Drama's Death Watch

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Drama's Death Watch

This is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore Watching Television for KCRW. But right now, Death Watch seems more like it.

Spring is supposed to be about rebirth -- even in the TV world. Last week, the broadcast networks celebrated their rite of spring with gala announcements of upcoming new shows. But the flip side was death notices for shows that won't be back next season. Cancelled series.

Meanwhile, we viewers find ourselves on a death watch every night as we try to enjoy our favorite dramas. On any given episode, even a hero of the series might come face-to-face with the Grim Reaper.

This season a sad loss tied to real life was that of Leo McGarry, the crusty but beloved White House Chief-of-Staff on The West Wing. His passing was an unexpected, certainly unwanted event resulting from the sudden death last December of John Spencer, who played him.

But with other shows, death is prearranged and made-to-order.

Early in the season on Lost, the trigger-happy Ana Lucia plugged Shannon. Then three weeks ago, Michael, evidently under some kind of mind control, cut down Ana Lucia, and Libby, too. That island could use gun-control legislation.

On Desperate Housewives a while back, Bree sat and watched her kinky pharmacist boyfriend George die, fittingly, of a self-imposed drug overdose, and she did nothing to save him. Though why should she, since George had killed her husband, Rex, by tampering with his medication last season?

Dana, the pro tennis champ on The L Word, lost her battle with breast cancer.

And on The Shield, Shane blasted Lem, his detective buddy, his brother on the LAPD Strike Team, with a hand grenade. That wasn't a pretty picture.

On 24, husband-and-wife counter-terrorist agents Tony and Michelle died this season. So did computer nerd Edgar, from nerve gas. Former president David Palmer was shot to death by a sniper.

And let's not forget The Sopranos, which upped its not inconsiderable body count on last night's episode. Sweet dreams.

Seems to me this bloodlust is at epidemic proportions. And I have to wonder if panic isn't spreading in that phantom realm where TV's make-believe characters hang out in their off-hours.

It sounds nutty, but I can imagine Gil Grissom of Crime Scene Investigation calling around with the grim news of how, just last week, Assistant D.A. Alexandra Borgia of Law & Order was kidnapped and found dead.

"I tried to warn her," sobs Lorelai Gilmore of The Gilmore Girls when Grissom rings her up. "It's May Sweeps. Terrible things happen in May!"

"Tell me about it," Grissom agrees. "The very next night on The O.C., that poor Marissa Cooper died in a car crash. And didja hear about Libby and Ana Lucia on that island?"

"May, not April, is the cruelest month," moans Lorelai. "Who among us is safe?"

Can anything protect these besieged fictitious folk from the threat of writers crafting morbid plot twists to boost ratings?

And an even more important question: When the shocking death of a character we viewers love no longer shocks us, well, what will the writers do then to shake us up?

I don't know. But I do know this: May Sweeps is almost over. So here's to better days ahead for us all.

Until then, watching TV, bloody TV, for KCRW, this is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore.