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A TV star behaved badly. Will you stop watching his show?

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Damon Wayans, left, and Clayne Crawford in Fox’s “Lethal Weapon.” (Photo: Courtesy of Fox)

With two episodes to go in its second season, Lethal Weapon, airing Tuesday night on Fox, may be wrapping up for good. Although the show — a buddy action-comedy starring Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford, based on the hit movie franchise — is a solid ratings performer for Fox, trouble involving Crawford now threatens its renewal. Even if the show does get picked up for a third season, a question hovers over it: Do viewers tune away from a TV show if they learn negative things about one of its stars?

First, the allegations about Crawford: He’s been accused of angry outbursts during filming, at least one of which included a highly spirited argument with Wayans. After a couple of pieces about Crawford’s behavior were published last week, Crawford took to Instagram to apologize, admitting that, yes, he “reacted with anger over working conditions that did not feel safe or conducive to good work under the leadership of a guest director and assistant director who, in turn were angry” about his response. Crawford added: “I am incredibly sorry if my passion for doing good work has ever made anyone feel less than comfortable on the set, or feel less than celebrated for their efforts.” And he says he’s taken steps to atone for his sins: “I met with Human Resources, I apologized for my part of the conflict, and I completed studio-appointed therapy. I even shared a sizable portion of my paycheck with one of the parties involved per the instruction of the studio.”

Read Crawford’s full statement:

One thing that’s clear is that Crawford’s bad behavior didn’t seem to spring from an ulterior motive, such as wanting to be fired from the show. This is not an NYPD Blue situation — you’ll recall that, in the 1990s, star David Caruso wanted to get out of his contract and proceeded to behave so rudely that everyone was glad to see him go. No — Crawford clearly wants to remain with Lethal Weapon. He directed an episode that aired last week, and Deadline.com reports that he’s requesting more creative input for next season’s show.

That’s if there is a next season; it’s possible that the reports about Crawford’s behavior will affect the show’s ratings. On Lethal, he plays Martin Riggs, a hotshot, hot-headed cop. (Mel Gibson had the role in the 1987 feature film.) If you’re a regular watcher of Lethal Weapon and you start thinking, “Boy, I hear this guy is a big jerk in real life,” it might impinge upon your pleasure. But would it affect it enough to make you to actually drop the show from your watch list? Have you ever given up on a show because of a performer’s behavior or for some other reason, like that person’s politics or public statements? (I can take or leave Lethal Weapon — it’s an OK show. But I really liked Crawford in the fantastic 2013-16 TV series Rectify. He’d have to have murdered someone to keep me from watching that.)

With about two weeks to go before the TV networks announce their fall 2018 schedules, it hasn’t been decided yet whether Lethal Weapon will be renewed. These announcements are made at big corporate events where the casts of the shows are usually present to meet and greet the advertisers; the whole production is called an “upfront.” I have a feeling that if Fox decides to renew Lethal Weapon for a third season, it will insist that Crawford and Wayans put in an appearance at the network’s upfront, perhaps holding hands and making jokes about how happy and thrilled they are to be part of the “Fox family” — all to reassure the sponsors that the show won’t blow up mid-season. Meanwhile, there’s a new Lethal Weapon airing tonight. Will you be watching?

Lethal Weapon airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox.

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