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Interest in 'Luke' program fading

| Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eventually, it happens to all TV shows, so the development hardly can be considered shocking.

But mounting evidence suggests "Whole Lotta Luke" is about to jump the shark.

You know the series, of course. It deals with the misadventures of Luke Ravenstahl, a former collegiate placekicker catapulted by circumstance into a role for which he is ill-prepared -- one of the nation's youngest mayors.

The show won rave reviews and received hit ratings when it debuted in September 2006 on City Channel Pittsburgh (Catchy jingle lyrics: "Your local government access station!"). Now in its fourth season, however, the show's premise suddenly seems tired.

Its moment of shark-jumping -- the idiomatic reference to the moment a show runs out of creative steam and begins its downward spiral to cancellation -- seems near.

Back in that magical first season, no one would have imagined this day would come so quickly. Viewers were enthralled by the exploits of the boy mayor's often-clumsy efforts to grow into his job.

Back then, everyone loved Luke. The inaugural season even featured a special guest appearance by pre-sex scandal Tiger Woods in a hysterical episode about the mayor crashing a private dinner to meet the golf icon.

This season, shark-jumping symptoms for "Whole Lotta Luke" have been abundant. They include:

• Implausible plotting

One recent episode found Luke in a quandary. A major snowstorm was bearing down on the city and threatening to wreak havoc with his 30th birthday party at an out-of-town ski resort.

Faced with a tough decision, Luke and his public safety director decided to party down and let the city fend for itself. C'mon -- no one who has been mayor of a major metropolitan city for nearly four years would have displayed such poor judgment.

• The introduction of a precocious, scene-stealing character

Remember Cousin Oliver on "The Brady Bunch"• Olivia on "The Cosby Show"• "Whole Lotta Luke" tried the same trick this season, with Adam Ravenstahl joining the cast as Adam, the mayor's younger brother. Attempting to emulate his mayoral sibling, precocious little Adam decides to enter politics and run for a vacant state House seat. Unfortunately, Adam discovers he doesn't particularly like campaigning.

We'll have to wait until the season finale in May to find out whether Luke can get Adam elected without his little brother leaving his living room sofa. That's not exactly the gripping suspense you find on "Breaking Bad."

• Drawn-out mysteries

Several times this season, Luke mysteriously has disappeared at odd or inappropriate times -- such as when the city was under a state of emergency or celebrating during the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. He later gets extremely irked when people question his unexplained absences.

Where has he been• Playing the horses• Taking a yoga class• Or merely lifting a tired dramatic device from "Desperate Housewives"?

"Whole Lotta Luke" definitely has lost its luster. The mayor might not have leaped over the shark just yet, but the fish definitely is in the water.

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