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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What caused the killing of Edie in Desperate Housewives ?

A famous case in Los Angles – a most followed verdict in Civil Court ‘a mistrial’ what ? – lot of similarities with what you could think of elsewhere !

The Bridgestone World Series Hockey is at its feverish pace – yesterday Vikram Pillai scored a brace to help Chennai Cheetahs post 4-1 victory against Bhopal Badshahs at Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium in Chennai – most watched the Asia cup wanting a Sri Lankan win and ended disappointed; the IPL is about to begin – 76 matches bonanza !

Do you think these are the most watched ?  Sorry – for more than a decade, there is a phenomenon sweeping Tamilnadu and perhaps the Nation – watching TV Serials !!  -  Kanaa Kaanum Kaalangal; Chellame; Thendral; Athipookkal; Sindhu Bhairavi; Rudram are some of the TV Serials presently on air – which supposedly have the highest TRP points (not in any order of what I have written !) -  Target rating point (or TRP) is an audience measurement criterion of rating points that indicates the popularity of a television channel or programme. The TRP measure helps advertisers decide which TV channels and programmes to place their advertising in.  There sure exists parallels in Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Bengali and other channels.  India's first soap opera was Hum Log, which concluded with 154 episodes, was the longest running serial in the history of Indian television at the time it ended. Every episode of Hum Logwas about 25 minutes long, and the last episode was about 55 minutes.

You are not alone, if you  hold the opinion that they are the most dull and dreary ones – you see family feuds, wrong relationships, people crying all the time, women scheming out, abductions, eloping, hired killing and all the bad things that a civilized Society cannot tolerate – yet people remain rooted to their sofas seeing or feeling, even crying for the characters in those serials.  One can miss the show for a couple of weeks and safely see the next episode – nothing would have changed. Worst, when somebody dies, the death rituals would be shown elaborately. Yet they claim to have great viewership – loyal ones discussing them at that !!

There is a popular belief that in many households, husbands get their dinner served only in the commercial breaks and have to wait anxiously for the next advertisement for the next morsel to be served – such is the addiction of ladies to these serials and there is a fair sprinkling of gents in that list as well !!  Other than the Main character (mostly heroine and her other relatives including the spouse) – anytime you can see a sub-plot and another person claiming to be a new relative springing up.  Also one of them could unceremoniously exit either without reason or being shown as dead ! (kill the character in the serial in an accident or in a sudden ill-health!) – that character would vanish and surface in some other serial in another TV channel.  There have also been instances when a particular person acting as one character is replaced by another – with a slide telling you ‘from today on………. –this person will star as… ’ – anyway the storyline may not change much and you can afford to have anybody standing in for anybody else !!  People would jocularly say that if any of the actor / actress gets into a conflict with the Episode Director or with the Producer or the famous Actor who runs the show, sure, that character would be killed in accident to ensure that the person who conflicted is no longer on screen…….

Now read this similar state of affairs in US - Four years after a sweeps-week audience watched Edie Britt, the bed-hopping real estate agent in “Desperate Housewives,” draw her last breath, a Los Angeles jury said on 18th March 12, it could not decide the cause of her death.  A judge declared a mistrial in Nicollette Sheridan’s wrongful termination suit after jurors said they were deadlocked as to whether the actress’ character was killed off from the ABC show in an act of retaliation or simply for creative reasons.

Nicollette Sheridan is an English film and television actress. She is best known for her roles as Edie Britt onDesperate Housewives and as Paige Matheson on Knots Landing.   On April 5, 2010, Sheridan filed million lawsuit against Desperate Housewives creator and producer Marc Cherry and ABC; and the  stars of Desperate Housewives  reportedly pledged their support to help Marc Cherry in his battle against assault allegations made by Sheridan.    Desperate Housewives is an American television comedy-drama mystery series created by Marc Cherry and produced by ABC Studios and Cherry Productions. Executive producer Cherry serves as Showrunner. The setting of the show is the street of Wisteria Lane in the fictional American town of Fairview in the Eagle State. It follows the lives of a group of women, seen through the eyes of their dead neighbor. They work through domestic struggles and family life, while facing the secrets, crimes and mysteries hidden behind the doors of their—at the surface—beautiful and seemingly perfect suburban neighborhood.    From its premiere in Oct 2004, the show reportedly was well received.  Desperate Housewives was officially renewed by ABC on May 17, 2011 for an eighth season. 

It became a lawsuit when actress  Nicollette Sheridan sued the show for killing off her character.  She claimed that its creator, Marc Cherry, axed her character because she complained that he hit her in the head during an on-set dispute in September 2008.  Mr Cherry stated that Sheridan exaggerated the on-set incident and that he decided to kill off "Edie Britt" months earlier.  The law suit value was reportedly $6m (£3.7m) approx.  Cherry claimed that  the decision to kill off her character was already approved in May 2008 (several months before the alleged hitting incident in September 2008) due, in part, to the need to reduce the show's budget. He also cited Sheridan's unprofessional on-set behavior (such as habitual lateness, not learning her lines, and feuding with her co-stars), and the fact that her character had simply "run its course" as other reasons for the decision.  On March 13, 2012, the judge dismissed the battery charge against Marc Cherry due to lack of evidence, and Cherry is no longer a defendant in the lawsuit which will now focus solely on Sheridan's alleged wrongful termination by ABC.  Closing arguments were heard and the jury began their deliberations. By March 19, 2012, the twelve members of the jury had failed to reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared. A retrial is scheduled to begin on April 19, 2012.

Even in a case of this kind, there were overwhelming number of defense witnesses,  and writers' assistant notes were also made exhibits to  show during the trial that point out there was discussion about killing off Edie. “No evidence (was presented that) the notes were fabricated or falsified.”.  The jury could not agree on her claims against ABC, which airs the show. It was deadlocked 8-4 in favour of Sheridan, however, a minimum 9-3 split in one party's favour was required. Nine members of the panel had to agree to return a verdict, and after three days of deliberations, the foreman told Judge White, he saw no way to reach a decision.

So after months, the Court  couldn't conclude whether the actress' character was killed off on the ABC show in an act of retaliation or simply for creative reasons.  There would be no judgment  on ‘who killed Edie’ for it was a suit on whether the decision to kill was an afterthought of a conflict or was a decision taken by the show runners much earlier. 

If you are wondering what a ‘mistrial’ could be – soon you will have my next post on this…………..

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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