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Do writers and producers have so little respect for their viewers as to think they will not notice such cast changes?

The Fresh Beat Band – Unexplained Cast Changes Keep Annoying TV Tradition Going

If you are of a certain age (10 years old and under) Nickelodeon’s The Fresh Beat Band is probably part of your world. The show is now starting its third season, and in keeping with a very odd TV tradition, unexplained cast changes stand out as an incongruity that – whether TV executives like it or not – kids do notice and do not appreciate.

The Fresh Beat Band revolves around four likeable teenagers (Twist, Shout, Kiki, and Marina) who go to music school, dance and sing a lot, and seemingly have nothing else to do but have a good time. For the first two seasons these characters were played by Jon Beavers, Thomas Hobson, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, and Shayna Rose, but now in the third season Marina is being played by Tara (no relation to Katy) Perry.

It actually stands out in a significant way, and both of my kids noticed it immediately. No explanation has been given as to the change in appearance of the character, and so kids are expected to be as resilient as Bewitched fans seeing Dick Sargent become Darrin (replacing Dick York) without any explanation.

Unfortunately, this is part of a TV tradition that I find slightly irritating and a bit condescending. Do writers and producers have so little respect for their viewers as to think they will not notice such cast changes? The Fresh Beat Band has already undergone cast changes, with the character Reed being played by Hadley Fraser in season one and replaced by Patrick Levis in season two (again, no explanation), and now they have dropped Melody (owner of the Groovy Smoothie) played by Dioni Michelle Collins. My kids really liked her and are wondering where she has gone. I don’t have the heart to tell them she has joined many others in that big lost character pool kept somewhere in a Hollywood warehouse.

Such cast changes are not without precedent in the TV world. If you are of a certain age (40 years old and over) you will recall that Richie Cunningham’s brother Chuck disappeared after season one of Happy Days (again no explanation). On Dallas Miss Ellie went from being played by Barbara Bel Geddes to Donna Reed and then, after one season, back to Bel Geddes (again without explanation).

Some shows have tried to get it right. M*A*S*H writers went through great pains to say goodbye to Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson), but then dropped the ball when the popular Trapper John (Wayne Rogers) left without much explanation. When Frank Burns (Larry Linville) was canned, they did a little better job – but not much. And first season character Spearchucker Jones (Timothy Brown) disappeared from the show (again, without explanation).

NYPD Blue bid adieu to a number of characters, but no departure in television history was more acrimonious than David Caruso’s Detective John Kelly who walked out the precinct door and was never mentioned again. Blue lost quite a few more characters over the years, and I think it took a toll on me because I stopped watching (some time after Jimmy Smits left the show).

Back on Nickelodeon, Blue’s Clues had a huge cast change to deal with when Steve (Steven Burns) left the show and was replaced by his brother Joe (Donovan Patton). Though there was a two-episode “goodbye” to Steve, my daughter never recovered from it (she still only likes to watch the show when Steve is on). My son seems slightly confused when Nick Jr. runs an hour of Blue’s Clues with the first episode featuring Steve and Joe in the next one.

There was Diane (Shelly Long) on Cheers, who was replaced by Kirstie Alley, and to this day many people do not like Ms. Alley simply because she replaced Long. There is certainly a different tone to Cheers after Long’s departure. Cheers also suffered the loss of the beloved Coach character (Nicholas Colasanto died) who was replaced by clueless but loveable Woody (Woody Harrelson). That worked out well enough for the show and Harrelson became very popular.

I suppose we can view TV like real life: people come and go, but sometimes it is harder to part with someone we have grown to know and love. I don’t know why TV shows don’t get it and respect the viewers (even if they are kids) and try to explain the changes. Although, even when it is done in what can be seen as the right way (as in the case of Blue’s Clues), it still doesn’t always satisfy everyone.

As we were watching a new episode of The Fresh Beat Band (with the new Marina) the other day, my two-year old son said, “I don’t like Ah-rina.” I just nodded, but I think that best sums up how we feel about these cast changes over the years. We don’t like them and no doubt ever will, but they will probably keep on coming and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Now, if someone could please tell me what happened to Chuck Cunningham.

