Friday, December 25, 2009

A Keaton Christmas Carol

In the holiday tradition of robbing Charles Dickens, I present yet another hacktacular Christmas Carol spoof, once you see it you will agree, Tina Yothers IS the ghost of Christmas past, God she nails it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Shortlived: Just Our Luck

1983 saw ABC try to hip up the "I Dream of Jeannie" concept with "Just Our Luck" instead of an astronaut, our hero is a hapless weatherman and instead of a hot blonde we get a hip back guy (which at 13 seemed like a letdown to me). Our hero buys a bottle at a flea market and accidently frees "Shabu" (played by veteran comic actor TK Carter) and nobody gets called "Master".

What made this show kind of fun was that Shabu wasn't really a servant but more of a magic smartass who liked to play practical jokes or use his magic to show our hero how lamely he lived his life.
The results of Shabu's magic or advice somehow always backfires, causing the main plots of every episode. Despite being kind of old hack plot wise, the leads on "Just Our Luck" had good chemistry and the series was better than expected but like most fantasy sitcoms, it was dismissed by the general public and given it's walking papers in December of 1983.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Merch: Three's Company Puzzle

There is a small amount of Three's Company merchandise out there and none of what from I've seen ever feature Joyce Dewitt or John Ritter let alone my sweet, sweet Norman Fell. This puzzle is a rather telling glimpse into the show's underlying popularity and the reason my buddy Chris developed a childhood appreciation for Ms. Somers.

As an aside, I've bumped into Suzanne Somers in real life (literally) at a book launch party/dealy. She is A) still very attractive and B) TINY!, she's just a wee little thing, it's unreal. THis puzzle is actual size.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Shortlived: Star of the Family

1982 saw ABC pair this sitcom with Joanie Loves Chachi for the fall of 1982, only JLC (sorry but that's what I'm referring to it as now) returned for 1983.

"Star of the Family" centered around "Buddy" (Brian Dennehy) a hardworking fire captain, who has to deal with his crew of weirdos (they firemen were the "Whacky Neighbours" of this series), his wife running out on him, the fact that his son is a moron (a pre ninja Michael Dudikoff) and most of all that his daughter is quickly becoming a country music star.

It's all a very familiar cocktail really and sounds like a movie that gets remade every so often. The show was somewhat average on every level and as I recall, the daughter's musical segments seemed more late 70s than early 80s, always a bad sign.

Star of the Family never got past "Local Celebrity" and was cancelled December 1982.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shortlived: The Bill Cosby Show

With the popularity of "The Cosby Show" in the mid 80s, some channels began to rerun this two season wonder from 1969 in order to feed the rampant "Cosbymania" that had gripped our nation.
But other than the titular star, the shows had little in common, this series was done on film, had no laugh track and was much more mellow in finding it's humour.
In this Cosby plays Chet, an LA area Gym teacher and it followed him through his adventures trying to help folks out or do the right thing. Chet doesn't always make the right call but he handles his foibles well and occasionally there is a lesson to be learned.
It's understandable how this ""Bill Cosby Show" didn't find a big audience with it's experimental (no laugh track simply wasn't done) approach but it's certainly a well done series. Shout Factory has it for sale on DVD which includes one of the last appearances of veteran actor Mantan Moreland playing Chet's Uncle!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Short Lived: The Paul Lynde Show

I've never seen minute one of this short lived vehicle for "Center Square" Paul Lynde and that wouldn't stop me from buying a box set tomorrow. The show itself sounds inconsequential, man has his perfect life disrupted when his daughter (and I'm assuming idiotic) son in law move back in.

I am betting there is probably a wonderful subtext to the show now, America percieved Lynde as "whacky" and having him play a family man was as strange as Village People Halloween costumes seem today.

Paul Lynde passed far too soon, I'm reminded of this everytime I see Roger on "American Dad", I can only imagine the parts he could have gotten in the 1990s.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Merch: Welcome Back Kotter Office Supplies

It's no secret that I view most "Welcome Back Kotter merchandise" as kind of like excrement, in that I don't want any of it but I think it's fun to post pictures of it on the internet.

