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Current Updates | 'This is sad and frustrating' 10/16/01 | New focus, new tone for Joan 10/1/01 | Cusack's learning curve 10/1/01 | 'Joan' Is Her Comfort Zone 10/2/01 | *Cusack bucks odds with 'Joan' 7/26/01 | *WAJ Zap-IT 8/6/01 | Hey, what's not to like about Joan? | From the Seattle Times | GET A GRIP, JOANIE | 'What About Joan': A Bouquet of Neuroses | CHICAGO STYLE GAL | Name That Show, Part II | Joan Cusack's WHAT ABOUT JOAN To Premiere On ABC (3/27/01) | BECAUSE SHE'S WORTH IT | WAITING IN QUEUE FOR CUSACK | CUSACK PUTS CHICAGO ON THE LAUGH TRACK | The Joan Cusack Show
'This is sad and frustrating' 10/16/01

'This is sad and frustrating'

October 16, 2001
Chicago Sun Times
BY PHIL ROSENTHAL TELEVISION CRITIC

There was a strangely bittersweet exercise Friday night on the Chicago set of ABC's "What About Joan," a little more than 24 hours after the show was canceled by the network on series star Joan Cusack's 39th birthday.With walking papers in hand, the actors and crew of nearly 200 went through their paces, filming the eighth episode of a season that ended just as they thought they were finding their stride."This last show that we shot on Friday, I was so proud of and I really feel successful in that way, that it was really a show that had meaning to it," Cusack said Monday. "I just feel like that's hard to do, to get good content into a sitcom. ...It was jelling together, so this is sad and frustrating."All told, the nation's television viewers got to see just 11 of the 23 episodes Cusack and company produced. The problem was that, after some promising sampling of early episodes last spring, not enough people showed an interest or inclination to see any more.They didn't care that the show, as of its return this fall, had a smarter, more realistic feel and that Cusack's Joan Gallagher character was far less manic. Or at least they didn't care quickly enough.The dropoff in viewership on "Joan" from its first week this fall to the second was 23 percent. Surely it didn't help that three other shows--NBC's "Three Sisters," the WB's "Gilmore Girls" and UPN's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"--all were actively courting the same strong female audience "Joan" was at 7:30 p.m., but ABC, which used to own Tuesday nights, wasn't looking for excuses.So it axed Cusack's show after just those two episodes in an effort to salvage a night further dragged down by the disappointment of Jason Alexander's "Bob Patterson," a low-rated, poorly received sitcom partly owned by Disney that remains alive for now.That leaves six unaired episodes of "Joan" from this fall to gather dust in a Columbia TriStar warehouse alongside the four episodes the studio produced earlier this year as part of the show's initial order but scrapped when it was decided "Joan" needed to go in a different direction.Off-the-air clearly was not the direction anyone had in mind."You couldn't have a more charming and endearing lead than Joan, and she had such a strong supporting cast," said ABC's Stu Bloomberg, who not only helps program the network but oversees Disney-owned TV productions. "But somehow the elements all didn't add up. The show never truly jelled and found itself."While it's possible some cable network will buy the "What About Joan" inventory--the story of a thirtysomething Chicago high school teacher involved with a hunky investment banker would seem to have Lifetime written all over it--ABC, for now, plans to burn off unaired episodes this summer and wash its hands of a costly missed opportunity."We need a winning season," Bloomberg said. "I love Joan. I have been pursuing Joan for television for probably five years, and it was a painful, painful decision."Cusack admits it took time to adjust to this new medium, but the Oscar-nominated film star would love to do another series someday. "I learned about TV," she said. "It's such a corporate world and so different from the boutique-y film thing. It was fascinating."Friday's filming had Joan's boyfriend quitting his job and being encouraged by Joan to find something to do that he truly loves."He thinks about it, and realizes he does love what he's doing at work and it has value and meaning to him," Cusack said. "He realizes when life hands you disappointments, you can't quit."So it was a really powerful show to do on a lot of levels because I was saying, 'You've gotta do something you love to do,' and there I was doing something I love to do and I believe so strongly in."Her only regret is that she won't get to do it any longer.

October 16, 2001