Amazon announced this week that it is going forward with a fifth season of its show, “Transparent,” but without two-time Emmy-winning star Jeffrey Tambor. He was accused of inappropriate workplace behavior with a co-star and a personal assistant, so he’s being written out. This seems like an impossible task for showrunner Jill Soloway to pull off.
The parallel that’s being cited is the Netflix series “House Of Cards,” which will continue for another season without star Kevin Spacey, who had his own past come back to haunt him. But “House Of Cards” is a show that can pivot to spotlight Robin Wright’s character, as well as elevate other supporting cast members, and bring in Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear in new roles that can take the stories in a different direction.
I don’t know how you do that in a show like “Transparent,” in which Tambor played the transgender Maura (formerly Mort) Pfefferman at the heart of every episode. Maybe Soloway should ask Christopher Plummer to play Maura next season.
George Costanza, Elaine Benes, and Cosmo Kramer were compelling enough characters, but there couldn’t have been any more seasons of “Seinfeld” if Jerry left. They couldn’t have kept making “Frasier” if Kelsey Grammer had been forced out. There’s no “Scandal” without Kerry Washington, no “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” without Ellie Kemper, no “Better Call Saul” without Bob Odenkirk.
Sure, there are procedurals like “Law and Order” and “CSI” that changed their casts multiple times, but they survived because the stories were the star, not the lead actors. “The Office” stuck around for a while after Steve Carrell left, but that was an ensemble show in which his Michael Scott was not the nucleus of every plot. Yes, “Cheers” survived Shelley Long’s departure halfway through, but could it have limped through even one more season without Ted Danson? No way.
If you want to know what a show looks like when you remove its central character, go back and look at what happened after Redd Foxx left “Sanford and Son” or when Cindy Williams departed “Laverne and Shirley” or the demise of “8 Simple Rules” after the death of John Ritter. The best example may be when CBS tried to keep some semblance of “M*A*S*H” alive without Alan Alda. The result was “After M*A*S*H,” a sitcom starring some its former supporting cast that none of them remembers fondly today.
To put this in terms of one of Tambor’s other famous roles, “The Larry Sanders Show” could certainly have proceeded without his Hank Kingsley, but without Garry Shandling as the title character? Hey now!!