Thursday, May 15, 2014

Singing the Cancellation Blues

Every spring, anxious television actors impatiently await the release of the networks' fall schedules, eager to find out if their new series was picked up, or if their existing one was renewed for another season. Sometimes they find out in odd ways: actor Marty Ingels, after a year of co-starring in ABC's 1962-63 sitcom I'm Dickens...He's Fenster, claimed he learned the news of the show's cancellation when a sandwich named after him was abruptly removed from the menu of the studio commissary.

For Imogene Coca, after a happy year as star of NBC's Grindl (1963-64), the ax fell after weeks of rumors and uncertainty, as network executives considered whether to renew her show or The Bill Dana Show. Even after the decision was made, she had difficulty putting it behind her: "Wherever we went, people didn't call me Imogene, or Miss Coca. It was always 'How are you, Grindl?' or 'We watch you on television, Grindl.' Especially the kids ... And every time I heard the name, it was like a little slap in the face." 

Even the star of a popular show, who should have some job security, can be caught by surprise. Ken Berry's Mayberry R.F.D. was still riding high in the ratings when CBS canceled it in 1971, part of a widespread purge of shows appearing primarily to rural viewers. With viewer demographics becoming increasingly important, suddenly mere popularity was no longer enough. Soon, Berry had to put his new home up for sale, gratefully grabbed a role in a TV-movie, and expressed relief that his then-wife, actress Jackie Joseph, had been cast in The Doris Day Show. "I hope they start shooting soon," he told columnist Marilyn Beck, "because we can really use the paycheck."

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