There are TV shows that should end quickly. Did anyone think “Selfie” ever had a chance of making it through one season?
Then there are programs that get the ax that should have been allowed to stay on the air. Cancellation often comes because ratings are low. Sometimes the programs are just victims of management change.
“Life Unexpected,” a CW Network series that launched in 2010 and lasted only two seasons. It should have been given more time. The series was a smart and sweet story about what happens when a young girl (Britt Robertson) tracks down her biological parents (Kristoffer Polaha, Shiri Appleby).
In an interview with Polaha to talk about his new movie, “Where Hope Grows,” I got to tell the actor I thought the cancellation was an injustice. He explains that it gets even worse: There was a change of management at the CW after the show was canceled and the new bosses liked “Life Unexpected” so much they would have kept it on the air.
In the series, Polaha played a former high school hotshot who never lived up to his full potential. His struggles were complicated by suddenly having to deal with a teenage daughter. The actor was able to use that role to help him with “Where Hope Grows,” where he again plays a former standout who isn’t living up to his potential and is dealing with a teenage daughter.
“When I read the script for ‘Where Hope Grows’ I thought it was ‘Life Unexpected’ dark,” Polaha says. “Both are about potential unfulfilled. I loved the opportunity to come back and play that kind of character again.”
The big difference between the series and the film is that instead of having the mother of his daughter to help, the character in “Where Hope Grows” turns to a young man with Down syndrome who helps him see what really is important in life.
Polaha’s current TV role doesn’t have him dealing with a teenage daughter, but he faces a grown man who acts immature. He is one of the stars of the FOX series “Backstrom.”
Grace Lee Whitney star in ‘Star Trek’ galaxy
It’s a testament to Grace Lee Whitney that while she only appeared in eight episodes of the original “Star Trek” series, she earned as much of a following with fans as many of the other original characters.
That admiration was shared through numerous conventions including an appearance at Fresno’s Collect-A-Con 6 in 2013. And now, those same fans can share their grief as the Coarsegold resident, who was the oldest surviving member of the original “Star Trek” TV series cast, died May 1.
Talking with Whitney always was a real joy. It was a chance to chat about the series and to hear details of her amazing life. It wasn’t the Hollywood life of glamour and fame but one that included a long period of alcohol, drugs and sex addictions.
She took great pride in being clean and sober for almost 35 years. Whitney told me in our last interview that only 2% make it to 30 years.
It was the “Star Trek” fans who saved her. She was able to join that select group of 2% because of thousands of supporters — fans who have crowded into conventions around the globe to see the actress.
There was a time when she appeared at 30 conventions a year, but she cut back in later years to focus on the huge “Star Trek” convention held in Las Vegas. She loved getting the opportunity to talk with the fans whether it was a large or small convention.
“I have fans all over the world, some who don’t even speak English. When they bring me on stage, everyone will stand up and cheer. I practically weep, and then I give them my all,” Whitney said.
After a series of roles on television (“Batman,” “Rifleman”) and film (including the Billy Wilder classic “Some Like It Hot”), the Michigan native was cast in 1966 to be part of Gene Roddenberry’s new “space wagon train series” called “Star Trek.”
Whitney’s role as Yeoman Janice Rand originally was as Capt. James T. Kirk’s (William Shatner) assistant and eventual love interest, but her time on the show ended halfway through the year. Why she was cut from the show remained one of the big mysteries with fans for years. Reports ranged from addiction and undependable behavior to a network decision that a love interest for Kirk would be too cumbersome.
Whitney said in her 1998 autobiography, “The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy,” that she was sexually assaulted by a member of the “Star Trek” management team she only refers to as “the executive.” Whitney said the assault happened late on a Friday in an isolated part of the Desilu Studios where the series was shot, and a few days later she got a call from her agent that she had been written out of the series.
Whitney’s acting career — and almost her life — came to an end as she fell into a horrific spiral. Her recovery was largely due to the fans who never forgot her. It was at a “Star Trek” convention where Whitney went public with her addiction problems.
“When I told the fans I was an alcoholic, they all applauded. When I told them I had given myself to a higher power, they cheered again, “ Whitney said. “I’m in a great place because I’ve gone full circle.”
Whitney left Hollywood when her first grandchild was born. After attending Fresno State, her son, Jonathan, settled in Kerman and lived on the 30 acres Whitney bought in the Yosemite area.
I envied how Whitney was part of the “Star Trek” TV and film worlds. I admired how she found the strength and courage to fight back from such a horrible place.