Saturday, Aug 2, 2014 04:34 am est

Arts Issue: TV shows suffer from ensemble casting

Posted on April 10, 2014 | by Bob Teoh

Courtesy of NBC

With shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Community” winning the hearts of fans and critics alike, it seems like the ensemble cast is all the rage on the small screen these days. Taking full advantage of the current fascination with celebrity culture, these shows cram as many A-listers in one story as possible. However, the trend of ensemble casting is perilous, often jeopardizing the quality of a TV series, not to mention causing interpersonal issues in the entertainment industry.

What most people see as the greatest advantage of ensemble casting — providing viewers with a strong dose of all their celebrity needs — is also the greatest weakness. When writers and producers put so many celebrities in front of the camera, they must somehow find a way to give every star enough screen time, and the writing invariably suffers in the process.

“American Horror Story,” for example, went to the extreme in its third season, “Coven” — there were two Academy Award winners and one Academy Award nominee in its principal cast, as well as teen star Emma Roberts.

As the season dragged on, the writing became worse, with the producers struggling to fit the top-billed stars into the storyline. Witches who died were revived at least twice, and additional characters — such as Delphine LaLaurie, played by the wonderful Kathy Bates — had few chances to contribute to the plot and were forced to hover in the background. The producers paid big money for these celebrities, but sacrificed a coherent plot in exchange for keeping them on the show. This choice resulted in a largely unsatisfying ending to “Coven.”

Behind the scenes, ensemble casts also constantly inspire conflicts. “Community’s” cast of comedic actors works perfectly on-screen, as each character has a specific role in the group. Yet show creator Dan Harmon had a highly publicized feud with Chevy Chase, the actor who played Pierce Hawthorne. A comedic legend, Chase did not appreciate being cast to the side as a secondary character who was constantly the butt of jokes. Arguments escalated until Harmon was fired and Chase voluntarily left the show.

When so many stars are involved, it is difficult to keep them all happy. Recently, Donald Glover, another star on the show, left the main cast in order to do some soul-searching. The cast changes caused by celebrity members have forced “Community” to change major character arcs.

Of course it is fun to see favorite celebrities together in the same scene, but ultimately, audiences are tuning in for good television, not Celebrity Jeopardy. Ensemble casting may be good fun, but the use of so many stars causes the quality of series to suffer, both on-screen and off.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, April 10 print edition. Bob Teoh is entertainment editor. Email him at bteoh@nyunews.com.

Comments

CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

AS
Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.

 

DY
Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

CLOSE [x]
  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    NEWS FEATURES MULTIMEDIA SPORTS ARTS OPINION
    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.

    Next