When Rob Lowe And The Makers Of "The Lyon's Den" Truly Decided to Stop Giving A F-ck
(I’m sure there are better and more serious photos of Rob Lowe that can be found on Google or even Bing, but I can assure you that what you’re about to read will not give you any reason to take Rob Lowe all that seriously)
Shortly after Rob Lowe quit his role as Sam Seaborn on The West Wing, mostly because he expected to be the most compelling and fascinating actor and character on the show, only to learn that nearly every other character on the show, from Toby to Josh to C.J. to President Bartlett and even Mrs. Landingham were considered to be far more interesting than Sam, he decided to follow up The West Wing by taking on another lead role for a drama on NBC. That show was
The Rural Juror The Lyon’s Den.
Besides Lowe, this show featured a very impressive cast filled with actors who would go on to find much better work elsewhere: Kyle Chandler, Elizabeth Mitchell, Frances Fisher, James Pickens Jr., David Krumholtz, and Matt Craven. As to what The Lyon’s Den was actually about, let the good people of Wikipedia explain it to you:
The legal drama starred Rob Lowe as a lawyer named Jack Turner, newly appointed as partner of a long-established law firm that, as the plot revealed, harbored some dark secrets; the series’ title and firm’s name are allusions to the surname of Lowe, who also served as executive producer. Much of the plot centered on the firm’s internal politics and on Turner’s attempts to uncover information on some of the firm’s conspiracies while acting as the defense for some of the firm’s higher-profile clients in a different case each episode.
Despite the extensive ad campaign by NBC and the star-studded cast, The Lyon’s Den didn’t stay on the air for very long and the producers of the show were informed that after airing its sixth episode, the show was cancelled. The producers of The Lyon’s Den, however, were aware of the fact that they were contractually obligated to deliver thirteen episodes so that the show could be sold on DVD as well as sold into syndication. They were not contractually obligated, however, to make sure that the rest of those thirteen episodes would be good or make any sense whatsoever, so here’s a snippet of a Rob Lowe interview from NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, in which he explained to host Peter Sagal how the writers and producers of The Lyon’s Den decided to end the show once they threw their last remaining fucks out of the nearest window.
SAGAL: You tell this story — you talk about how you did this show called “Lyon’s Den.”
SAGAL: It was supposed to be your big follow-up to West Wing, I think.
SAGAL: And you play this lawyer in this law firm, and the show didn’t go well for a variety of reasons. And they canceled it, but they allowed you guys to finish shooting the season so they could sell it on DVD, right?
LOWE: Yeah, this is — so the show is canceled. It’s not on the air. It’s over.
LOWE: But they say to me, you’re still going to make 13 more episodes but nobody’s ever going to see them. Maybe we’ll release them on DVD in, like, Bratislava.
LOWE: So with that as the backdrop, the writers and I decide, you know what? To hell with it. We’re going to burn the bridges. We’re going for it. And so we decided to write my character as a sociopathic maniac who was revealed to be a mass murderer.
And Kyle Chandler, right before Friday Night Lights is the mentor in the office who is always my rival. He comes in one night while I’m eating in the executive dining room and confronts me on evidence that I might be a mass murderer. I walk up, stab him to death with my steak knife, sit back down, eat my steak, wipe my mouth, go to the balcony and throw myself off. That’s the end of the series.
SAGAL: You know, even though I had read that story in your book, a tear came to my eye when I read it.
SAGAL: That’s so moving.
LOWE: And this is how little the studio and the network cared about the show. When we told them we were going to write that, they were like that sounds great.
The only reason that I ever became aware of this and am now sharing this precious knowledge with all eight of you who are reading this is because while scrolling through the Twitter feed of writer/critic/Silk Stalkings enthusiast LaToya Ferguson, I came across this tweet in which she too described learning about The Lyon’s Den and how it really ended. And I was convinced that she had to be making that shit up. And yet, after the extensive and painstaking amounts of research that I did online looking into The Lyon’s Den (it was actually two minutes of me looking it up on my phone while watching The Good Doctor) and how its first/last/only season ended, I knew three things:
1) This all sounded so bad. Like Trapped In The Closet levels of bad. Like the “Wonder Woman pilot made by David E. Kelley who thought it was a good fucking idea to treat one of the most beloved and powerful superheroines in all of comic-book history like Ally McBeal” levels of bad (though I will give him credit for casting Adrianne Palicki and Tracie Thoms as Wonder Woman and Etta Candy, even though they both deserved better material and a much better Wonder Woman costume to work with). Like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room levels of bad. (And this is before the lack of budget convinced Wiseau to not make The Room into a vampire movie with flying cars). Though to be fair, The Lyon’s Den isn’t the only show that decided to take a “If you don’t give a damn, then we don’t give a fuck” approach to their show after learning that it was cancelled. I Married Dora pretty much broke the fourth wall with a rocket launcher in the final scene of its final episode, and Sledge Hammer! ended its first season with a nuclear explosion, before having to completely backpedal after the finale got better ratings than expected and made ABC renew the show for a second season (which because of how the first season ended was a prequel that took place five years earlier).
Everything about the making of The Lyon’s Den sounds so much more fascinating and interesting than The Lyon’s Den itself. For example, did you know that Rob Lowe wanted Jewel (yes, that Jewel) to play his love interest on the show? (Of course you don’t, you barely even remember that this was an actual show that aired on NBC) And apparently, the very thought of having to kiss Lowe to shoot a love scene with him was about as appealing to Jewel as drinking a bottle of Crystal Pepsi or being hired to star in the next Transformers movie. (I could easily side-eye Jewel for dating Sean Penn and dating him on purpose, and yet deciding that kissing Rob Lowe was her deal-breaker, but I’ll behave)
In his memoir, Love Life, Lowe stated that he lobbied for singer-actress Jewel to be cast as his love interest in the show after seeing her performance Ang Lee’s cult film Ride With The Devil. However, when she arrived on set, there was no chemistry between the two and Jewel brought her then-boyfriend, rodeo star Ty Murray, to the set with her on the day the actors were to film a love scene. According to Lowe, Jewel appeared uncomfortable at having to kiss Lowe, and unsuccessfully asked if the scene could be removed.
Finally relenting by stating, “Let’s just do this”, Lowe said Jewel agreed to do the scene. Lowe stated: “But as we approached the kissing moment, it became strained and it’s never good when you can’t trust that your fellow actor is on the same page… I pecked her on the lips; her mouth scrunched closed like you would do if someone was going to stick something unwanted into it, which I was not intending. I sort of moved my head from side to side to make it look real, like there was at least a dollop of energy or passion. ‘Cut’, said the director. Jewel looked at me and wiped the back of her hand across her lips like an American Sign Language version of ‘Yuck’”.
2) This all just reminded me of the unfortunately short-lived and incredibly dark-humored FOX series Profit, starring another dark-haired Eighties heartthrob by the name of Adrian Pasdar. Except that Profit did a much better job, and made it clear from the very beginning that it was meant to make you see what was happening onscreen and go “Are you fucking kidding me?!” but in a good way.
And 3) If I ever come across a bootlegged copy of The Lyon’s Den: The Complete Series on DVD while browsing through what the vendors are offering at the next New York Comic-Con (and you’d be amazed at what you can find, as I found a bootlegged copy of Hamilton on DVD, which I chose not to buy because I don’t feel like making Lin-Manuel Miranda cry), I’m so going to buy it. But until that day comes, I (and anyone else who is feeling bored and in the mood to be a glutton for punishment) can watch the first eight episodes of The Lyon’s Den on YouTube.
But seriously, you’re probably better off just watching Silk Stalkings instead.
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