Isaiah Washington
Question: I was becoming increasingly excited for the new Bionic Woman series. I was a latecomer to Battlestar Galactica and was looking forward to coming into one of executive producer David Eick's "reimaginings" at the beginning. But the news that Isaiah Washington has been cast in a recurring role on the series means I will not be watching. Period. While I acknowledge that Washington is a talented actor, his now-admitted behavior on the set of Grey's Anatomy — as well as his ridiculous press tour trying to paint T.R. Knight as a gay Machiavelli hell-bent on keeping Washington down — showed that he is not only a bigot but also a ridiculous blowhard and possibly insane. I can't watch the man on screen anymore. And since I don't have a history with BW like I do with Grey's, not watching the show is going to be rather easy. I don't see a character when I see Washington on screen now: I see a dangerous loon with no sense of personal responsibility. He takes me out of the moment completely and just makes me angry (or sorry for his scene partner). What the hell is NBC thinking? This is not simply a case of a good actor being out of work. Plenty of great actors are available for a recurring role on a series. This is clearly a stab at free press by using his recent notoriety to bring attention to the show. But I know that I am not the only person who refuses to watch him in any capacity (except in Out of Sight, when J.Lo beats the crap out of him, because that's taken on a whole new level of fun). Hiring him may well bring attention to the show, but I think it will lose them more viewers than they'll gain. He's a major liability, both PR-wise and, I would imagine, in insurance premiums. Can you see any logic to this choice? And is this a bad omen for Ben Silverman's tenure at NBC?
Answer: Far be it from me to defend Isaiah Washington's behavior, including his bizarre and backfiring PR attempts at image rehab (especially in that regrettable Larry King interview). There's obviously still a lot of anger in some quarters over what he did and said on the Grey's Anatomy set and afterward, and the timing of NBC's publicity-stunt casting is jarring, to say the least. But the reality of the situation is that he's going to continue to get work as an actor, regardless of whether some elements of the viewing audience will ever be able to forgive (if not forget, which probably is too much to ask). The upside is that, as it stands, he's only expected to be in a five-episode arc, so if Bionic Woman turns out to be a keeper (far from a sure thing), it's hard to say what permanent harm will have been done. In the tradition of most classic publicity stunts, this one has people buzzing about the show, for better or worse, so it's probably an effective one. And face it: For everyone who has taken an unyielding stand against the actor, there are no doubt just as many who feel his public humiliation and firing from a top-rated show is punishment enough (some say too much). New NBC leader Ben Silverman clearly has a showman's appetite for sensationalism, and I guess we'll see in September whether this does more harm than good where Bionic Woman is concerned. My gut tells me the network, the world and possibly the show will survive.