Television Q&A: Why was 'Away' canceled?

By Rich Heldenfels, Tribune News Service on

Published in Entertainment News

Q: Do you know why "Away," the series with Hilary Swank was canceled? I thought it was excellent — story and acting both.

A: The series about a journey to Mars had decent ratings for a streaming series, according to several reports. But they may not have been decent enough to justify the cost of the show — especially when, as one account noted, Netflix would have to commit to an entire season and figure out how to make it during the pandemic challenges still facing many shows. There may also have been some viewer fatigue with the concept; Alan Sepinwall noted that another streaming series, Hulu's "The First," also dealt with Mars travel — and it ended after one season, too. As I have mentioned here before, several series that might have survived in normal times were ended because of COVID-19 complications.

Q: How did Hallmark Channel make almost 40 holiday movies during the pandemic? The new movies began in late October. Were movies made prior to the March shutdown?

A: Hallmark has often demonstrated extraordinary efficiency when turning out holiday movies, perhaps the biggest draw for its channels. And this season has been no exception. One of the current movies was shot in January, before the pandemic became pervasive. Others, a spokesman said, "filmed summer into fall on an accelerated schedule due to the pandemic." But in case you think corners were being cut, the spokesman added, "There are COVID-19 protocols and precautions in place that allowed all filming and production to open."

Q: Can you tell me where the house that Commissioner Frank Reagan lives in on "Blue Bloods" is located in real life?

A: The exteriors are a home in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. The interiors are a studio set. By the way, "Blue Bloods" has been renewed for another season, although the date for its return has not yet been set.

Q: I hope you can answer this for me because it's been plaguing me for years. Way, way back when "Howdy Doody" first went on the air, the puppet had a different look Then he was supposedly in some kind of accident and when he re-emerged several weeks (months?) later he was the iteration we know today. There was, as I remember, a great deal of hoopla and anticipation leading up to his return. No one I've ever mentioned this to has any recollection of it, but I know I'm not imagining it. Can you find anything to back this up?

A: When the TV show began in late 1947, the marionette called Howdy Doody did look different. He was designed by Frank Paris who, according to the book "Total Television," left the show early on in a contract dispute with NBC and took his puppet with him. Other designers created a newer Howdy, who was said to have had plastic surgery.


Q: Because I am approaching that age, I would like some information about the show "Life Begins at Eighty." I believe it was a quiz show.

A: Not exactly. According to The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, the series had "a panel of oldsters ... posed questions submitted by viewers and given the opportunity to expound on life from the vantage point of their years." After beginning in radio, the series came to TV in 1950 on NBC and, after some bouncing among networks, ended in 1956. Jack Barry, who hosted, created the program as a variation on his show "Juvenile Jury," which had children dealing with audience inquiries. That show also had a TV run.

Q: I read the article about Tyra Banks on "Dancing with the Stars." I like her. She just needs to wear clothes that don't stand out so much. The show needed her. I enjoy watching immensely.

A: I have to say that, judging from all the other mail I have received, you are a rare fan. I've mentioned many viewers' objections before, as well as their longing for the return of Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews. And the anti-Tyra letters keep coming in.


(Do you have a question or comment about entertainment past, present and future? Write to Rich Heldenfels, P.O. Box 417, Mogadore, OH 44260, or brenfels@gmail.com. Letters may be edited. Individual replies are not guaranteed.)

(c)2020 Tribune Content Agency, LLC, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.