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Now & Never Again? - Glenn Gordon Caron
The producer discusses the network cancelation of his critically praised show.
By Edward Gross
June 05, 2000
It was a hell of a cliffhanger: fearing for the safety of his wife and daughter, genetically engineered Michael Wiseman punched out the lights of his 'creator', Dr. Theodore Morris, and hit the road with his family , who were unaware of Michael's true identity. In pursuit were Morris, FBI agents and dogs, with the good doctor ordering, 'Find them. Find them now.' Unfortunately, their pursuit may go on a lot longer than anybody had anticipated when that moment was filmed. CBS, in a move that has shocked just about everyone, has cancelled NOW & AGAIN, causing the studio behind the show Paramount to scramble to find another buyer before the actors' contracts expire. The odds are against this happening, but the possibility does, indeed, exist.
Series creator Glenn Gordon Caron is probably more shocked by the turn of events than anyone. Nonetheless, he recently took the time to discuss with FANDOM the sudden end to the series, his feelings about the cancellation and his hopes for the proposed second season.
FANDOM: I DON'T THINK I'M ALONE WHEN I SAY THAT THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE OUT THERE WONDERING HOW YOU RESPONDED TO THE CANCELLATION OF THE SHOW.
Glenn Gordon Caron: The bulk of my feedback would be on the order of, 'I'm in shock.' I must tell you, I did not see it coming. Intellectually you understand that it's a possibility, but you think, 'Come onthe ratings were good, and the press was the best that I've ever experienced. And we were in a terrible timeslot with no lead in and we were pre-empted every three weeks.' Your assumption is, 'Gee, they'll take this opportunity to move us,' but I never saw this cancellation coming.
DID ANYBODY FROM THE NETWORK EVERY HAVE A CONVERSATON WITH YOU AFTER IT HAPPENED?
I've not had an in depth conversation with anybody at the top. Not yet.
I'M NOT TRYING TO PUT SALT INTO A WOUND, BUT IT FEELS LIKE A REAL SLAP IN THE FACE TO A SHOW THAT TURNED THEIR FORTUNES AROUND A BIT ON FRIDAY NIGHTS.
Obviously, we thought it turned them around more than they did. What happens is that all of this work goes into putting together a schedule; then they present the schedule in New York, and they all go away. They're only now getting back to work, so it's entirely possible that some conversation will ensue in the coming week. In an ideal world, I would have heard from them a week and a half ago, but I didn't. So it goes. Maybe I'm not meant to work there again. That's okay; there are other places to work. Or maybe it's just an unfortunate mistake.
DOES THIS SOUR YOU ON TELEVISION?
No, it doesn't sour me on television. I'm just surprised at how the whole thing went down. I don't know how to do much better than we did. You can always improve on things and change things. I thought it was a good show and that that was obvious to anyone who watched it, and they're really hard to come by. I was surprised that it was tossed away so cavalierly.
I WAS SURPRISED THAT THERE WASN'T A LOT OF OUTCRY.
There's been some. There's an item in TV GUIDE's Cheers and Jeers section and a few other places. There were actually two wonderful pieces that were written online at the EW sight. One by Bruce Fetts was sort of the first death knell. It was written about three weeks before the cancellation. I read it, and I panicked, because it read like a post mortem. They said, 'Here's a great show, and here's how CBS killed it.' And I thought, 'Wait, wait it's not dead; why are they writing that?' Clearly they had either heard or sensed something. Then, just before it was cancelled, they wrote, 'Here are five shows that really should be renewed, but may not be.' When he talked about NOW & AGAIN, he said, 'This is such a great show; when it's at its best, it's
as good as THE SOPRANOS. It's uneven, but so is THE SOPRANOS.' Admittedly, in our last five episodes I felt like we hit our best work and sort of our most disappointing work all at the same time.
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT?
I don't think we pulled off the Bugmeister. I felt there was tremendous potential there and everybody was very excited about the possibilities, but in terms of good storytelling, we just weren't on our game. Having said that and some people hated it I thought 'There Are No Words' was as good as we had done. Some people took offense to it because it was pretty much all cerebral, all spoken. I thought the cliffhanger was as good as we could do. I was really pleased with that. But in the middle there, I think the Bugmeister disappointed some people. But you know what? Nature of the beast. You do twenty-two, they ain't all going to work.
WHEN YOU DID THE SHAKESPEARE EPISODE OF MOONLIGHTING, PEOPLE THOUGHT YOU WERE OUT OF YOUR MIND.
Truthfully, one of the lowest rated shows we ever did. The audience said, 'What the hell is this thing?' Yet it's the one that people still talk about. I don't know, but I'm really sort of stupefied about the whole thing. I understand that there are other forces at work, too, that don't have anything to do with the show per se. I just thought the show was good enough that it could go another year.
SHOWS LIKE HILL STREET BLUES, CHEERS, THE X-FILES
or BUFFY THE VAMPIRE
SLAYER NEEDED SECOND SEASONS BEFORE THEY BECAME HITS.
