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Monthly Archives: August 2010

What if… someone examined all kinds of alternate histories?  What if… someone made a show about social changes that never happened?  What if… we explore what would actually change in those situations, and what needs to remain the same?  What if… I wrote about it on this week’s Friday 8/7 Central?

Five quotes:

How it happened isn’t really that important.

…have the worst of the military brass as their personal enemy… and all they did was stop and ask directions.

“…that makes me think it’s not going to be over soon.”

…not scientific technobabble, a socio-political position, ecological advancement, or even a broken time-machine.

“I want to leave a record behind so that someone will know our story.”

I suppose it could be many different things, with clues like this.  If fact, the show could be many different things even without clues like this.  But one thing held it together.  Find out what that was, this Friday 8/7 Central!

–Tim R.

“It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy… If people are reading ‘the show is tanking,’ they’re less likely to tune in than if they’re ‘gee, there’s this show that everyone is excited about.'”
–Aaron Sorkin, creator, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

The most anticipated show of the 2006 Fall television season was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.  Critics called the pilot “the best of the season”, NBC pushed it significantly in their Fall promotions, it had a high-profile and well-known cast, and it was produced and written by Aaron Sorkin, who recently had the huge success of The West Wing and the critically acclaimed Sports Night.  Each of those other shows had taken certain settings (politics and ESPN) and treated them as the background for some terrific characters, storylines, and glimpses into worlds that normally don’t get the “television” treatment.  So, there were high expectations for Studio 60 to do the same for the world of television itself, especially the behind-the-scenes craziness of something like a Saturday Night Live styled series.

The cast of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

If Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip had been that kind of success, it would not have ended up on this blog.

On the series, the fictional NBS network has to reinvent their flagship (and former standout) comedy show Studio 60, after its current producer (Judd Hirsch, in an excellent guest-star turn) has an on-air meltdown.  Two former producer/writers are brought in to revamp and revitalize the show:  Danny Tripp and Matt Albie (Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry, respectively).  They have a history with Studio 60, and not the smoothest one:  Matt used to date current female star Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson), while Danny ended up with a drug problem due, in part, to the pressures of running the show.

Simon and Harriet at the "Studio 60 Newsdesk"

Other stars of the Studio 60 variety show include Tom Jeter (Nate Corddry), originally from the midwest and great at impersonations but not so great at just being himself, especially to the family “back home”; and Simon Stiles (D.L. Hughley), the comedian who’s incredible funny… but who would much rather be taken seriously, both as an actor and as a person.

The other regulars are “behind the scenes” characters Cal Shanley (Timothy Busfield) as the current director of this menagerie, and network honchos Jack Rudolph (Steven Weber), chairman of NBS, and his recent (and young) hire Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet) as President of Entertainment Programming (and the immediate boss of the new producers Danny and Matt).

Yes, that’s EIGHT main characters, and all got featured heavily, and quickly, even in the pilot.  This series was about the behind-the-scenes of a Saturday Night Live type show, and everyone has a lot to do, and every character is under pressure to do it well, and do it quickly.  It’s a signature Aaron Sorkin series, with lots of “walk and talk” scenes with multiple characters, snappy dialogue and something unexpected happening all the time.  It also has lots of supporting players (at least 20 other people appeared at least twice in different episodes, and most appeared in the majority).  In other words, we saw the entirety of how a Saturday Night Live type show like this is put together, and how the fitting of the pieces can be funnier (and more poignant) than the actual 90 televised minutes each week “live from Studio 60” itself.

“I’ve always said on The West Wing, ‘let’s see the five minutes before and after what we get to see on CNN’, and the same thing here.  We all watch Saturday Night Live and other shows on TV, let’s show what we don’t ordinarily get to see.”
–Aaron Sorkin

Danny and Matt, trying to make a sketch (and the show) finally work

We got to see, not just the process, but the inter-personal by-play that made these types of productions pressure-filled, rewarding, and devastating, sometimes all at once.  And it played a bit like Saturday Night Live in that there were both stand-alone stories (sketches on SNL) and continuing narratives (much like recurring characters on SNL).

