie series, it doesn't make as much of a difference due to the singular format. But during the course of a television show, does the alteration of a recurring character uphold the suspension of disbelief?

Yes, I know. It's not real life, it's TV. This season, Eric Foreman's sister Laurie on That 70's Show is being replaced. For me, I can't really see another actress in that part. Then again, that show is so full of inconsistencies it can make your head spin (i.e. the use of pop-top cans during a time they weren't used, contemporary logos on name brand props, a show based in Wisconsin where it almost never snows and no one speaks with a northern accent, etc.). Oh well, at least they didn't try to replace Chong.

Don't forget B5 is a repeat offender in this case as well. Not just one, but two of John Sheridan's family members were replaced (his wife and father) by different actors. And Draal turned into the suicidal guy from M*A*S*H, only to be reincarnated as Brother Theo.

Maybe it's just me, but I think the only show to ever pull it off was Doctor Who, if only by inventing a plausible way to do it. Seeing someone you know with a different face is just annoying. I prefer a character to be written out if the actor can't come back.

And Dick Sargeant just wasn't that funny.
My reaction tends to vary with the details of the circumstances.

Yes, Dick Seargent wasn't that funny. I prefer the Dick York seasons. However, I understand why they made the decision to recast the part when York was no longer able to continue. The whole premise of the show revolved around the fact that Sam falling in love with a mortal was pretty much completely unheard of among the witched. Writing Darren out leaves you with two possibilities, neither very attractive. The first is that you leave Sam without a mortal partner, which removes the culture clash that was at the heart of all of their comedy. The second is to have Sam right back into love with another mortal, which changes Sam from someone following her heart against all obstacles into someone with a fetish for mortals. Then again, I very rarely actually watch any Bewitched reruns any more.

In the case of instances like B5, there were legitimate story reasons why the characters *needed* to reappear but not frequently enough that they could really contractually lock them up. (Even ignoring times when real life health issues would have created problems regardless of contractual status.)

On the other hand, last night I went through complete character shift whiplash. I love watching Coupling on BBC America. Last night NBC premiered the new American verion with their whole new American cast. Apart from a few culturally specific references and idioms, they used virtually the same script as the premiere ep of the BBC version. You know how Dick Seargent just didn't have the timing and energy of Dick York, even if you gave them the same lines? Imagine having that happen to *all* of the characters of a show at the same time. Also, somehow trimming the 7 or 8 minutes required to fit in the commercials also removed all of the humanity from the characters (in terms of them being characters that you actually care about). I may check it out once or twice more to see if they work out how to play their characters, but it isn't looking good from my POV.
I saw the US version of Coupling last nite and was disappointed as well. I didn't have high expectations for it but it was still a bit sad. I am going to see if they get any better since they may just need some time to find their characters. It sucks that they can't just hire actors who do that the first time around. :p

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