That was my argument with CBS. 'You've got all this young programming like SURVIVOR and BIG BROTHER that is clearly aimed at a younger audience. Aren't you going to need companion pieces to those shows? And what better companion pieces than to sort of roll out the show this summer? Some people, I think, sensed they had missed the train and they don't want to get on a train once it leaves the station. Summer gives them a chance to catch up. That was certainly the case with MOONLIGHTING. Everybody forgets, but when the show premiered, the biggest, most influentia critic in Los Angeles, Howard Rosenberg, wrote this review and the headline was 'Beauty and the Beast,' and he just trashed the show. He said, 'This is another one of those boy/girl detective shows. Don't waste your time; it's a piece of crap.' It took him six weeks, but he wrote another piece and said, 'Okay, I didn't get it.' I think there's some of that with NOW & AGAIN, too. EW also said that part of the problem is people don't know what to expect. Every week they tune in, it's different. One week it's very serious; one week it's this, and the other it's that. But that's what I liked about it.
WITH THE FUGITIVE
GOING TO BE AIRING FRIDAY NIGHTS AT 8:00, THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN A GREAT LEAD-IN NEXT SEASON.
It's very disconcerting. We worked so hard on the show, and I know that sounds really hollow because everybody works hard on everything they do, and lord knows we're well paid, but we really did. We had a wonderful group of people, which is hard to find in the East because the talent pool isn't as large as it is in the West.
MY FIRST THOUGHT WAS THAT UPN WOULD SNAP THE SHOW UP...
They can't afford it. There's always a chance, and if you ask Paramount, they'll tell you that they're trying like hell to make it happen. In truth, they're paying a lot of money right now not to tear down the sets.
HOW LONG ARE THE ACTORS UNDER CONTRACT FOR?
Sixty days after the cancellation. Paramount is really trying. I'm a more cynical bastard. I hear a show like this is cancelled and realize that the instances where somebody has pulled something like this out of the fire are really rare. There's JAG, MOESHA and SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH. It's a really small group of shows. I know that Fox feels they have so much 'science fiction' that they can't consider anything else that even remotely falls in that genre. So you're really looking at ABC, NBC or the possibility of CBS changing their mind. But Les Moonves doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who says, 'Oops, I made a mistake; let me rethink that.'
AT THE VERY LEAST THEY OWE A WRAP-UP MOVIE OR SOMETHING, CONSIDERING THE CLIFFHANGER.
I don't think they feel any particular obligation to the people who watched the show.
ISN'T THAT AMAZING, THOUGH? THE NUMBERS MAY NOT HAVE BEEN WHAT THEY WANTED, BUT THEY GET AN AUDIENCE OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE TO TUNE IN FOR A WHOLE SEASON....
He actually took a shot at me. I think the press at the fall upfronts asked why he would do this cliffhanger if CBS wasn't bringing the show back. He said, 'We don't encourage marginal shows to do cliffhangers. It's unfair to the viewers, and it's a trick the producers pull in order to get the show renewed.' I said, 'Wait a second!' First of all, they knew exactly what we were doing and had known since February. Second, I didn't know we were marginal. As if anyone could trick anyone to do anything, but we told them from the beginning the whole scheme. I was pretty upset about that.
CBS DID NOTHING TO SAVE THIS SHOW.
A: They never did anything to support it from the beginning, and that was weird because the rest of the community did. We made the cover of TV GUIDE; we got an 'A' from ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY all of the normal signposts of this is a show that's going to happen.
THE FEELING YOU WERE LEFT WITH IN THE CLIFFHANGER WAS THAT THE SHOW'S FOCUS WAS GOING TO CHANGE TO A MAN ON THE RUN TYPE SHOW, ALA THE FUGITIVE
We had the whole thing figured out. It would have been another two, possibly three, episode arc at the beginning of the season, but we would have gotten back to the status quo. Lisa and Heather would have been okay; would not have known that Michael was, in fact, the man they once knew. They would have known something different that would have answered a lot of questions for them, but which in fact would not have been true. The Eggman would not have been done away with, and the big confrontation was going to be between Michael and Mankind [the wrestler]. We had a whole number of ideas worked out for next year, so it was frustrating.
WOULD THIS HAVE CHANGED THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MICHAEL AND THEO?
The way the thing was constructed was that, in theory, it wouldn't have. Ultimately, without going through the whole thing, you would have gotten back to something very much approaching the status quo that you had previously.
IT'S JUST THAT YOU WOULD THINK THAT THEO WOULDN'T TRUST HIM ANY LONGER.
Exactly, but, again, with everything that was going to play out, that wouldn't have been the case. Without giving too much away, it would have worked in the same way that it did in 'Deep in My Heart is a Song', where they completely changed the relationship. That's where Theo basically kidnapped Michael and was prepared to take Michael home when he was in the coma, and then a week later you have the Bob Balaban show where he basically kills for Michael. In that same way, Michael was going to that sort of thing for Theo.
What was always great about the show wow, that sounds immodest what was always compelling, was that we were very willing to take the characters all the way to the margins in terms of their characters, because I always believed that the bonds between all of them were strong enough that you could always bring them back. That was part of what the cliffhanger was all about. You look at the cliffhanger and you think, 'Well, there's no way this is ever going back to the way it was,' but in fact there was a plan to do just that. And it wouldn't have all just been a dream.