On the fictional Studio 60, we saw actors figuratively stab each other in the back, entire writing staffs leave en masse, pressure groups objecting to barely objectionable material, and even the strangeness of a giant snake lost in the bowels of the theatre.  Spit-takes are juxtaposed with bomb threats.  Corporate takeovers depend on not just ratings, but on fangirl angst.  And these are just the problems… Studio 60 still had to bring the “funny”, and they did so, consistently.  Studio 60 on NBS became a water-cooler show again, talked about each week, and can’t-miss television.   And although Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip on our home screens did an excellent job of mixing comedy and drama as well, it apparently wasn’t good enough, or the expectations were too high, because the series was canceled by NBC after 22 episodes.

The storyline on the show was how to take Studio 60 (a busted show) and create a new buzz around it, and make it successful again.  Fictionally, it worked, with interesting stories and diverse characters.  But in real life, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip went from buzzworthy to cancellation within a year… and amazingly, the reasons are similar, only in reverse.

When the network has notes, just walk away....

Money is a big reason.  After the success of The West Wing, producer Aaron Sorkin was in demand, and first there was a rather spirited bidding war between networks for his next series, Studio 60.  Struggling NBC won, and poured large amounts of money into promotion to trumpet the fact that they’d gotten the next series “from the creator of The West Wing and Sports Night“.  Eight regulars, and 20 or more semi-regulars, meant more salaries and more money.  Instead of filming on a regular soundstage, the production company actually bought an old theatre and created the entire stage area AND backstage (writer’s room, production headquarters, offices, prop rooms, costume and make-up areas, dressing rooms, etc.) and used them ALL for the “walk and talk” style of presentation  —  on two floors, with stairways (that equipment had to fit through as well).  This meant that you may get an entire five-minute scene in one take, over multiple “locations”, but it took literally three HOURS just to light it, and one mistake while shooting along the way meant you had to do the whole thing over again… which meant the five minutes took five HOURS to film, AFTER the lighting and such. You’ve just spent half a day or more to shoot five minutes of footage.  Stylistically, it looked incredible, but… in Hollywood, time is money.  You’d better be getting the ratings to deserve this kind of money, and NBC was counting on big ratings.

“[The network] have given us some target numbers, and I’m not thinking about back nine [episode] numbers.  I’m thinking about second and third season.”
–Jeff Zucker, NBC President

Cal, trying to direct all the chaos

Unfortunately, there was a laundry list of other problems, some outside the series, but directly affecting it.  NBC was going through their own corporate shake-up at the time, and although the circumstances were different, the effects of pressure and uncertainty were the same, and the spending of money was one of the issues.  The series may have been just a bit too “inside”, as far as TV knowledge and production, for the average viewer.  Pairing it with the first breakout hit of the season, the new (and also expensive) Heroes didn’t help, as they were two completely different animals.  Amanda Peet became pregnant early during production, and the pregnancy had to be written into the show (even though her character was designed to be career-oriented, single, and unattached….).

Oh, and one last thing you should know… television people love to talk about television.  Critics thought this show would be their darling of the season, and then the ratings started to drop off significantly (over 40% from its premiere).  And since television people still loved to talk about television (and the loudest are the critics), the talk went from “how wonderful this show will be” to “how doomed this show is”.  On Christmas Day, Studio 60 got a box of rocks for a present, as a TV critic for the L.A. Times wrote a scathing piece on the show, knowing that the series was on a scheduled 7-week hiatus during the holidays (and therefore unable to defend itself, or even have a presence on television).

