Not to Belabor the Point...

Lethal Weapon: Follow Up

I debated whether this should be a full article or not, as I could have slapped a one paragraph addendum to our previous discussion about Lethal Weapon. However, now that we're two episodes in, I feel like a discussion of the "breaking news" over the show is worthwhile. Specifically: Damon Wayans has announced that he's leaving the series at the end of this production run of 13 episodes. As of right now, that's as far as FOX has ordered for season three, but with this news, I doubt we'll see anything further.

It's a curious decision on his part to quit the show now. From everything that was reported by the end of last season, Clayne Crawford was fired from the show as much due to his behavior as because he and Wayans simply couldn't get along at all. That's not to undersell Crawford's behavior on set -- from everything that was reported, he was angry and belligerent at times, not only with Wayans (although the two of them really hated each other by the end) but some other cast and crew. No one is arguing that, at the time, firing the actor didn't make sense -- certainly, getting rid of an angry, perhaps even violent, element from a series is a smart move for the studio.

The thing is that many reports specifically indicated that it was a "him or me" situation when it came to Wayans and Crawford, and the studio picked Wayans. So it seems like now, having gotten what he wanted initially, Wayans no longer had any interest in the show. The optics of it seem kind of petty: it was more important to get the actor he hated fired than to just leave the show 13 episodes early, although that's just a judgment from an outsider, certainly. It could be that the two factors are unrelated and Wayans though he was going to stick around on the series for a while, then after everything shook out and he filmed the next season, simply realized his heart wasn't in it anymore. I'm just saying the optics on it certainly aren't great.

Of course, the producers also took the petty move of killing Riggs outright, thereby ensuring that Crawford couldn't come back to the show after Wayans left. That's also a pretty petty move, although it does indicated that Crawford's issues on set went far beyond disagreements with just Wayans. That said, not being able to bring Riggs back (killing him instead of just giving him a nice ride out into the sunset as the show seemed to be setting up) means that once Wayans leaves at the end of Season 3, the show won't have either of it's leads moving forward.

That is, of course, if it does move forward. As I noted last time, the ratings for the premiere of the season weren't great. It currently has (on both it's first and recently aired second season) an 0.8 rating with a 3 share among adults 18-49. For those that don't follow TV, what this basically means (in this era where broadcast TV is competing more and more with streaming television) is that Lethal Weapon is very much on the bubble. It used to be a show with anything less that a 3.0 rating (i.e., 3% of households were watching the program when it aired) would likely be canceled before its next season. Of course, that was a couple of decades ago and now studios are happy if a show gets between a 1.0 and a 1.5 rating (as that usually puts shows right in the middle of the pack for ratings on all their shows).

That's why Lethal Weapon is in such a precarious spot. It's ratings aren't that far outside middle-of-the-pack, but they are a little low. That, coupled with having to recast yet another lead actor, and presumably suffer another blow to ratings when the only draw the show leaves (much as I like Sean William Scott, I doubt anyone is going to watch the series just because Stiffler is on it), makes this a very hard sell for future renewal. Is it possible? sure, especially if the studio that makes the show, Warner Brothers, strikes a deal with FOX to somehow keep making the show on the cheap for them (some kind of incentivized cost sharing). FOX doesn't own the rights to the show, so any money they pony up for production is recouped only from ads, and if the ratings are bad, the ads don't sell for much.

But then, I wouldn't necessarily be sad to see it go. Last night's episode was fine, another case of Stiffler being way more interesting than Wayans. The producers seem to really love putting Murtaugh in sitcom-like plot lines, and two episodes into the new season that still really hasn't changed. There's a stark difference between the cop side of things and the Murtaugh family side, and they have yet to find a good blend for the show. There's 11 episodes left to the season, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

I have a feeling, come the end of the 13 episodes, we'll end up doing a postmortem for the show. Maybe I'll be wrong, but I just don't see how at this point.