Pop culture Q&A: TV shows carry on after star's death

  • Article by: RICH HELDENFELS , Akron Beacon Journal
  • Updated: March 30, 2014 - 2:00 PM
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Lee Thompson Young died in August but is still in some current episodes of “Rizzoli & Isles.”

Photo: Robert Voets • UPN,

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Q: Lee Thompson Young from “Rizzoli & Isles” died in August. I believe the last episode from last season was dedicated to him. I was surprised to see him in the first episodes in the new season. When will his last episode air, and how will the show explain his absence?

A: The TV season has become a flexible thing, with episodes from a single season airing in small chunks across a long period, or a batch of episodes shot together being defined by their network as taking up two seasons. The small recent batch of “Rizzoli & Isles” episodes are considered the end of the fourth season, which also includes shows in the summer of 2013.

Young, who played Boston police detective Barry Frost, was still working for most of those episodes. Sasha Alexander, who plays Maura Isles on the show, said in a recent online interview that “we will not be dealing with the departure of his character until Season 5.”

I could understand if the show decided to kill off Young’s character — and the series has had its share of painful moments before — but I would prefer a quieter departure, such as picking up the new season with Frost gone to China with his girlfriend.

Why shows go past the half-hour

Q: What is the rationale behind ending shows several minutes after the hour? This causes the viewer to either leave one show early or miss a show entirely, and the advertiser loses out. It messes up being able to record shows, as well.

A: It’s often a competitive move. If a show runs into the next half-hour, as some do, then a viewer might be less likely to switch to another program and stay with whatever is on next.

In some cases, the extended telecast also gives the show’s maker a little extra time for content while the network maintains its commercial load. As anyone who has fast-forwarded through a show knows, the actual time of a TV episode has decreased significantly over the years because of more ads. I am content to let a show run until 10:02 or 11:07 if it leads to better storytelling.

Yes, that is a pain when it comes to programming your DVR. With cable shows, at least, I often end up recording the later, overnight feed that is not against prime-time shows. Or I catch a replay on demand or online (assuming the show is available that way). It’s extra work, but the networks individually are not about making it easier for you. Each is mainly about keeping you tuned just to it.

Send questions about pop culture (with name and address) to rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.

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