Burning Question: Are Some Cursed TV Stars Certified Show-Killers? (We’re Looking at You, Jerry O’Connell)

Why do some stars, such as Jerry O'Connell, keep getting cast in shows that don't last? Is there really such a thing as an actor who's a "show killer"?


No no no. Just no.

I don't care how many dweebs want to label Summer Glau as series poison just because some of her projects — "Firefly," "Dollhouse," "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" — failed to thrive. I don't particularly like Alex O'Loughlin, but I'm not blaming him for the short lives of "Moonlight" or "Three Rivers." (He's now doing fine on "Hawaii Five-0.")

Or consider Blair Underwood. His latest endeavor, "Ironside," became the latest casualty of the fall season, dispatched after just three episodes. His résumé is chock-full of major disappointments ("Ironside," "The Event," "Fatherhood," "LAX," "City of Angels," "High Incident"). But how do you account for the long-running hits in which he either starred ("L.A. Law, "The New Adventures of Old Christine") or had a significant storyline ("Sex and the City")?

Of course, poor Jerry O'Connell does seem to have a shaky recent history on TV, thanks to bombs like "The Defenders" and "We Are Men," the latter of which was deep-sixed this season after only two outings.

But labeling an actor as a show-killer is just lazy. And it isn't even a real phenomenon.

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"I'd much sooner attribute failure and rejection to improper marketing, an overly tough time slot, an executive who didn't stick by it, or simply not being written well enough than to an actor who's been associated with other canceled shows," says Zack Stentz, a writer on "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" as well as films such as "Thor." "Show cancellation isn't a virus, and it can't be transmitted person to person!"

No kidding. As TV writer Noah Hawley ("My Generation") noted in a Hollywood Reporter essay in April, "In TV, something like 92 percent of all shows fail. As a result, there's no stigma to failure." While the 92 percent might be a bit hyperbolic, Hawley's on the money when it comes to the huge rate of TV misses.

And, according to a TV Rant report last year, based on the success rate of shows released 2009-12, "on average 65 percent of new network television series will be canceled in their first season."

As for why some stars "keep getting cast" on shows that don't last, the phrase "rabbi in the building" comes to mind.

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"Actors frequently have a big fan somewhere who pulls for them," talent manager and former TV exec Marrissa O'Leary tells me. CBS is especially 'famous' for their determination to work with someone and keep trying until something hits."

Actors with a movie pedigree also tend to get more turns at the bat when it comes to network pilots.

If you're still convinced that some actors are somehow cursed, here's your final lesson, courtesy of Stentz:

"Oftentimes executives turn out to be correct in sticking by certain actors despite repeated TV failures," he tells me. "The most notorious show-killer of the late 1980s and early 1990s was a young man who was attached to multiple failed pilots and 'one and done' shows.

"His name was George Clooney."