Thursday, December 27, 2007

You're Coming Back a Star... Or Not a Star... But One Way Or Another You're Coming Back.

I couldn't make it through more than a few minutes of the Canadian broadcast of Scott Baio is 45 and Single or Scott Baio is Ripping Off Entourage and calling it a Reality Show or whatever it's called. But it did remind me that Scott Baio, while by no means the worst actor in the world (or even the worst actor on any show he's ever been on), was extremely lucky to be the object of a showrunner's failed attempt at star-making. What I'm talking about is when a TV showrunner or a movie director becomes so taken with a particular actor that he tries over and over again to make that actor a star.

That's what happened with Garry Marshall and Scott Baio. The chronology is as follows: Garry Marshall saw Scott Baio in Bugsy Malone and thought he had star quality, so he put Baio in a new show called Blansky's Beauties. (This was a 1977 midseason replacement that was sort of a clearing-house for every actor that Marshall liked: the cast included Baio, Lynda Goodfriend, Pat Morita -- playing "Arnold" again -- and Eddie Mekka, who temporarily left Laverne and Shirley to play virtually the same character on this show.) The show deservedly bombed, so Marshall immediately added Baio to the cast of Happy Days for the new season. In 1978, Marshall transferred Baio to another new show, Who's Watching the Kids? But that show didn't take either, so Marshall brought Baio right back to Happy Days. When Ron Howard left, Baio's part got built up, and then he got his own spinoff, the infamous Joanie Loves Chachi. That bombed too, and Baio was back to Happy Days for one last season. That's seven-plus years of Garry Marshall trying to make Scott Baio a star and shoving him onto Happy Days to make sure he'd be employed once these other shows kept failing.

Why Scott Baio? Who knows? You can just as easily ask Alfred Hitchcock "Why Tippi Hedren?" or Howard Hawks "Dewey Martin?" The point is that when a powerful director or producer decides that someone is going to be a superstar, he may keep using that actor over and over again even though it's pretty clear that he or she is not going to be a big star.

Garry Marshall also had a bewildering tendency to use the nondescript Lynda Goodfriend over and over; she was on Blansky's Beauties and Who's Watching the Kids too, and she followed Scott Baio's trajectory for a while, shuttling back and forth between Happy Days and new failed Garry Marshall shows.

Sometimes the producer's faith in an actor turns out to be well-founded, though. Aaron Spelling added Heather Locklear to at least three shows in mid-run -- Dynasty, T.J. Hooker and Melrose Place -- and in each case, more Locklear equalled more ratings.

1 comment:

Nhexima said...

Who wouldn't want to use Tippi Hedren? Her turn in Marnie alone was fantastic... Besides, she pretty easily fit into Hitch's typical gaze.

Though according to her, Hitchcock was so sexually obsessed with her, when she ultimately refused his advances (getting married), he used his clout to stop her from getting any studio work for years until her contract ran out, hence why she only did TV for 3 years after Marnie.

I had no idea about Baio's history though, for me there's just a weird gap between Happy Days and Charles in Charge. That reality show is amazingly awful, though.