Monday, March 17, 2014

"Why 'Major Dad' Ended So Abruptly (And Why I Was Barely Involved With It When It Did)"


This first part is weird.  And a little disreputable.

Major Dad had a “First Season” order for twenty-two episodes.  At the completion of the twenty-second episode, I had arranged for a week’s visit to that Fitness Spa I recently wrote about in Mexico, for some desperately needed “R. and R.”

Then, out of the blue, the network decided to order four additional episodes.  That would normally be great news, but not to someone who was physically drained and emotionally exhausted, crawling gaspingly to a “Finish Line”, which had unfortunately been moved back. 

Despite the fact that production had been extended, I decided nevertheless to depart for the spa on schedule, insuring first that ”Episode 23’s” script was in good shape, and feeling comfortable that my “Second-in-Command” was capable of handling things in my absence.  (Let me assert in the loudest possible parentheses that my decision to escape to the spa despite the now altered productions arrangements was unprofessional, stiff-neck-ed and wrong.) 

During my “Spa Week”, when I called in to check in on the show, I was informed that there was absolute chaos on the set.  Major Dad’s star, rejecting the climactic scene in the script, had written a “Replacement Scene” of his own, and was now insisting that that “Replacement Scene” be filmed. 

Such behavior is entirely unheard of, an indefensible breach in the way things are done.  (Asserted the man who had abandoned the show four weeks before it had finished production.)

When I came back the following Monday, I was asked “point blank” if I would be returning to the show for the following season.  I replied that, as a result of the Major Dad’s star’s unacceptable actions, I most emphatically would not. 

Major Dad ran for four years.  I was only in charge of it for one.

I left a couple of things out – such as a detached retina that (to some degree, mercifully) excused me from “Shows 25 and 26” – but that, in a nutshell, is why I was no longer running Major Dad at the time that it was cancelled. 

(My departure did not entirely sadden me.  I do not enjoy running shows, and, my no longer having to allowed me the opportunity to return to my office and devote my now available time to developing new ideas for future sitcoms.)

I began Major Dad’s “Second Season” as a consultant, which I did conscientiously, and thoroughly enjoyed.  Then, around the season’s midpoint, my former “Second-in-Command” – now Major Dad’sFirst-in-Command” – I could say “conspired” but I shall be nice and say arranged, in collusion…I mean in an agreement with the show’s star, to have me banned from the production, both physically and creatively. 

Then tragedy struck.  (Not “life and death” tragedy, it is just a show, after all.  But it is the turning point of this story.)

During Major Dad’s third and most successful season, Universal’s likable, capable and enthusiastic “President of Television” left the studio, and was replaced by a man who was none of those things.  This marked the “Beginning of the End.”

The first shoe that dropped was that, under this new and inadequate leadership, Major Dad was allowed, with minimal visible resistance, to be moved from the most watched evening of the week – Monday – to arguably the least watched evening of the week – Friday.  (Especially for Major Dad fans, for whom Friday was “High School Football Night.”  And this was before DVR’s.)  

The result of this move was that, during its “Fourth Season”, Major Dad plummeted precipitously in the ratings.

After the season ended, I was informed by my agent that Major Dad had been cancelled, though the official network announcement had yet to be made.  The information shocked me, because despite its (inevitable Friday-slotted) ratings slide, Major Dad’s strong overall performance predicted another season at least.

I immediately (and highly uncharacteristically) jumped into action.  I arranged a meeting with “The Most Powerful Executive in the Studio” (not counting the mostly figurehead “Top Guy” who nobody approached unless they were heads of state from another country.) 

Quaking in my loafers, I explained to this “Master of the Studio Universe” that a substantial financial entity (for both the studio and myself) was on the precipice of extinction.  (Though it is unlikely I employed that precise wording.) 

I urged him to take action at the highest levels to salvage the situation – negotiate some generous-to-the-network fifth-year pickup deal, or broker a concessionary half-season renewal.

Whatever heroic efforts were attempted, they did not succeed in saving the patient.  Major Dad was announced DOA after four years on the air.  (Many attributing its demise to “Executive Malpractice”, rather than to its continuing viability as the series.)

Why did Major Dad end so abruptly, inquired commenter “senica”?

The answer, for Major Dad, as well as for other series whose final episode failed to successfully wrap things up, is simple:

It did not know it was ending.
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Happy St. Patrick's Day.  Interesting Factoid:  A classmate of mine at the Toronto Hebrew Day School had his birthday on St. Patrick's Day.  And his name - no lie - was Ricky Green.

That may not be earthshaking, but you know what is?  I could have said, "And his name - no lie - was Ricky Schwartz."

And I didn't.


8 comments:

Esther Nettleton said...

Ricky O'Schwartz, maybe, but not Schwartz.

Sooo, you missed $yndication by 4 episodes? I enjoyed MD quite a lot. Mac was good as the major which of course, doesn't speak to his person, but mostly I enjoyed watching Polly...Shanna Reed.

Canda said...

Did you consider a meeting with the lead to say you returning would have to be under "your conditions", i.e., that you were in charge of the scripts?

Anonymous said...

Was "General Disturbance" written and filmed before "Oops A Daisy" as the General is back after leaving?

Rob Brinkerhoff said...

Unfortunately I was only 7 when this show was first aired, and didn't see it until it came on Hulu, which for me was about 2 years ago. Have you ever thought of maybe bringing it back? I know Hawaii Five-O is a remake of the earlier series, and it's doing well! Maybe see if Netflix will pick up the new show too? I'd certainly watch a new series of it. But, as a Marine myself, I'd recommend someone as lead actor that actually knows Marine Corps Sword Manual and update the uniforms to current (Woodland or Desert MARPAT cammies with OD green undershirt and matching OD green "silkies" shorts).

Rob Brinkerhoff said...

Unfortunately I was only 7 when this show was first aired, and didn't see it until it came on Hulu, which for me was about 2 years ago. Have you ever thought of maybe bringing it back? I know Hawaii Five-O is a remake of the earlier series, and it's doing well! Maybe see if Netflix will pick up the new show too? I'd certainly watch a new series of it. But, as a Marine myself, I'd recommend someone as lead actor that actually knows Marine Corps Sword Manual and update the uniforms to current (Woodland or Desert MARPAT cammies with OD green undershirt and matching OD green "silkies" shorts).

Anonymous said...

If the show had survived to a 5th season, would it have been renamed "Lieutenant Colonel Dad"?

Arwynn said...

I can't help but believe that a "come back" or "re-creation" of Major Dad would be extremely beneficial in this new millennial day and age. Our country is in dire need of re-patronization and national pride. We should consider that President Trump's idea of making America great again would include some family shows rather than reality shows so that children can learn what it means to respect their parents. The 60's and 70's were filled with family shows that gave us morals and values and American Pride. Please, bring back a new version of Major Dad and not Major Mom or Major Transgender. We need to keep our families wholesome and traditional.

Dawn McCoy said...

I'm watching the first season now as I was actually in the Marines when it aired. There are a few Marine Corps references that are incorrect, but that's to be expected.