Special Report: Killing Off Television Characters

By Monica Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Like a lot of numbskull trends, television’s favorite ploy to kill off favorite characters seems to have originated in England. One of their favorite soap operas was getting top heavy, the powers that be decided, so why not get rid of the longest serving players and make way for new blood. A series of serial killings was planned, the ratings went through the roof and the guy who played the serial killer won an award. Great idea, American executives said, as good as reality shows and like them, this one will save us money and make us even more money. Let’s do it!

And they are doing it: Which “Lost” character will be the next to die? One of your favorite “Heroes” is on the chopping block: Guess who? A recent Thursday’s “Smallville” episode played with the idea of killing Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) after weeks of media speculation. Of course, just like in the comic books, this was only an “imaginary” installment and won’t have to be added to the canon. Still, the character of Chloe is in a particularly vulnerable position. Unlike Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, etcetera, she is unique to the series and not an official part of the canon. It’s a tribute to Allison Mack’s talent that she became a fan favorite and that her role remains vital and real. If Allison as Chloe goes, I go, as a viewer. Don’t even think about it guys!

Then, there’s the Canadian import “Degrassi,” a hard-hitting show about Toronto teenagers. “Degrassi” has been on since the eighties and none of the plotlines involved a murder. Still the producers decided it would be an “Important story” to have J.T. (played by Ryan Cooley) lose his life in a brutal and senseless stabbing. J.T. has always been a comedy character. To destroy such a likeable and charming presence, even if, as one callous viewer noted, “It happens every week in Toronto” seemed a betrayal to the show’s loyal fans. So what if Ryan Cooley was leaving, anyway, for college, after a six year run? Why kill him and leave a hole in many viewers’ hearts during the endless “Degrassi” reruns? Scratch this loyal viewer!

We’re dealing with a four day bloodbath here with more to follow on other shows. “Crossing Jordan,” which has already killed off Lorraine Toussant’s & Jennifer Finnegan’s characters did the same with Leslie Bibb in a Boston riot saga following the police shooting of a small child with a small gun. Leslie Bibb’s role as Lu was basically that of a troublemaker & nemesis to Jill Hennessey as Jordan Kavanaugh, but wouldn’t more original and less lazy writing have saved her from the fate of having her guts ripped open? Death happens, sure, but not this often. Does TV really need to cannibalize itself to survive? As was noted on “Joan of Arcadia,” before it crashed and burned, what we have here is a failure of imagination.
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Killing Off Television Characters