Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Losing Isaiah

Back in Jersey, and it looks from a skim of TV Tattle that a whole lotta stuff went down while I was in the air. Not surprised but pleased to see "Earl," "The Office" and "Heroes" get full-season pick-ups for next year, and only mildly surprised that "Idol" was even bigger than ever in the numbers. (People love the freakshow.) And it looks like my Trump/Rosie proposal was as futile as I expected it to be.

The one bit of news I want to talk about began before I left California: the latest round in the Isaiah Washington-T.R. Knight kerfuffle. Shonda and ABC have done their best to manage the problem to date, but it sounds like things have escalated beyond their control. So, two questions:

1)Given how public and ugly this has become, is there any way that both Washington and Knight will be on the show next year?

2)If not, is there any way that Washington won't be the one to go?

In terms of 1, I think we're past the point of no return. There have been TV shows where the leads couldn't stand each other ("Moonlighting," to name a classic), but the viciousness has rarely become this public. Something has to be done, and I think it's the bouncing of Washington. He wasn't even the first choice to play Burke (Paul Adelstein, aka Kellerman from "Prison Break," had the part but couldn't get out of a movie commitment), one of the character's more interesting facets (his friendship with George) is being wiped out by real-world factors, and they already have Brooke Smith on hand as a replacement heart surgeon (if not as a new love interest for Sandra Oh). George, meanwhile, is one of the show's most popular characters, and T.R. Knight is the victim in all this.

Am I wrong? Does Isaiah remain employed next season?


Anonymous said...

Alan, I wholeheartedly agree. This is beyond the point of no return and after watching Ellen DeGeneres today (TR was a guest), I can see that there is no way how Isiah is still employed. As a gay man myself, I am beyond upset that Isiah was not fired immediately for using that word, little less for being unprofessional. I know others have said this, but I need to say it again. If it was reversed and someone used the "n" word towards Isiah, there would be some major backlash and a whole bunch of mea culpas (see Richards, Michael). But the fact it hasn't been done because of the use of this fowl and hate-filled word is uncanny. And the fact that he DENIED saying the word (by saying the word again) at the Globes and then the rebuttals from Kathrine Heigel and TR is blows my mind. I am really at a loss on what to say anymore. He and this situation beyone iritates me for the hyprocricy and double standards that is beyond evident. They need to fire him and fire him immediately. It should have not even gone this far.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how Washington can stay employed. He's gotten into disagreements with at least three of the actors, his storyline seems destined to spin the character out of the hospital (last time I checked; I'm not a regular watcher of the show).

Heigl's explosion surprised me. She never struck me as that gutsy.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I agree with you and the previous posters. I would add this, Washington's attitude and comments are partcularly shocking given that the Grey's cast and crew pride themselves on the show's inclusiveness, openness, and diversity. If Shonda and Co. are going to continue to set themselves up as a show to be admired on those grounds, they will have to take a strong stand. "We are family," is not going to cut it after the Golden Globe episode.

I've always enjoyed Burke, the character, and lately I've been even more impressed with TR, knowing that the most recent scenes he shot with Washington took place after the initial incident. I don't feel/see any of the hurt or disgust TR has every right to feel bubbling under the surface, which makes those scenes even more spectacular for me.

Anonymous said...

As a watcher of the show, I can see his eventual firing coming. While he was enjoyable early on (in the first two seasons), his character has now started to drag on the show. Hell, it would be easy now to make it as though his hand does not recover, and he is subsequently fired. Throw in him committing suicide just for laughs.

But yeah, as far as odds go, I'd say the safe bet is that he won't be coming back next season. Like the poster above noted, I'd love to see what would have happened if it had been TR calling Washington a 'n'.

Anonymous said...

While I totally agree that he should be fired, I really doubt he will be. I watched the little clip of the cast backstage at the Globes and Shonda tried to downplay the original event when asked, implying basically that the media blew it all out of proportion and that it wasn't a big deal.

From interviews and other things I've read about Shonda, I would guess that "serving the story" is more important than anything else to her. She claims not to know where the story is going, and speaks as if she has no control over the storyline at all...the characters are like real people and THEY make the choices that drive the show. I honestly find it a little weird! I remember her saying something about how she still cries about Denny's death, how much it surprised her, etc. The bottom line is that I'm doubtful Burke will "choose" to do something that would write him out of the show.

Anonymous said...

I find myself feeling fairly torn about this.

I absolutely agree with anon above that if the situations (and slurs) had been reversed, ABC might have stepped in more to date and required either firing or other disciplinary action.

