Discuss former or new projects of The Bedford Falls Company (production company of "My So-Called Life"), Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick (executive producers) in this forum.
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Post by Sascha » Nov 21st 2005, 5:31 pm

SO I WAS TALKING with a friend the other day about new shows this season, and "How I Met Your Mother" (8:30 p.m., Ch. 2) came up.

"I like it," my friend said, "but there's something not quite right with it, and I can't put my finger on what that is."

"Simple," I said. "It's suffering from an acute case of Herskozwickitis."

My friend looked at me as if I had just offered to paint her cocker spaniel, so I explained that Herskozwickitis derives from Herskozwick, Latin for "'makers of TV dramas watched by people who claim to not like anything on TV." And when she still looked like I was cuckoo, I admitted I'd made up the term years ago, combining the names of Marshall Herskowitz and Ed Zwick, creators of "thirtysomething," "My So-Called Life" and "Once & Again."

All the Herskozwick shows were notable for two things: (1) insightful writing about relationships, emotion and life in this modern age; and (2) main characters who were by far the least interesting people on that show. With "'thirtysomething," people didn't watch for perfect yuppie parents Hope and Michael, but for his neurotic cousin Melissa or his charming buddy Gary. Claire Danes got a movie career out of "'My So-Called Life," but fans of the show gravitated towards supporting actors like A.J. Langer, Wilson Cruz and Devon Gummersall. And the romance between single parents Rick and Lily was necessary for the premise of "Once & Again," but the best episodes tended to be about Rick's ex-wife, or Lily's daughter, her sister, etc.

Herskozwickitis doesn't just apply to TV shows -- the Baltimore Ravens team that won a Super Bowl with mediocre quarterback Trent Dilfer at the helm was a classic Herskozwick-type team -- but it's been around the tube since long before Marshall and Ed first hooked up.

"WKRP in Cincinnati" had the boring station manager Andy Travis as its hero, but all the laughs came from radio personalities like Johnny Fever, Venus Flytrap or Les Nessman. Straight arrows Michael Kuzak and Grace Van Owen were the star couple on "'LA Law," but people tend to remember sleazy Arnie Becker and fiery Victor Sifuentes.

Now, sometimes you need a less-than-exciting lead. Mary Richards and Alex Rieger certainly weren't the wackiest characters on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Taxi," respectively, but they provided a sane, recognizable point of view to the wackiness around them. A "Seinfeld" without Jerry to react to Kramer, George and Elaine would be unwatchable; ditto "Will & Grace" being retitled "Jack & Karen." (Not that the show is any good at all now, but the talk in the early years about dumping the leads was foolish.)

And sometimes writers recognize the Herskozwickitis and take steps to correct the problem before it brings down their show. David Birney was the original star of "St. Elsewhere," but when the producers saw that the younger actors like David Morse and Ed Begley were really clicking, they moved Birney to the background until he eventually quit. "Family Matters" was built around Reginald VelJohnson, and it took Jaleel White as Urkel all of one episode to take over.

more at http://www.nj.com/columns/ledger/alltv/ ... xml&coll=1

BTW: "How I met Your Mother" is one of my favorite new comedies this season. Really fresh ... and somehow different. If you haven't checked it out by now, then give it a try.

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