That might have come out wrong.

Regardless, I'd love to know who thought Office Supplies bearing grotesque caricatures of John Travolta and Gabe Kaplan would be a hot selling item? Seriously, please come forward and explain, this is keeping me up at night.

Dig the detailing on his 'fro.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


One of the reasons I haven't updated in a while (besides the two broken computers) is I've been watching a pile of TV instead of sitting in front of my computer. I blame this on my new Tivo, that fact that I get to lay down instead of sit (I'm much like a cat in that regard) and there are shiny new 30 episodes of "30 Rock" on. However, I have a new favourite this season in "Community". It comes from some of the same people behind "Arrested Development" which I also adored, so no big surprise.

I've missed the pilot but the plot seems to be about a disgraced Lawyer's (The Soup's Joel McHale) journey through community college and his adventures with his misfit crew (including Chevy "fricking" Chase!) and the somewhat oddball staff.

While my Mother in Law described it as "different" (meaning she was underwhelmed) I would describe the humour in the series as "off the wall" and at times, a little dark. I haven't seen the likes of something like this since "The John Larroquette" show.

Jeez, I hope I didn't jinx it. Watch Community!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Shortlived: The Charmings

Fantasy sitcoms had a tough time after their 1960s heyday, the Charmings was a good attempt to bring it back but it pretty much fell flat. What if Snow White, Prince Charming and their family woke up in modern times? Complete with evil witch step mother and whacy neighbour?

Opening as a mid season replacement, Charmings got good initial reviews and it generated enough ratings to return the following season. Unfortunately the orginal Snow White, played by Caitlin O'Heaney was replaced in season 2 by Carol Huston. No offence to Ms Huston but the sun set and rose over Caitlin O'Heany to 17 year old me, I completely stopped watching.

Other notable faces in the cast were Paul Winfield as the magic mirror and future Reba star (and the guy who played Archie) Christopher Rich as Prince Charming. 19 episodes isn't a long life but it's about 7 episodes longer than most shows of this nature.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Chilling Facts About Mama's Family

  • There are one hundred and thirty episodes of Mama's Family available in Syndication, that's more than WKRP or Taxi.
  • The first season on NBC used to feature an intro by Harvey Korman as Alastair Quince, all of this was cut out of syndication.
  • The show only ran for a season and a half on NBC, the remaining four years were in first run syndication where much of the show's cast (and quality) were cut.
  • At the time of the writing Vicki Lawrence is merely a spry 60 years old, still has the outfits and is waiting for Hollywood to call.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Short Lived: The Mullets

Oh UPN, how I miss thee. Like Fox before it, a last placed channel will often take risks with it's programming because the only way is up.

The Mullets was one of those chances, the titular characters not only rocked what I've always called "The Short Long" but it also happens to be their last name (like almost every DC comics villain).

Loni Anderson played their mom and Mr. Peterson himself, John O'Hurley was on hand as their step dad. I've never seen an episode of this but judging from this clip, I have missed absolutely nothing.

Early reviews called it everything from charming to absolute crap, methinks the name damned it, it's like calling "King of the Hill" something like "Crewcut".

Friday, October 2, 2009

Short Lived: We Got It Made

I think 1983's "We Got It Made" was the first time I ever watched something due to negative reviews. At the time, critics pretty much lambasted it as "the stupidest new series" so me being me, I had to check it out.

I still remember the feeling of watching the pilot, which sucked but not in a 'fun way" and I never looked again. Apparently the American public felt the same way as "We Got It Made" opened to high ratings then nose dived into cancellation.

The series revolved around two sloppy bachelours who hire a sexy live in Maid (Teri Copely) despite objection from their girlfriends. Copely's sex appeal was supposed to keep you tuning in, even at 13 I couldn't care to do so, what does that say? As I recall, the dialogue and acting in the pilot were on par with most pornographic films.

Inexplicably during the "Syndication Spree" of 1987, somebody thought to bring this back with part of the original cast, it was cancelled yet again. I think this time though, the drowned it in the river and buried it behind the shed.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Poll: The Age Old WKRP Question

You knew this was coming, the one question that floated around my college dorm (along with other things) for the entirety of 1990, so here it is gents:

Jennifer or Herb?

