Q: When a show goes as long as this one has, can you look back at earlier seasons and recognize a tonal difference?
A: I think tone-wise we’ve lightened up a little bit. We’re taking some more chances just by the fact that, you know, we’re able to. We’ve made quite a few episodes now that were just for us. They’re a little bit whacky, a little bit outside of the canon. But I think, also, as a character over time mine started out fairly buttoned down, reserved, perhaps, judgmental, whether it be because of science or religion, and a lot of those layers have slowly been peeled off, and you’ve got a character that’s probably a little more empathetic and has had to adapt to his surroundings. So, as he is somewhat the eyes of the audience he is kind of the audience’s vehicle. He has to grow and evolve, and probably lighten up a little bit.
Q: How difficult is it to balance that lightness with the grimness of some of the crimes?
A: That’s been a tough balance to strike from the beginning. Certainly the books that the series is based on were a little more stark and doing things in that era, we’ve seen a lot of photos of actual crimes that we referenced from the period. It was very tough. Life was tough back then, and it’s kind of uncomfortable to see a lot of that — the petticoats, the mud. You know, it was a bit more gruesome. So trying to keep the tone light, I think, is what has been our recipe for success, because people can tune in and we don’t get too far down into the darkness. We don’t get mired down too much, although, I think, every once in a while, seeing a spike sticking out of somebody’s head is entertaining.
George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.