Photo Credits- The Fresh Beat Band – Nickelodeon.com

M*A*S*H – chargerbulletin.com

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His books 'A Death in Prague' (2002), 'Move' (2003), 'The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories' (2005), and 'Like a Passing Shadow' (2009) are available in print, online, and as e-books. His latest books 'Heartbeat and Other Poems,' 'If the Fates Allow: New York Christmas Stories,' 'Garden of Ghosts,' and 'Flashes in the Pan' are available exclusively on Amazon. After winning the National Arts Club Award for Poetry while attending Queens College, he concentrated on writing mostly fiction and non-fiction prose until the recent publication of his new book of poetry, 'Heartbeat and Other Poems' (now available on Amazon). He has worked as a faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with 'Blogcritics Magazine' since July 2005 and has written many articles on a variety of topics; previously co-head sports editor, he now is a Culture and Society and Flash Ficition editor. Having traveled extensively, Victor has visited six continents and intends to get to Antarctica someday where he figures a few ideas for new stories await him.

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7 comments

  1. Characters get replaced; unforeseen circumstances happen during a production, not intentionally to hurt or upset anyone, it’s just life. The children like the show for what it is & to keep them liking it decisions are made & they hope for the best. No, the replacement isn’t exactly the same as the original but their intentions are to do the best they can to keep it as original as possible for you & your kids’ sake. It isn’t rocket science & as a lot of the comments have digressed, change happens & not everyone will like it but it’s a part of life so find the best suitable way to deal. Just to add, my daughter loves the show & isn’t bothered at the fact there’s new people, she’s just glad the show still airs with new episodes playing the songs she loves. Both Marina’s have good qualities to offer so give it a chance to win your heart yet again.

  2. It is a TV show. They are characters. There are way more important things going on in the world. Perhaps you should take a break from TV and play outside? I always tell my kids when they get upset about playing a game they need a break…..maybe you need a break.

  3. Steve from Blues clues had a huge coke problem, hence his departure from kids TV. Having read the comments bashing the author…good lord people! Kids watch TV! He used that as a hook to discuss cast changes.

  4. Ok here is the thing people, yes it sucks that people get shifted or lost in TV. But it is tv and if they want to keep the feel of the show they can’t have a pregnant “teenager” though the characters are teenagers the cast themselves are not we can’t expect them to stop aging and put their lives on hold because it might have upset some one. Yes they should transition it better, but they can not bring back the old marina she is getting to old for the part. As for kids getting upset, instead of feeling resentful because some one decides to have their own life with out asking your permission, go buy the cd for the kids or make them stop watching it and autism or not kids need to learn how to adjust to change so this may just be the best thing for them so they can learn on something that is not real life and has no major consequences if they have a hard time adjusting. After all it is not real and if the kids can not separate tv from real life then perhaps they should stop watching it

  5. I wish they would have taken the oppertunity to introduce a new character to the group. As adults we understand that it is a Tv show, actors have real lives and things change. The same actors can not possibly portray a school student forever, so they will make cast changes or end the show. That said, our young children may not be at an age to understand. What makes the transition difficult to accept is that they continue to play both the older and newer episodes. My daughter is only 2, so we have only resently started watching. I noticed a change and briefly thaught I was just seeing things. So I googled it and found this afirming the change. In my OPINION what makes changes like this difficult for children to accept and iritated about is when something they love is taken from them, replaced, and told it is the same thing. This is where I think producers of childrens shows get it wrong. Our kids take notice to changes in their favorite shows. They are going to feel cheated and tricked when such a switch is made and it is hard to explain to our two yearolds that it was because the other girl wanted to grow up and start a new life so here is anew girl pretending to be the same person! This would have been an excelent time for producers to have used the change to teach their audience about change, makeing new friends, and growing while also making the transition to a new character.

  6. Shayna has re-appeared in a self-produced, adorable, and rapidly going viral series “Shayna’s Place”: Check it out! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLD6VBR83m0

  7. I still haven’t gotten over Shemp replacing Curly.