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Tag Archive: Darren McGavin


Review by C.J. Bunce

The Virginian, Ironside, Amy Prentiss, Kolchak: The Nightstalker, and CHiPs.  For modern TV watchers and students of film and production, these series from the 1960s to 1980s won’t come to mind as the most memorable TV series to use to teach a TV production course.  But they are enough for Cy Chermak–TV executive producer, producer, story editor, and writer of those series and more–to incorporate into a step-by-step narrative providing an insider’s view of show process and studio politics in his new book The Show Runner: An Insider’s Guide to Successful TV Production. 

Nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards, Chermak successfully–and sometimes not so successfully–negotiated the tiers of studio department hierarchy to create a lucrative career for himself.  In this autobiographical account he provides dozens of golden nuggets that any prospective TV writer will find insightful in understanding how an episode of television is created, from idea to final edit.  In addition to Chermak’s anecdotal lessons, he simplifies the duties and relationships of the production department from a show runner’s standpoint–a biased view, but a unique and interesting look from the top.  He uses an episode of his short-lived series Amy Prentiss–a 1974 series with Jessica Walter (Archer, PCU, Ghost in the Machine, Play Misty for Me) as the first woman chief of police in San Francisco–to take the reader on a walk-through as assistant to mentor Chermak as executive producer.

Along the way Chermak introduces us to the difficulties of ego and personality that seem to go with the territory of both studios execs and actors.  His examples include his personal interactions with Raymond Burr and Darren McGavin, who Chermak presents as particularly difficult to work with.  Chermak remains completely personable along the way, as if he’s putting his arm around the reader’s shoulder and giving the full studio tour, complete with interesting name dropping.  Chermak is quick to point out his own shortcomings and missed opportunities, like letting go by a young, yet-to-be-discovered Steven Spielberg making his way onto the studio lot as if he worked there to bump elbows with anyone who might screen his student film, Amblin.  Chermak’s first screenplay for the big screen was a movie called 4D Man, literally the first 4D movie (in addition to the 3D visuals it included physical effects, a concept taking off again at select theater chains today), featuring well-known actors Robert Lansing (Star Trek, Simon & Simon, The Equalizer), Lee Meriwether (Batman, Star Trek, Barnaby Jones), and Patty Duke (The Miracle Worker, The Streets of San Francisco).  

One of many rounds of re-write discussions for the short-lived series Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

For kids of 1970s and 1980s television, look for Chermak’s discussion of the problem of dual lead actors, as he recollects a battle of ego between CHiPs stars Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada, which ultimately spelled doom for Wilcox and Chermak, and cancellation of the entire series a year later.  “A year later” becomes a theme for Chermak.  He notes several instances of a series folding a year after he was removed as show runner of the series.

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Mulder and Scully will be back together again, at least for thousands of fans attending The X-Files 20th Anniversary Panel in Ballroom 20 at San Diego Comic-Con later this month.  In interviews in past years they have indicated a third movie or other X-Files reunion was possible and maybe they will share more about that as David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson join series creator Chris Carter and writer/producers David Amann, Vince Gilligan, Howard Gordon, Darin Morgan, Glen Morgan, John Shiban and Jim Wong.

We previewed here at borg.com last month another part of the 20th anniversary celebration–the continuing adventures of Scully, Mulder, the Lone Gunmen, the Smoking Man, Skinner and the rest of the paranormal in The X-Files: Season 10 monthly comic book series from IDW Publishing.

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The X-Files ran nine seasons, from 1993 to 2002, with recurring roles and guests roles from Robert Patrick (Agent Doggett), Annabeth Gish (Agent Reyes), Mimi Rogers (Agent Fowley), Adam Baldwin (Knowle Rohrer), Michael McKean (Morris Fletcher), Veronica Cartwright (Cassandra Spender), Willie Garson (Henry Weems), Terry O’Quinn (Lt. Tillman), Leon Russom (Detective Miles), Darren McGavin (Agent Dales), Denise Crosby (Dr. Speake), Lucy Lawless (Shannon McMahon), Michael Bublé (submarine sailor), Cary Elwes (Asst. Director Follmer), and Luke Wilson as Sheriff Hartwell in the fan favorite episode “Bad Blood.”  It was also made into two movies: The X-Files: Fight the Future in 1998 and The X-Files: I Want to Believe in 2008.  And it had one spinoff–the short-lived 2001 TV series The Lone Gunmen, feature the quirky trio played by Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood, and Dean Haglund.

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