Sunday, August 5, 2012

Two McVeys?!

It’s one thing for the same actor to play various characters with the same or similar names on different series. That’s odd enough. But I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a scenario where the same actor plays different characters with the same name on the same series!

In season 4’s The Case of the Misguided Missile, after Captain Caldwell’s death, an officer is assigned to investigate and see whether there’s a case against Major Reynolds. The officer assigned is Captain McVey of the Air Police. Friendly and amiable, he associates with Perry and Paul and tries to be fair to both the defense and the prosecution. He’s quite a major player throughout, appearing off and on right up to the epilogue.

When I wrote The Spectral Stalker and needed the military police to become involved, I briefly considered making a random character of my own before realizing that Captain McVey was already an ideal choice. Perhaps, since he had investigated Captain Caldwell’s murder, they would choose to call him in to investigate the bizarre reports of Major Jerry Reynolds being stalked by Caldwell. I did give him a character of my own as an aide, but the spotlight is mostly on McVey. I enjoyed writing for him and involving him in the story’s events.

Last week my local station ran season 5’s The Crying Comedian. My jaw dropped when I saw a familiar face at the police station and Tragg introduced him as Lieutenant McVey. (And then the cast list gets even more bewildering when it lists him as Sergeant McVey! I think I’ll trust Tragg over the cast list. . . .)

This fellow is definitely not of the Air Police, but of the LAPD. And he is definitely played by the same man, Med Flory. Very strange. Maybe Captain McVey has a twin brother!

I know the writers in those days were notorious for not paying attention to oddities with previous episodes. No one imagined that the shows would still live on as they have, with steady re-runs and video and DVD releases. But goodness, the coincidence is so bizarre it’s laughable. And the episodes really aren’t that far apart; The Misguided Missile is one of season 4’s last, while The Crying Comedian is one of season 5’s first. I wonder how far apart they were written and filmed.

There’s something else about Lieutenant McVey that should be of interest—he appears throughout the episode, even taking the customary place in the gallery where Andy and Steve always sit. I have to wonder if they were considering him as a possible choice for the steady policeman position, once they knew Ray Collins could no longer carry it all on his own.

Upon re-reading an article about Wesley Lau, it’s mentioned that Gail Patrick Jackson was impressed by his performance as Amory Fallon and asked him if he would be interested in playing a policeman on the series. But it doesn’t say if she asked him alone or if they were possibly considering others as well before deciding on him. Considering that Lieutenant McVey behaves as more than the typical oneshot policeman, even having a whispered exchange with Hamilton, I am starting to suspect that Wesley was not the only choice.

If that could be true, it makes me wonder why they decided on Wesley. Did they think his character would have more presence? Andy is certainly more interesting than Lieutenant McVey, albeit the fact that Andy started with dialogue written for Tragg. But Captain McVey, despite being a oneshot character as Lieutenant McVey is, is a very interesting person too. They developed him a lot more than they did the Lieutenant. Med Flory certainly had the talent necessary to play a steady role, even though they did not allow him to display his full acting abilities as Lieutenant McVey. He would have been a fine choice.

Nevertheless, I have to admit, I’m glad they chose Wesley Lau. When I encounter something in a movie or television series that deviates from the original source material but is something I find just as good or better, I tend to say that whoever came up with the idea is a genius. I feel that way about both Andy and Steve, and their actors. I’m thrilled that Gail saw the talent in Wesley. He’s a vastly underrated but absolutely excellent actor. And whoever wanted Richard Anderson later, when they needed someone again, was also a genius. Andy and Steve are both marvelous additions to the cast, and their actors are perfect in the parts. The only thing I regret is that the reason they each came in was because their predecessor was phasing out.

Also in that article was a bit about Wesley’s frustrations at not really having much to do in the episodes. Now I’m wondering if he left on his own, hoping to find something better whether or not he had something lined up. And yet I’m not sure he would have done that, when he mentioned how welcome the money was for his little family. Unless he actually thought he was going to get a better deal, and had one ready to go, it doesn’t seem that he would leave such a steady-paying job.

As I’ve been watching some season 9 episodes on Saturdays, it’s started to occur to me that it sometimes seems as though Steve often has what Andy rarely ever has. Steve is a semi-major to a major player in several season 9 episodes. Richard really had a lot of opportunities to play the character’s many fascinating facets, especially in The Silent Six and The Sausalito Sunrise. He also has some wonderful scenes in The Bogus Buccaneers and others.

Andy does have some good screentime in season 5, but that was before they figured out how to make him different from Tragg. After he gains his own personality, he really only ever has The Hateful Hero to play a highly significant role. He does appear quite a bit in The Tandem Target too, at least at the beginning. A couple of times in season 8 he has better-sized parts as well, yet still not as important to the plot as Steve’s episodes. And those episodes of Andy’s are spread out over seasons, while Steve’s several big episodes are, of course, all concentrated into one season. Did the crew wise up? Or, possibly, was one positive aspect of going back to a more season 1-ish formula the fact that the policeman character would frequently have significant and character-developing screentime, as Tragg used to?

Ah, more questions that I would love the answers to, but shall probably never have.

(EDIT: Thinking further on the matter, I think Steve got an even bigger spotlight than Tragg ever did. As I mentioned, Tragg never really had a spotlight episode, even though he had some great scenes in many of them. But I think without a doubt, The Sausalito Sunrise is totally a Steve-centric episode, and in many ways, so is The Silent Six.)

In any case, I regret that Andy hardly ever received the attention he deserved. He, like his actor, seems to have been vastly underrated. I lavish attention on him whenever possible.

I am highly enjoying my current mystery story, The Malevolent Mugging. Along the way I try to develop Andy’s character in ways the show did not, such as explaining exactly why he never seemed to dine with Perry and company. That bit is one of my favorite soliloquies.

Andy had been a curious and capable new lieutenant upon his arrival. Amiable but businesslike, he had soon managed to adapt to the swing of things, striking up friendships with Perry and his crew as well as with Tragg and Hamilton.

Andy was not, however, quite as ease about it as Steve was. Sometimes Hamilton had the sense that Andy had been conflicted about how to handle being friends with Perry and company while not becoming caught up in any of their law-bending. The dilemma had stressed him more than once, and he had very rarely associated with Perry, Della, and Paul in social contexts such as lunch or dinner—unless it was a group dinner and Tragg and Steve were going as well.

I try to read between the lines in episodes to come up with theories such as this. I find it highly stimulating and fun. Season 8 provided inspiration for this one. It may or may not be true, but we shall likely never know one way or the other.

And the weekday post will be going up on Wednesday this week!

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