There were hugs. And kisses. And valedictory flutes of champagne.
And it was hard to believe any of it.
On the other hand, Michael Strahan’s farewell to Kelly Ripa on Friday undoubtedly involved actual feelings for both of them – complex and conflicted ones, to be sure. But Strahan’s upward mobility at ABC was bound, eventually, to collide with the demographic stolidity of the morning show that conclusively proved his versatility in the first place.
As soon as summer arrives, you’re going to see Strahan in prime time as the host of a revival of “$100,000 Pyramid,” along with continuing his “Good Morning, America” gig. In other words, the former NFL Hall of Fame sackmaster for the New York Giants has now become Mr. All-Purpose Affability at ABC.
For all of Ripa’s abundant appeal, her utility on the air tends to be a good deal more specific.
There was a basic and hopeless conflict of destinies between the two people who spent all that time being “co-hosts” of “Live! With Kelly and Michael.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that the two were personally at odds, at the same time that professionally they couldn’t avoid conflict.
On the other hand, “Castle” – which presumably ended forever on Monday night – went out with a fiery crack of behind-the-scenes stories of Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion not getting along well at all, which made all the ooey-gooey, lovey-dovey romance at the center of the show a phoney baloney performance that almost everyone might get fed up to here with after a while.
Katic did. She and the show parted company first. And ABC announced that week that the network and the show parted company too after that. That doesn’t mean, it seems to me, that ABC couldn’t still figure out a new way to squeeze juice out of the lemon – to fill prime time with Fillion, the two red-haired actresses brilliantly tapped to play his daughter and mother and the cheerful actors who play cops on the show (each one of whom is a virtual demonstration weekly of a working actor’s contentment at getting a nice regular paycheck).
Nor was Katic the only one who felt used by “Castle.” So did Tamala Jones, who played Lanie the coroner and Katic’s confidante. She announced she was parting the show, too, thereby hastening Monday’s Farewell Forever (which may end, we all know, in a few months).
Michael Weatherly, who leaves “NCIS” on Tuesday after a good, if somewhat demeaning, run as DeNozzo on the show, may return as soon as the fall in “Bull,” a show based on the early exploits of, get this, Dr. Phil McGraw. So much for playing the class clown who is secretly an investigative whiz and heroic government agent.
Weatherly had a gift for playing the human version of a Warner Brothers cartoon character, but just because you have a gift for something doesn’t mean you’re going to do it forever.
So he won’t. He’ll have his goodbye night (and the obligatory Colbert plug of the show the night before) and a new job where audiences can see what else he can do, just as ABC’s and cable TV’s audiences have been able to see all the things a big, gap-toothed former defensive end for the Giants can do to make the airwaves friendlier.
How “Scandal” ended its season last Thursday (it is Goodbye Season, you know) was, I must say, genuinely interesting without being in the slightest absurdly traumatic. The idea that Jeff Perry, as the roller coaster back-room political manipulator willing to do anything for a boss, is going to be a vice presidential candidate is a typically delightful and nutty plot curlicue in a show whose stock-in-trade is going off the deep end.
In considering Perry’s new gig on the show, I won’t mention former Vice President Dick Cheney if you don’t.
What “Scandal” has done in the history of prime time is what “Dancing With the Stars” has done for prime-time TV contests, i.e. it has proved that there’s no such thing anymore as “jumping the shark.” If you know what you’re doing, you can mount a show full of so much reckless, brazen plot tumult that almost anything is possible, short of wealthy, blockheaded megalomaniacal basement-level fame-mongers running for leader of the free world.
“Scandal” has one of those – a fictional one, played by actor Gregg Henry. He was so ridiculous that in an episode of the show called “Trump Card,” they got rid of his presidential possibilities in one episode.
Never mind that what “Scandal” now has is a cast full of people who have either committed or authorized cold-blooded homicide clustering around the “oval” like flies around – well, you pick the simile.
As crazy as “Scandal” is, on the other hand, it was too smart to saddle the American people with a blast of absurdity like Hollis Doyle, Henry’s flamboyant character on the show.
Fiction, even “Scandal,” has to be plausible in some way, after all.
Life, of course, needs to be nothing of a sort.
Take the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who began as a bulging muscle contestant in European physique contests, turned himself into a steroid box office monster in the Sean Connery business and then became the governor of California until the job and his marriage bored him so he had a long relationship with his housekeeper.
He’ll next be the authoritarian dude doing all the climactic firing on the return of the reality show “The Apprentice” while Donald Trump is busy getting the Republic nomination.
Only in America.