Washington's behavior is totally unacceptable, and he seems determined to blow off his own foot here. Just when everything had totally died down, the story had become a non-issue again - he not only catagorically denies it in front of the whole cast (did you _see_ their faces??), he does it using the slur itself.

And yet....I love that damn character. I love the way that the actor plays him and would really miss that part of the show if it were gone.

If you had asked me before he reignited the shitstorm on Monday, I would have said that he apologized, they all seemed beyond it, and can't the show just keep being good?

Now? Shit, Isiah. Why not just go get arrested for drunk driving if you want to get killed off?

Anonymous said...

I think firing him for repeated use of the word is enough. But another good reason is that when I watch GA I no longer see Dr. Burke, I see an actor who uses hateful language. When I see him in a scene with TR I think "Wow, how can they act together after what happened?" when I should be thinking about the characters in the scene. He's broken the suspension of disbelief I maintain while watching, which takes me out of the show. It's the same problem I have with Tom Cruise movies.

Also, Kellerman as Dr. Burke? My mind just imploded from the potential awesomeness.

Anonymous said...

He needs to be fired. It's clear that he has anger issues, is not well-liked on set, and is creating an unpleasant working environment. If he were in any other profession he would be gone. The fact that he's on tv shouldn't make it any different. If he's making his co-workers uncomfortable then he needs to go.

Anonymous said...

If they fire one of them, it has to be Washington. Can you imagine the backlash if they fire TR Knight, who is clearly the victim in all this?

Washington had a chance to let all of this go. Shonda and Co. did a good job of managing the initial incident, making it seem like a minor thing blown out of proportion by the media, and things were going swimmingly until he stupidly decided to bring it up again and lie about what happened. Why, I don't know, but he blew his second chance. The rest of the cast has every right to be angry with him, and I agree with the other posters here -- he should be fired. The show can survive without Dr. Burke, and his current situation gives the writers an easy out.

Alan Sepinwall said...

From interviews and other things I've read about Shonda, I would guess that "serving the story" is more important than anything else to her.

I hadn't considered The Shonda Factor, but you're right that she doesn't operate like your standard producer.

Matt said...

Well, based on rumors from last year, there was a plot shelved that would allow Brooke Smith to serve both as a Burke replacement as a surgeon and as a replacement as a Dr. Yang love interest.

Anonymous said...

I would hate to think 'serving the story' would prevail given the circumstance. Clearly, had the situation been reversed and Washington been called the "N" word, it would have been 'Good-bye & Good-Knight' immediately, as it should. I enjoyed his character BUT the man was given a very generous second chance by ABC and the cast and he blew it. Fire him, if they don't they condone his biased, bigoted, gay slurs.

dark tyler said...

I don't know if I'm sure about this. The man may be a bigot but why should this have anything to do with his work? Since when is society allowing people to get fired again, based on their beliefs? He called someone a faggot? Fine, he showed what kind of a person he is and anyone will know now who Isiah is before they hire him for anything else. But firing him?

That reminds me of a West Wing episode, where a gay kid was beaten to death and CJ was in favor of new, harsher legislation. Until Leo (or was it Toby? I'm not sure) reminded her that we cannot, as a society, punish people for what's in their heads. Only for their actions.

If Shonda feels that with this guy around the show simply cannot flow anymore, then fine, show him the door. But if she indeed wants to tell a story, then she should not have to hear at what any of us has to say on the subject, and just go on with show, you know? As Katherine Heigl put it, Isiah should just stop talking and do his damn job. For as long as he still has it, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Fine, so we don't punish him based on his thoughts. In the same token, his actions do justify punishment, as his tirade first occurred on set, and the tension that has ensued is must be having some effect on the show. In that regard, punishing him can be justified in that it will keep some semblance of order on the set.

Side note: God damn I miss me some good old Aaron Sorkin West Wing.

Anonymous said...

I saw a clip of him backstage at the GGs and the cast looked very uncomfortable and upset when he grabbed the mic and issued his ill-advised denial.

What gets me is where were the calls for his firing and the news reports focusing on what he said when he first said it? There was plenty of confirmation that he did indeed make the slur at the time, but no one said to fire him then. Only the tabloids seemed interested, and then only because T.R. Knight came out, but no one was saying Washington should be fired. Did ABC really require a sound bite as a call to action?

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit late to the party, but there is *one* point I'd like to make here:

Everyone is saying that Washington is a Bad Person with their *specific* argument being "he called TR Knight That Word *twice*!!"

No, he didn't.