“…her headline was ‘Writers Don’t Like Studio 60.’  She was smart to ignore the fact that one week earlier the show had been nominated for two Writers’ Guild Awards, as that would have undercut her thesis.  Secondly, the comedy writers she interviewed are unemployed….  That L.A. Times piece was a piece of nonsense.”
–Aaron Sorkin, commenting on the Christmas Day news story

The series resumed in late January, ran five more weeks, and then was officially “canceled”, with the remaining six episodes burnt off in late May and June, after its fate was already sealed.  In fact, NBC had announced their “new” Fall schedule for that following season already, just before bringing back Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.  This was simply NBC “playing out the string” on shows they’d already spent the money for.  Later, in July, the show was nominated for five Emmy awards (winning one), and also winning various Writers and Directors Guild Awards, and a Golden Globe for Sarah Paulson.  Not bad for a “best new fall series” that had already gone “bust”….

The series is readily available on DVD, with a backstage “tour” included as one of the extras, along with commentary on the pilot episode by Sorkin himself.  Individual clips of various episodes and moments are also available on IMDB as well as the complete season or individual episodes on Amazon on-demand and iTunes.  NBC even had a fictional NBS website to promote not just the show, but the fictional “network” as well.  Unfortunately, all that is left on that site is a “hello” letter from characters Danny and Matt, with thanks for the 20-year “history” of the show, and the promise of its new future with them at the helm.  If only….

BRADLEY WHITFORD  (Danny Tripp) is best identified with his character Josh Lyman on The West Wing, and is currently starring in The Good Guys on FOX as a drunken cop.  He also directed the final episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and has also hosted the real Saturday Night Live.

MATTHEW PERRY (Matt Albie) is, of course, known as Chandler Bing on the long-running series Friends, for which he was nominated for an Emmy.  His current project is a new fall series on ABC called Mr. Sunshine… and he also hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live.

SARAH PAULSON (Harriet Hayes) has come a far way from being the little girl Merlyn Temple on American Gothic (Her “Someone’s at the door” is still one of the best scary moments on TV).  She was also a regular in the series Jack and Jill, appeared in 9 episodes of Deadwood, and played the psychiatrist in the 2009 revival of Cupid.

NATE CODDREY (Tom Jeter) started his TV comedy career as a “correspondent” on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  After Studio 60, he spent a year in the touring company of the Broadway revival of The Graduate, and is now playing a recurring character on the United States of Tara.

D.L. HUGHLEY (Simon Stiles) hosted the Premium Blend stand-up series for Comedy Central, then went on to produce and star in The Hughleys sitcom for ABC and UPN.  He has appeared on numerous shows as a comic, commentator, and currently hosts a radio program in the L.A. area, in addition to shooting a pilot recently for a game show.

TIMOTHY BUSFIELD (Cal Shanley) scored his biggest success in the series Thirtysomething, winning an Emmy, and now, in addition to acting, is in demand as a director for television.  He was also a producer on the series Lipstick Jungle, Without a Trace, and Ed.  It’s not surprising he played a director on Studio 60, as he actually directed a quarter of the actual episodes.

STEVEN WEBER (Jack Rudolph) started acting in the third grade, and his career has never stopped since.  Best known as one of the stars of the long-running sitcom Wings, he’s also appeared on Broadway (taking over for Matthew Broderick in The Producers) and had recurring roles in series such as Without a Trace, Brothers and Sisters, In Plain Sight, and got the “short series” treatment in Happy Town (as the rest of its episodes are only airing on the internet).

AMANDA PEET (Jordan McDeere) is known more for her movie career than her television work, and for once being named one of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People”.  In addition to being featured in the movie The Whole Nine Yards (and its sequel, The Whole Ten Yards), she’s also starred in the cult film Griffin & Phoenix and appeared on Broadway in the 2006 revival of Barefoot in the Park.  She was recently seen in the big-screen disaster epic 2012.

