It’s harder to get away with being horrible in Hollywood than it used to be.
Showbiz history is littered with contemptible acts and people, but the industry’s ongoing reckoning with abusive behavior, post-Harvey Weinstein, along with the ease of exposure that social media affords, has changed the game for predatory and otherwise misbehaving entertainers. Sometimes they actually face consequences for their offenses.
While this development is good for society, it complicates things for the series that employed these people. This fall brings several shows that are remaking themselves after firing actors who were accused of acting reprehensibly.
Some of these shows were fading, creatively or commercially, even before their stars got themselves into trouble, and you don’t have to be cynical to wonder to what extent hopes of capitalizing on controversy figured into executives’ and producers’ decisions to bravely carry on. But on the bright side, many innocent people got to keep their jobs and a couple of the shows are getting to wrap up on their own terms.
Here’s a look at the most prominent examples, arranged by premiere dates.
Returning Sept. 25
Fired: Clayne Crawford
Reason: bad behavior on the set
When it debuted in 2016, “Lethal Weapon” was better than one might expect from a cop movie retread. Its strong point was the onscreen chemistry between Mr. Crawford and Damon Wayans as Riggs and Murtaugh, the oil-and-water partners first brought to life in the 1987 film by Mel Gibson and Danny Glover.
But somewhere along the line, things went south. Earlier this year reports emerged about outbursts from Mr. Crawford and a conflict between the lead actors, which seemed to boil over when Mr. Wayans was injured during an episode that Mr. Crawford directed. Mr. Crawford posted
, but that wasn’t enough to save his job. After he was fired in May, Mr. Wayans posted photos on Twitter of his on-set injury and other incriminating evidence, including a sticker he claimed someone posted on set that called Mr. Crawford “an emotional terrorist.” Mr. Crawford has countered that Mr. Wayans was the real problem behind the scenes.
Whatever the source of the trouble, it’s Mr. Crawford who has been replaced — by Seann William Scott, still best known as the oversexed doofus Stifler from the “American Pie” films. He will play a war veteran who becomes Murtaugh’s new partner. At the Television Critics Association press tour in August, Gary Newman, a co-chairman of the Fox Television Group, said landing Mr. Scott saved the show. “Until they came up with Seann, we were planning a schedule without ‘Lethal Weapon,’” he said.
Outlook: “Lethal Weapon” was on the ratings bubble even before this all went down, so Mr. Crawford’s exit might actually help, if it brings in curious viewers (and if it doesn’t alienate the show’s fans). Mr. Scott has charisma and the right kind of Riggsy reckless energy to make the main dynamic work, if viewers don’t decide they’re too old for this show.
Returning Oct. 16 (as “The Conners”)
Fired: Roseanne Barr
Reason: racist tweeting
ABC decided to overlook Roseanne Barr’s erratic social media tendencies when it revived “Roseanne” last spring, bringing back most of the original cast and picking up with the Conner family more than 20 years later. The idea was to cater to Trump voters and working-class viewers in general, and as “Roseanne” became the most-watched new show of the 2017-18 television season — drawing plaudits from the president himself — the gamble on Ms. Barr appeared to have paid off.
And then it didn’t. Not long after the highly rated season ended, Ms. Barr posted a now-infamous racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, the African-American senior adviser to former President Barack Obama. ABC quickly cut ties with Ms. Barr, canceling its biggest hit and the anchor of its fall lineup in the process. Things stayed that way for a few weeks, until the network announced that “Roseanne” would return without Roseanne, and Ms. Barr would not benefit financially from the reboot of the reboot.
Rechristened “The Conners,” the show will return with the rest of the cast intact, to find the family dealing with what ABC describes as “a sudden turn of events” that results in the disappearance of its matriarch. (In a recent interview, John Goodman said the show will kill her off.) Channing Dungey, the ABC president, has said, “The Conners” will continue to focus on the day-to-day struggles of a middle-class family.”
Outlook: Mr. Goodman and Laurie Metcalf are among the most likable actors anywhere, and the revived “Roseanne” was at its best when it avoided the fictional Roseanne’s MAGA politics and focused on the family. But the character has been has been the center of the franchise’s universe for all of its 10 seasons, the star whose gravity defined the orbits of everyone else. Will Dan, Darlene or someone else grow into this role? Or will “The Conners” lack focus and cohesion?
Returning Nov. 2
Fired: Kevin Spacey
Reason: sexual misconduct allegations
Several people, on and off the “House of Cards” set, accused Mr. Spacey last fall of groping and other inappropriate behavior. After a brief period of doubt over the show’s future, Netflix announced that “House of Cards” would return for a sixth and final season. But now, Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood, who began as the icy partner in skulduggery to Mr. Spacey’s Frank before seeming to eclipse him at the end of last season, would be the sole lead character. Frank
, but we don’t know how or when he died. When we last saw him, he had resigned from the presidency and was awaiting a pardon from Claire, his former vice president.
You should have known. pic.twitter.com/UFGplyDSY1— House of Cards (@HouseofCards) September 5, 2018
Outlook: A subtler, more inscrutable operator, Claire is more interesting than the indefatigably hammy Frank, whose fourth-wall-breaking monologues had grown especially tiresome (though Claire has begun to use the same device). “House of Cards” long ago crossed from dark satire into ridiculousness. But as the show that sparked Netflix’s transformation from a DVD mail service into TV’s most prolific producer of original series, it deserves a proper send-off.
Fired: Jeffrey Tambor
Reason: sexual misconduct allegations
“Transparent” helped to reframe popular consideration of the transgender community, and Mr. Tambor won raves and an Emmy as Maura Pfefferman, the narcissistic patriarch turned “moppa” to three adult (and equally narcissistic) children. But last fall Mr. Tambor was accused by three women of sexually inappropriate contact and comments, and he was fired in February. In interviews Mr. Tambor admitted that he has been emotionally — but not sexually — abusive on set, shouting at colleagues and generally being difficult to work with at times. His argument was essentially: I’m a jerk, not a predator.
Outlook: Jill Soloway, the show’s creator, has yet to say what form the reconfigured “Transparent” will take. But one benefit of Mr. Tambor’s departure is that the trans main character will no longer be played by a non-transgender man — a longstanding criticism of “Transparent” by some in the transgender community — at a time when issues of representation are more prominent than ever. “We have a lot to share, and the world wants to see it,” Trace Lysette, a transgender actor and one of Mr. Tambor’s accusers, told The New York Times in December. “And I just think that it sucks that so much rides on these leading men.”