Twice in a Lifetime (1999–2001)
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Our neighbors north of the border do some quality television and this was a favorite of mine. People die and they're brought before Judge Othniel of the Heavenly Tribunal and are given a second chance at living their lives again. If they take the deal, and they always do, they're brought back to a point in their lives where they can influence their younger selves on where they went wrong. And Judge Othniel sends an assistant, at first Gordie Brown and second Paul Popowich, to help out.
In season two, Popowich replaced Brown, and I did like him and those episodes better. Popowich was a club kid in real life and in death he's making his afterlife count for more than his actual life did.
But the series abruptly stopped with the death of Al Waxman from open heart surgery. Americans will remember him better from Cagney and Lacey as Lieutenant Samuels. Maybe they could have brought in an another angel, but I guess changing helpers and angels was too much.
Yet the show apparently has great popularity in syndication, six years after the last episode was done. How do you explain the death of an angel though?
My favorite episode is when Popowich is put into the body of a woman to aid a prospective heavenly admittee. That was very funny indeed.
A sad loss this series ended abruptly as it did.
I must tell you that I was quite astonished. I ran to the computer and entered IMDB where in Al Waxman's page I found out that he passed away during heart surgery. Now I was totally surprised - The episode was dealing with a person who has heart problems. The question is whether he should or should not pass ("again") a difficult open-heart surgery, when we know that the previous one did not succeed and left him with a permanent brain damage. At the end, during the actual surgery, it is seemed at first that the person who has undergone the operation has died. If it is true that stage actors' eternal wish is to die on stage during a play, this was quite an impressive way to say goodbye to an actor in a TV series, especially in one where he plays God's representative, dealing with life and death issues.
Without Judge Othneil, there can be no "Twice in a Lifetime", so this is clearly the end of the show (even though the writers managed to switch Mr. Jones with Mr. Smith between the first and the second season, so they can always bring in another figure instead, using any lame excuse, the way they did it in two episodes in the first season). While writing, it was now reminded to me that this was the only episode when a person on the "second-life" believes Smith is actually an angel, and at the end, Mr. Smith almost admits he is (when we, the audience, know that becoming an angel is actually his true wish since episode 1 and Othinel has been telling Smith few times in the last episodes that he is improving). I guess things get new meanings in perspective.
Now I have a question and if someone can answer it I would be really grateful: How could the screenwriters create such a great final episode? Had they first shoot one episode and then, when Waxman died, re-edited it? The editing of the repeating last sentences by Othneil was great, but for taking these two parts from the episode, they should have filmed him saying them at first; Have the producers planned to finish the show then, knowing that he may die soon?
One last thing: this whole issue reminds me the way the Drama teacher from "Fame" left that series during the eighties. Since the actor knew he was going to die, it was arranged in one of the episodes that the class would say good-bye to their teacher who had retired. At the last scene, when all the students hugged him, they cried. The actors have said later on, that these were real tears, knowing their partners condition.
Liron Dorfman, ISRAEL
The concept is fantastic.
I love action series like First Wave,and Brimstone,but this show is like no other scifi show I have ever seen. I hope it is on for at least 5 years.