Procedural dramas have flourished on television over the past decade plus, and while the success of the CSIs of the world are good for both viewers (some procedurals are pretty cool) and TV networks’ bottom line, there is an unpleasant pattern that has long been developing with regards to these kind of shows. Namely, that when it comes to procedurals, any female actor not named Mariska Hartigay seems to be eminently disposable. Deadline now reports that CBS is ready to jettison most if not all of the female regulars on “Criminal Minds”:
Heading to Season 6, CBS’ successful crime drama Criminal Minds is trimming the female portion of its cast for what I hear are financial reasons. I'm told the option of series regular A.J. Cook has not been picked up and co-star Paget Brewster is being made an offer to stay for only a reduced number of episodes next season, leaving fan favorite Kristen Vangsness as the only remaining full-time female cast member.
This kinda thing isn’t new. “Law & Order,” of course, was infamous for swapping out female assistant DA’s whenever it suited Dick Wolf’s fancy. Carey Lowell begat Angie Harmon begat that one blonde lady begat you get the idea. “House” tabled Jennifer Morrison’s Cameron in favor of Olivia Wilde’s Thirteen, a character the show can easily do without. And Jorja Fox was fired “CSI” (then rehired before she left again) for asking for a raise.
Keep in mind all these female actresses on “Criminal Minds” are being cut away for budget reasons while CBS happily renews Charlie Sheen’s “Two And A Half Men” contract for $2 million an episode. Sheen, as you may know, was arrested earlier this year for allegedly threatening to kill his wife. He’s indispensable. Paget Brewster? Not so much.
These are all talented actresses, but they work on shows run primarily by male producers and writers, and thus their roles on the show almost always take a backseat to the lead male characters. Only Hartigay, Marg Helgenberger of “CSI,” and a handful of other actresses are critical enough to their show’s brand identity to give them the leverage needed to demand higher salaries or, at the very least, not be fired on a whim.
And that’s kinda lame, given the success so many big-name actresses have found in lead roles over in the safe haven of cable TV. It’s odd that Glenn Close and Kyra Sedgwick can thrive on cable, yet female actresses have such little staying power on the main networks. Surely, this will change one day. I really don’t want my kid growing up in a world where the biggest female character on network TV is Meredith freakin’ Grey.