Television: When shows go too far


In Hollywood, lying is a finely tuned art form. If you haven't told at least five whoppers before noon, you're in danger of losing your lunch table at the Ivy. So give Robert and Michelle King, creators of the Emmy-honored CBS drama "The Good Wife," credit for coming out last week with the bold truth: By temporarily putting the take-charge Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) into a violent relationship with her long-lost husband, they had gone too far.

"We bent the character so we would have some thematic parallels between her and Alicia (Julianna Margulies)," said Robert King. After negative reaction from fans, they wrapped up the storyline three episodes earlier than planned. "We spanked ourselves on the back and said that we'll never let themes lead plot ever again."

Apology accepted -- and understood. TV shows, even great ones, can sometimes go overboard in trying to give characters a little dimension. Some examples from the past:

n "Seinfeld" (May 16, 1996): "The Invitations," Larry David's last contribution to a regular episode, is best remembered for the deadpan reaction of George Constanza (Jason Alexander) to the death of his fiancee, but not before Jerry has a ridiculous fling with Jeannie Steinman (Janeane Garafalo), primarily because they both dig Superman and cereal.

n "Homicide: Life on the Street" (May 21, 1999): It's one thing to watch your show's wide-eyed innocent harden over the course of several seasons, but having Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor) go all vigilante on "The Internet Killer" in the series' finale is bloody murder.

n "ER" (April 13, 2000): Even a dedicated doctor can get hooked on drugs, especially after nearly dying from a knife attack next to that girl from "Life Goes On," but it was a clear case of creative malpractice when John Carter (Noah Wyle) started putting patients' lives in peril because of an addiction to pain killers.

n "Frasier" (May 18, 2000): It made perfect sense that Niles Crane (David Hyde Pierce) mooned over caretaker Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves), but when she abandoned her wedding to run away with the finicky doctor, we got a little sick to the stomach.

n "Sex and the City" (Aug. 6, 2000): Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) lost her status as the group's moral compass when she betrayed boyfriend Aidan (John Corbett) with Mr. Big (Chris Noth). Carrie's sinful stray never quite matched the rest of her emotional accessories.

n "Grey's Anatomy" (May 14, 2006): Love means never having to say you're sorry. It also means "I'll pull the power cord to your heart machine so you move up the donor list." That's the bat-crap crazy thinking behind an attempt by Izzy Stevens (Katherine Heigl) to "romance" Denny (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

n "Desperate Housewives" (Oct. 3, 2010): Just when you thought the writers had run out of ways to put Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher) in skimpy clothing, they cook up a plot line in which she takes a job posing as a sexy maid for an online porn site. Desperate, indeed.

n "Dexter" (Dec. 18, 2011): It was awkward enough when co-stars Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter were temporarily married in real life, but when the story line suggested their brother-sister characters on the show might hook up as well? Grosser than a bathtub full of blood.

n "The Office" (April 19, 2012): After Steve Carell's departure, producers wisely chose sweet Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) to become the emotional heart of the show. Unfortunately, that move was destroyed when Andy transformed into a raging lunatic, in dire need of some anger management -- and smarter scripts.


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