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'Third Watch' Nixed

NBC's Peabody Award-winning "Third Watch," a one-hour drama about New York City's nightshift paramedics, firefighters, and policemen, has been cancelled, ending its six-season run. As one of the relatively few prime-time television programs filmed in the city, the cancellation is a blow to the hundreds of New York actors who have worked—or had hoped to work—as principals and background players on the critically acclaimed drama.

Created by Edward Allen Bernero and John Wells of John Wells Productions and produced in association with Warner Bros. Television, "Third Watch" was well-liked by local actors, according to Melissa Braun, a casting associate at Grant Wilfley Casting, which cast background actors on the show, "because it was known in the industry as having a very nice crew and a very family atmosphere. Background actors were always treated very well, so they loved working on it. And a lot of our background actors," she noted, "got upgraded," leading to the perception that the show offered actors a decent shot at national television exposure.

Braun added that the program often provided opportunities to scores of actors: "On a typical episode, there would be scenes in precincts, scenes in a hospital—typically, we might have 40 actors per shoot, and that doesn't count day players. Then we might have other scenes, too. For example, there was recently a raver-club scene where there were 100 people. I think on the last couple of episodes, in fact, we had three 100-actor days." Over time, eight days of shooting per episode—for 22 episodes in each of six seasons—added up to a bonanza of well-paying opportunities for local actors.

While acknowledging that the cancellation of "Third Watch" is a blow to local production, Braun said there is ample reason to remain optimistic. "We have 'The Sopranos' starting up," she pointed out, "and there are quite a few pilots that will be shooting in New York if they're picked up, and we're feeling pretty positive that they are going to be." The final decision, of course, will be made by the networks, which will announce their fall schedules in the coming months.

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