The other “inside television” item that came out of the airing of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is rather important, as far as exactly HOW television works these days.  The series aired during the first season that Nielsen ratings started tracking numbers for DVR watching of a show for the following week, as well during the original broadcast (now called “live +7” ratings).  Unfortunately, due to the newness of the system, they did NOT include those numbers in the reports of the ratings of Studio 60 that season.  And, according to Nielsen, if those numbers HAD been included (as they are now), they would have added another 11% (almost a million viewers) to the ratings of Studio 60, most likely in more upscale homes (who had the money to AFFORD those newfangled machines then), and the series likely would have been renewed on that basis.

In other words, if television can consistently figure out how its OWN systems should work, maybe we’d end up with better television.  And shows like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip would still be on.  But until then, the best we can hope for is the organized chaos that goes into EVERY show, and hope they get enough of it right to still be entertaining, interesting, and fun.  And that the bean counters get their end figured out as well, or it’s gonna be “best to bust”, every season, for somebody.

Outside Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Please turn out the lights.

Vital Stats

22 aired hour-long episodes — no unaired episodes
NBC Network
First aired episode:  September 18, 2006
Last aired episode:  June 28, 2007
Aired at Friday 8/7 Central?  No, All episodes aired on Mondays at 10/9 Central, although the fictional Studio 60 within the series supposedly aired on Friday nights!

Comments and suggestions welcomed, as always.

–Tim R.

A relatively recent show this time, although, according to the show, it’s been on 20+ years.  But that’s the fictional version, of course.  The real thing lasted one season, and went from anticipation to cancellation much faster than anyone would have thought.  A sterling pedigree, a great cast, and (for me, at least), a terrific subject matter.

Five Quotes:

“It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy… If people are reading ‘the show is tanking’, they’re less likely to tune in….”

…the comedian who’s incredibly funny… but would much rather be taken seriously, both as an actor and as a person.

…everyone has a lot to do, and every character is under pressure to do it well, and do it quickly.

Instead of filming on a regular soundstage, the production company actually bought an old theatre and created the entire stage area AND backstage…

“She was smart to ignore the fact that one week earlier the show had been nominated for two Writers Guild Awards, as that would have undercut her thesis.”

Come back on Friday 8/7 Central, go behind the curtain, and see what makes some shows work, in spite (and sometimes because) of everything that happens each week.

–Tim R.

“Who am I?  Ernest Pratt, novelist, ne’er-do-well, tenderloin, man about town, creator of tales that are not real….  who am I to buck reality?  Reality hurts….
–Ernest Pratt, on the value of the existence of a real-life hero Nicodemus Legend

What happens when the whole world decides you are someone who you’re really not?  And then circumstances conspire against you, and force you to do heroic, amazing, and tremendous things… things you’d never thought you’d do, especially when you’re a craven coward who’d rather just sit and drink yourself into a stupor?  Somehow, against all efforts on your part, when push comes to shove, you’ve become…. a Legend.

“No!  I can’t just assume the identity of Nicodemus Legend!”

“Why not?

“Because we’re nothing alike!  He leaps wide canyons, runs like a deer, swims like a spawning salmon… except for the spawning part, I can’t do any of that!”

–dime novelist Ernest Pratt, who’d much rather drink and chase women….

Richard Dean Anderson, of MacGyver fame, decided to play against type for his next part.  He portrayed Ernest Pratt, formerly successful dime-novelist in the old west on the series Legend.  And Pratt had spent most of the money and fame he’s earned creating his “Nicodemus Legend” books on becoming just another womanizing drunk, despite the efforts of his publishing company.

Richard Dean Anderson; Ernest Pratt; or Nicodemus Legend?

Writing in the first person, “Nicodemus Legend” is the supposed “author” of these novels, as well as their dashing “hero”.  And Pratt’s at the end of his rope because, as his liver has become more soaked, his ideas for Nicodemus have dried up.

Apparently, he’s also become a wanted man in Colorado (or, at least, Nicodemus Legend has), which is odd, since Ernest Pratt has, up to this point, never even set foot in that particular state (although Legend has, according to the books).  Therefore, to satisfy both his publishing company (who have threatened to cut off his book advances, and therefore his booze supply), and to find out who or what is messing with the reputation of his creation, he heads to Colorado, and the town of Sheridan….

