‘Elsewhere’ among Arkush’s seminal skeins

Helmer says tinkering with show's visual style keeps him enthused

Allan Arkush is an industry veteran who, after his work is done on a specific project, doesn’t usually stick around. That’s what makes his extended tenure at “Crossing Jordan” all the more noteworthy.

After directing the pilot in 2001, Arkush has remained and come full circle. He directs this Sunday’s 100th episode and continues to helm several episodes each season — as well as serving as exec producer.

Arkush says tinkering with the skein’s visual style has kept him enthused.

“Tim (series creator Tim Kring) and I talked a lot about it while doing the pilot. Shows now are much more sophisticated and have an individual look to them. One of the things you do when directing a pilot is to put a stamp on the show,” Arkush says. “One of the things we tried to do is not stand still.”

One of Arkush’s imperatives, directorially, is to use photographs of the victims in the weekly cases to bring their stories to life.

Creating a visually unique style doesn’t necessarily mean employing one particular gimmick that will last throughout the series’ entire run. For that reason, Arkush feels empowered to mix it up whenever he feels the need for a visual refreshening.

“Some shows find a specific look and stick with it. We have a core of what we like to do and try to keep changing it up,” he explains. “I’m into jump cuts right now. A year or two ago we had a lot of dissolves.”

Arkush began directing episodic TV in 1984 with “Fame,” the series based on the popular film, and later went on to helm such memorable skeins as “St. Elsewhere,” “L.A. Law,” “Moonlighting” and “Ally McBeal” (including the dancing baby episode). The latter two earned him Emmy noms. (He would also win an Emmy in 1999 for helming the telepic “The Temptations.”)

Cutting his industry teeth by working with Roger Corman in the mid-’70s, Arkush directed such cult pics as “Hollywood Boulevard” and “Deathsport,” and was an assistant a.d. on Ron Howard’s “Grand Theft Auto.” But his true love starting out was music, and he directed “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” and “Get Crazy,” along with musicvideos “Beast of Burden,” “The Only Flame in Town” and “Love Will Show Us How.”

But according to those who work with him, Arkush’s greatest attributes are how he deals with actors and setting up character development.

“I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him,” says “Jordan” thesp Jerry O’Connell. “I suggest that actors do a regular stint on an hourlong television show. It’s like boot camp for actors. I’ve matured and learned a tremendous amount during these last five seasons, and a lot of it comes from working with Allan Arkush.”

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