UPFRONT SMALL SCREEN


Meet a TV executive’s six worst nightmares.

There are good actors and bad shows, good shows and bad time slots, terrible luck, unfortunate circumstances, too much politics, too little money, jinxes, curses, voodoo, and bad karma. And then there’s Paula Marshall, whose streak of TV failures defies all logic.

Marshall is a fine actress with sharp comedic timing, dramatic range, and striking good looks. Yet it hasn’t kept her from being branded a show killer, the television industry’s equivalent of a Titanic in heels.

It started in 1994 with the sitcom Wild Oats, which lasted only four episodes. Marshall’s next series, Chicago Sons in 1997, reached 13 episodes. Cupid made it to 14; Snoops lasted 13; The Weber Show, 17; Hidden Hills, 13; and most recently, the doctor drama Out of Practice racked up a grand total of 14 episodes.

Producers keep hiring Marshall (because of the aforementioned timing, range, and looks), and she keeps trying and trying again. This fall, she and Jay Mohr star as bickering divorcees in the new CBS comedy Gary Unmarried. (Keep your fingers crossed.)

Marshall has a sense of humor about her kryptonite status, refusing to see herself as a show killer. Instead, she’s simply an actor who is “one show away” from a hit -- or at least a second season. “You just need that one,” she says.

Marshall is not alone, of course. A host of other actors share the title of show killer. Some have finally found “the one.” Some are still looking.

Jason Gedrick Hunky and hopeless Gedrick burst onto the scene in 1993 with the soapy college drama Class of ’96, only to find himself on Sweet Justice a year later, followed by a string of hyped series that went nowhere: EZ Streets, Falcone, and the highly regarded Boomtown. In 2006, Gedrick returned with Windfall, which aired only four episodes. Last sighting: His guest-star turn on Desperate Housewives, which just happened to coincide with the show’s ratings dip. (Just saying.)

Eric Balfour Lean, sexy, and mysterious, Balfour caught our eye in Six Feet Under as Claire’s bad-boy lover, and then off he went, into the depths. (Six feet deep, to be exact.) Veritas: The Quest was followed by Hawaii in 2004 and Sex, Love & Secrets in 2005. Still, he got the attention of the never-miss Dick Wolf, who cast him in the drama Conviction. It missed. Next Balfour sighting: the upcoming CBS series The Ex List. He’s a guest star. Whew.

Carla Gugino Gugino is often confused with Paula Marshall for her looks, types ofroles, and trail of canceled shows. Maybe it started when Gugino was replaced by Marshall as Michael J. Fox’s love interest on Spin City. She went on to head the terrific Karen Sisco, which wasn’t embraced by viewers, and then the sci-fi drama Threshold, which tanked after 13 episodes, in 2005. Note: Gugino spent 23 episodes on Chicago Hope -- the season before its cancellation. Last sighting: Entourage. The show is coming back; she isn’t.

 

  • Image about paula-marshall-carla-gugino-george-clooney-eric-balfour-americanway

Eddie McClintock Appeared in Holding the Baby, which went 13 episodes in 1998. Stark Raving Mad made it to 22 in 1999, and A.U.S.A. lasted only eight episodes. McClintock thought he’d hit pay dirt in 2006 with the sitcom Crumbs. Hardly. Last sighting: guest-starring roles on the James Woods–led legal drama Shark and vampire thriller Moonlight. Neither were renewed for the fall. Better luck next season, Eddie.

Christopher Gorham Gorham spent two seasons on the high-school drama Popular before washing out in Odyssey 5 (12 episodes), Jake 2.0 (12 episodes), Medical Investigation (one season), and Out of Practice, where he hooked up with Paula Marshall for eight episodes. Gorham has since worked on Ugly Betty for two seasons, but alas, won’t be returning for season three. Now that’s ugly.

George Clooney Sure, he’s a big movie star now, but he, too, killed a few shows back in his day. Before latching on to the ER we all know and love, Clooney costarred in a 1984 series called E/R that only lasted a season. He was added to the long-running hit show Facts of Life in 1985. By 1987, the series -- and his role as George Burnett -- was canceled. Then, his 1990 cop drama Sunset Beat aired all of two measley episodes; Baby Talk, a follow-up to the Look Who’s Talking flicks, went two seasons, from ’91 to ’92; and his 1992 cop series, Bodies of Evidence, got canned after 16 episodes. Clooney’s break came in 1993 with Sisters, which led him to ER and Big Movie Stardom. Clooney gives hope to show killers everywhere.