The big news in the sporting world yesterday is that Peyton Manning is leaving the Indianapolis Colts after sitting out all last season while undergoing surgical procedures on his neck. While it’s not known if he has fully recovered, the Colts are looking to the future, presumably by drafting Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with their first pick.
Will the Colts thrive under Luck? Will Peyton be able to muster his career in its twilight years? Scenarios like this don’t just happen in sports, but also in entertainment, where properties and franchises are held together by actors who, for one reason or another, take leave and move on.
As you’ll see below, the results are a mixed bag. Sometimes franchises improve, sometimes they flounder, and sometimes they just gently fade away. Take a look.
The question of whether or not Carell left the office because it had started to suck or if the show started to suck when he was gone is one that I won’t address here, because I didn’t watch the later episodes during his tenure. But it’s clear that his demise has hastened the decline of the show regardless.
While the gimmicky casting of James Spader made for interesting copy and kept all eyes on the show, perhaps people didn’t realize just how integral Steve was to the show. Sure, the supporting characters were able to hold their own, but the show needed a star more than most people realize, and someone like James Spader or even the competent ensemble can’t fill that void.
The fate of The Office is up in the air after Carell’s first year away, but if it does carry on, I would expect it to end with a bang, and not a whimper.
The problem with hiring (or even creating) a big star with your franchise is that it affords them big opportunities outside of the franchise. Most actors want to take the goodwill they create with one role and parlay it into much more. For instance, Matt Damon was in a bit of a slump when he signed on to play Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity. However, the Jason Bourne character made Damon as close to an action-hero icon as the world has right now.
Damon has used that goodwill to star in both independent and large-scale films, eventually walking away from the Bourne series after The Bourne Supremacy. However, new blood was eagerly anticipated by both the producers and audiences, so the role became one of the most coveted in Hollywood, eventually going to Jeremy Renner.
With Edward Norton playing the villain in The Bourne Legacy, I would be very surprised if this film didn’t succeed on a larger scale than the Damon ones.