…where, thanks to the drawings on the back of his books (which the publishing company had him pose for, for publicity purposes), everyone refuses to believe he’s simply Ernest Pratt.  Instead, he’s presumed to be the actual “Nicodemus Legend”, hero extraordinaire of the wild west.  Apparently “Legend” changed the course of a Colorado river to help a group of local farmers, resulting in his status now being an enemy of the robber barons, and a hero of the community.  Plain, ordinary Ernest Pratt is simply ignored and confused, while “Nicodemus Legend” is wanted for arrest by some, threatened within an inch of his life by others, and being followed around by a bunch of people who’ve read his “exploits”, believe in him as a hero, and want the autograph of the famous “adventure hero”, no matter how much Pratt denies their mistaken impression.

John de Lancie as Janos Bartok

The reason for this mistaken impression is one Janos Bartok, a European inventor (played with relish by John de Lancie) and huge fan of the stories of Nicodemus Legend.  Bartok ended up in the old west due to a “slight” difference of opinion with Thomas Edison, who apparently stole most of Bartok’s ideas (Bartok refers to Edison as a “plodding troll”).  And now Bartok is helping the residents of Sheridan against the rail- and cattle-barons who want to take over land, water-rights, rail right-of-way, and anything else they can get their hands on.  That assistance takes the form of using Bartok’s wild inventions to impersonate the infamous Nicodemus Legend (and his amazing adventures) in order to scare off the bad guys and inspire the populace.  And now, Bartok has an even better idea:  He doesn’t have to “impersonate” Legend, when Pratt Legend is now actually HERE, in the flesh.

“So, I decided to give all the credit for my miracles to that imaginary miracle worker… that knight of the Rockies, the paladin of the prairies, the defender of the weak… Nicodemus Legend.  In short, he was tailor-made for the role!”
–Janos Bartok, on why he impersonated the fictional Nicodemus Legend

With Bartok’s inventions behind the scenes, and Pratt reluctantly convinced to play the part of his novel creation, the fictional stories can now become fact, and the great “Nicodemus Legend” can truly become a real life hero.  In fact, Bartok has already created much of the fictional “tech” from the books already, including a steam-powered land-rover (car), the 1800’s version of a taser, and a hang-glider for human flight.

Even though he’s not all that keen on being a hero (Pratt would still rather find a bottle and a skirt to chase, in either order), Pratt’s ego inspires him to help anyway.  After all, who can resist a fan who’s read everything you’ve ever written?  Oh, and being able to play off that “stellar” reputation at times has its perks as well, although the character of Legend is supposed to be truthful, virtuous, and stalwart… all the things Pratt is not.  Plus, these new adventures of Nicodemus Legend are fodder for new written stories as well, which makes publishers, fans, Pratt’s bank account, and everyone happy… except, of course, for the bad guys Pratt (as Legend) now has to face, for real, with more than just a fictional life on the line every time.  Nicodemus Legend may have a superhuman reputation, but it’s still Pratt facing the bad guys, even with Bartok’s help.

“Your celebrity has the power to give our enemies pause.  My science can increase that reputation.  And together… we will create the real LEGEND!”
–Janos Bartok, finally convincing Pratt to take on the role of Legend

Now, don’t get the idea that I’ve sold Pratt short here.  Pratt is a writer, and when he’s not drunk, he’s a pretty good one.  Therefore, he has a way with words, and he can talk his was out of most situations when necessary.  Unfortunately, he also has the ability to talk himself INTO situations that he shouldn’t be involved in, leading to some of his more daring exploits.  He also gets to face bad guys who have targeted “Legend” with lethal intent (although he talks one of them out of shooting him, with a tale of how much more money the gunman would earn writing about previous murderous exploits, if he just lets “Legend” make a deal with his publisher instead of killing Pratt outright).  Bartok and his inventions help significantly, but they can’t do everything.  Sometimes, it is Pratt’s wits that get the team out of their particular jam… but whether it’s Pratt or Bartok, the great Nicodemus Legend still gets all the credit.  Richard Dean Anderson (as one of the producers) never wanted this show to be about the adventures of Nicodemus Legend though… he wanted it to be about the misadventures of Ernest Pratt.

