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The TV gods have a weird sense of humor. Why else would “Downton Abbey” lose yet another major player? And why in holy hell would NBC pick two new snoozer judges for “America’s Got Talent” on the heels of a revival?
We’ll go from bad to worse. Actress Siobhan Finneran, who rocks the greatest bangs ever as Sarah O’Brien on “Downton,” will not return for season 4. Methinks O’Brien will sail off into a saffron sunset with the Scottish arm of the Granthams; I’d like to think creator Julian Fellowes knows we fans can’t really handle another violent death after season 3. Still, brace yourselves—if anyone is a candidate for spontaneous combustion, it’s O’Brien. (To experience the lighter side of Downton-themed cruelty, check out this masterpiece of bloggery.)
Despite her penchant for shenanigans, Finneran’s O’Brien will be missed. Villains are far more interesting than good guys in any fictional context, and O’Brien’s (relatively) evil machinations spawned at least one Twitter feed and a verb form/hashtag of her name. Example from @OBriensBangs: “Never mind Miss Wilkins, you just got #OBriened”; synonymous with “screwed,” “busted,” and “schooled.”
Plus, writers gave her some of the best lines (On the possibility of Mrs. Hughes having a love interest: “If she’s got a boyfriend, I’m a giraffe”; of Lady Grantham: “I’d like to give her the old heave-ho in a dark alley somewhere”; to Daisy, sympathizing with the victims of the Titanic disaster: “Oh, you sound like a penny dreadful.”) and most bizarre plot twists, from the soap incident (Who DOES that?) to her multiple attempts to embarrass Bates and then her equally witchy foe Thomas (poor James).
And tell me you didn’t yell something like “Boom!” when O’Brien didn’t fall for the whisky-laced punch scheme wrought by Wilkins, Lady Susan’s jealous, bad-hair-doing lady’s maid, in the season three finale. (Poor Moseley!)
Only Thomas has the chops to replace O’Brien as villain, and he appears to be a born again Mr. Nice Guy going into season 4. Maybe Carson’s season-long bad mood will carry over into next season and at least offer us some cynical bastardry.
Huffington Post says a Downton spokesperson has confirmed that the door could be left open for O’Brien’s return. At least we still have the ever-sassy Dowager Countess. Note: If Maggie Smith leaves, I’m out.
As for the spectacularly lame “America’s Got Talent” news, we’ve got a four judges now. Following Sharon Osbourne’s dramatic departure from NBC after last season of “AGT,” execs took their sweet time filling her very fabulous shoes. Not surprisingly, it takes two people to fill them: Heidi Klum and Mel B.
Seriously NBC? Scary Spice and a model are in a position to judge showbiz talent? Did you see “Spice World”? I mean, I know Klum is gorgeous and all, but I couldn’t sit through five minutes of “Project Runway,” no thanks to her. I just never really considered Klum a bastion of entertainment wisdom—fashion stuff maybe, but not the fine art of what makes audiences tick. At least Mel B knows a thing or two about showbiz performance...sort of...but the only reason either of them is relevant is their continuing binge of reality TV appearances—hardly high art, even by show business standards.
Somewhere Osbourne is cackling her head off.
Too bad NBC didn’t consider AGT judge and King of All Media Howard Stern’s very good ideas for Osbourne’s replacement. Among them: Rosie O’Donnell, Cher and Madonna. OK, Cher and Madonna were long shots, but O’Donnell reportedly was very open to the idea and she would’ve been great alongside Stern and Howie Mandel—three multi-talented comedians who are well versed in show business. (Not to rub it in, but reportedly, Carly Simon was on the short list, too. But no, we’ll take our talent advice from a Spice Girl and the ex-Mrs. Seal.)
Bottom line: AGT is officially on notice, despite its brilliant call last year to add Stern to the lineup. The four-judge thing is a bore and so is the selection of Klum. Pretty sure “American Idol” has yet to regain the chemistry of its original three-judge panel, and I’ll bet AGT starts playing musical judges soon enough.
I'm on Twitter: @TheMDesk