“I’m always playing Pratt.  I’m always the writer.  Part of the humor and part of Pratt’s quirky behavioral aspects come when he has to assume this role.  He has to assume a different posture, a different attitude.  There’s a slight voice change and there’s supposed to be an attitude change when he’s dealing with the outside world.  But, ultimately, he’s still Pratt.  So, sometimes he’s a fish out of water.  It’s an all-encompassing character and, while I like playing both parts of the character, I see them both as parts of Pratt.”
–Richard Dean Anderson

No one will ever remember the name of Ernest Pratt, although they should;  Janos Bartok will simply be a footnote in the career of Thomas Edison, a brilliant inventor who disappeared one day.  But Nicodemus Legend…. Oh, the stories that were written, and the amazing adventures….  Why, they could literally be Legend.

Except, of course, they weren’t.  This was because the show had the unfortunate luck to be one of the first shows ever on the fledgling United Paramount Network (UPN).  Paramount Television has been a production studio for most of its existence.  The problem with being “just” a studio, at least on the television side, is all you could do is sell your shows to a Network (ABC, NBC, CBS), and they made money off YOUR show.  The only way a studio made any money is if the show was successful enough that plenty of episodes got made.  Those episodes then got sold, as reruns, to local stations, and THEN the money came rolling in.  Of course, the NEXT problem is, you have to make an awful lot of UNsuccessful shows before you hit the one SUCCESSFUL show that not only makes you money, but has to bankroll all the failures as well.  And you never knew ahead of time what might succeed, and what might fail.

Paramount actually had this brilliant “network” idea back in the late 1970’s, and floated the idea of a new Star Trek series with the original cast, but there weren’t enough non-affiliated stations available (most of them already having network ties).   Star Wars then hit the movie theaters, and Paramount decided that the audience for Trek had shifted, and they’d missed their chance.

New ideas for new days.

So, Paramount was always “just” a production studio for television (albeit a rather successful one, comparatively), but never one of the “big three” networks.  As the late ’70’s became the early ’90s, there were many more independent stations available, thanks to the utilization of what used to be UHF channels, but were now standard (low number) channels on basic cable.  FOX had entered the network business (in the late ’80s), so they could “cut out the middleman”, sell their own shows to themselves, and sell all the advertising as well, keeping the money.  Both UPN (Paramount) and The WB (Warner Brothers) made deals with the remaining independent stations (sometimes the same ones), and the race for success was on.

While the WB concentrated on younger audiences, UPN tried to use its flagship Star Trek franchise as the centerpiece (Star Trek: Voyager‘s debut in 1995 was the first UPN show ever), they had to fill out at least a limited schedule of something OTHER than Trek… and in April on the inaugural UPN season, Legend began.

UPN wasn’t the success that Paramount had hoped for, only programming two nights a week at the start.  Even then, many times fans couldn’t find what they wanted to watch because programs were moved around, or pre-empted entirely, because the local stations could run the UPN offerings pretty much where they wanted (or run WB shows), instead of creating a more “formal” network schedule.  So between local pre-emptions and an inability to consistently promote anything that wasn’t titled Star Trek, UPN had a very rough first season.

The only show to return on the schedule that fall for UPN was Star Trek: Voyager, although six scripts had been ordered for a new season of Legend.  A change of the top brass at UPN basically meant a clean sweep of what had already been part of the network, and so Legend only got 13 filmed hours (a 2-hour pilot and 11 episodes).  UPN hadn’t yet figured out how to be something other than a producer of programming yet either, and likely never did.  Years later, it merged with The WB to become the CW network, and Paramount went back to being what it was best at:  making programs instead of trying to run a network.  Just as Ernest Pratt had only pretended to be Nicodemus Legend (with limited, but occasionally spectacular success), UPN pretended to be a network with occasional successes and ultimate failure.

RICHARD DEAN ANDERSON (Ernest Pratt/Nicodemus Legend) will always be known, of course, as MacGyver, but he started his career with five seasons on General Hospital.  His move to prime time began when he starred (and sang!) in a TV version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and joined the Navy in Emerald Point N.A.S.  After Legend, his most recent and long-running stint was as Jack O’Neill in all the versions of the Stargate TV series, the longest running SF show on American TV.

JOHN de LANCIE (Janos Bartok) is best known as the rather arrogant Q (and who wouldn’t be arrogant, if you were essentially omnipotent?) on three versions of Star Trek, most notably as Picard’s constant foil on The Next Generation.  He also started on soaps, specifically Days of Our Lives in the early ’80s, before becoming one of the most sought after guest actors on television.  Memorable spots include everything from Hill Street Blues and The West Wing to Charmed and Sports Night, not to mention a first season guest shot on a series called MacGyver, where he began a lifelong friendship with Richard Dean Anderson.  He’s also been active as an acting teacher, and is very involved in both audio (radio) style performing and appearances with various orchestras across the country doing dramatic readings and performances during concert presentations.

YouTube has the standard few clips of the show available, including at least one full episode (Revenge of the Herd), but your best bet for Legend material is the multitude of Richard Dean Anderson sites out there.  Most have at least a section on Legend, between material on MacGyver and Stargate.  Vidiot has excellent pages on all UPN series, and his Legend page is no exception.  I also recommend a few text articles with producer and creator Michael Piller (who, although he is no longer with us, should still be remembered as someone who helped MOST of the really good TV writers working in the medium today).  Honestly, I could do an article just on Piller alone, with his 500 hours of various Star Trek series, Legend, The Dead Zone, and many other shows, not to mention being a mentor and guide to so many young writers, and fill pages and pages.  Perhaps someday I will, because in addition to creating the uniqueness that was Legend, he really was a legend himself….

There’s a scene near the end of the pilot when both Janos and Ernest discuss Nicodemus Legend, and whether their co-operation (and therefore the “reality” of the adventures of “Legend”) should continue.  And they discover a very important thing about themselves, thanks to “their” existence as Nicodemus.  As Ernest walks away, into the sunset (as heroes do in all good westerns), Janos remarks about their own adventure together….

“Do you honestly think you can go back to the life of Ernest Pratt so easily?  You know, you’re not the same man who came to Sheridan.  Whether you care to believe it or not, a part of you is Legend, and you’ll never be able to walk away from that again.  I know I never will, because you see, Ernest, a part of me is now Legend too.

Don’t you see the incredible possibilities for real adventure?  The practical application of science and invention… I’m a good scientist, I can create what you can imagine… doesn’t that at least intrigue you?

But you know, Ernest, I can’t do it without you… separately, you and I are heroes to no one… together, we could become… legendary.”

Ernest turns back to Janos, instead of heading off into the sunset.  Nicodemus will continue.  There may only be 13 hours of televised adventures… but Legend lives on.

Vital Stats

13 hours (2-hour pilot and 11 hour episodes) — no unaired episodes
UPN Network
First aired episode:  April 18, 1995
Last aired episode:  August 8, 1995
Aired at Friday 8/7 Central?  Impossible.  At the time, UPN only broadcast a couple of nights a week, with Paramount movie reruns on Friday nights.  Legend aired primarily on Tuesday nights in most of the US, as part of UPN’s “Action Tuesdays”.

Comments and suggestions appreciated, as always.

–Tim R.

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