Be Honest.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Merch: The Odd Couple Sings

I'm actually shaking I want this so much, as a fan of embarrassing celebrity records, the thought of Jack Klugman singing is probably the best thing ever. Klugman has been open of his disdain for this project and one wonders who the hell thought this was a good idea?

You can listen here, I plan to spend the rest of my evening doing entirely that...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Review: Fox Sunday Night Schedule

Fox unveiled it's Sunday night block of cartoons last night and I thought I'd take a look at it. Fox has owned Sunday night in my house when my "house" consisted of a cinder blocked room with orange carpeting and stolen furniture, it's a tradition that I really enjoy.

The Simpsons: Somewhere a few years ago the Simpson's went from being a real laugh powerhouse to this sort of whimsicle series. Unlike a lot of my peers, I still enjoy The Simpson's. Now it's in 21st year, they proved that there is still life in those bones. The plot was somewhat recycled (how many hollywood productions will star Simpson family members?) but the Seth Rogan (who wrote the show) character kind of redeemed the piece as did the scenes of the final film.

The Cleveland Show: Family guy nieghbour Cleveland Brown (I just got that joke) gets his own series by moving back to his home state and marrying his high school sweetheart.

As pilots go, this one kind of clunked along and made me wonder if we have our first animated example of "Fish". Cleveland was a fun character on Family Guy but I never thought "Hey, I wanted more Cleveland in this one".

I've been wrong before so I'll give it a few more chances. I haven't watched "king of the Hill" in over five years, preferring to work online instead, so I'm not sure if I'll be productive or not at 8:30 this Sunday.

Family Guy: Last season was a bit dodgy for me and Family Guy, the show was really starting to show a few creaks but this opener was pretty terrific. I really didn't care if the multiverse idea found any sort of a plot, it was just kind of fun. I hope it gets revisited again.

Family Guy is the second stop into an hour and a half of Seth McFarlane programming, does anybody else wonder when he plans on sleeping?

American Dad: This series sure took it's knocks when it debuted but last nights season premiere shows how funny it can be. The Viet Nam reenactment piece was great as was Roger's subplot. Most likely my favourite show of the evening.

Over all I enjoyed the block and found it entertaining although I wonder if it will grind over time, apparently we are in for 35 episodes of "The Cleveland Show" whether we like it or not BTW.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Britcoms: The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin

One of Television's more interesting journeys has to be "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin" a wonderful series about a man going through a mid life crisis. Reggie has a mundane life, a dull job, a doting wife and a happy family but one day he just begins to unravel. Reggie starts coming in late for work, he day dreams constantly (funny cutaway shots long before "Scrubs" or "Dream On") and begins lusting madly after his secretary.

The show just keeps twisting, with Reggie eventually faking his own death and becoming a pig farmer. He returns in the second season to his wife and opens a business intentionally bound for failure, a shop that sells useless items, it's a rousing success. He then hires idiots to help it fail and it becomes even more successful.

The third season has Perrin and his wife opening a commune of sorts and eventually has him returning to his life, dull job and all. It's exactly the sort of weird series that British Television nurtures and the American system tortures and kills, just due to their structure.

"Reginald Perrin" is a classic series and I wish there were more journeys like it.

There was a short run US version of this (called "Reggie") that I'll discuss at another time, I won't be gushing.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Short Lived: Payne

Fifteen years after "Amanda's" flopped, US producers tried again to capture "Fawlty Towers" with "Payne" this time with John Larroquette as "Royal Payne" (HA!) a man obsessed with the competition. This time he bullies around MO, an East Indian version of Manuel. Jo Beth Williams played Mrs Payne.

Just like Amanda's it was a mid season replacement and despite Laroquette being good casting, it was a miserable flop. I'd like to suggest to Hollywood that maybe the magic of Fawlty Towers cannot be recaptured but I know right now Kelsey Grammar is looking for a vehicle.....

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Short Lived: Amanda's

British Sit Com "Fawlty Towers" is just too good not to Americanize it seems, however with this 1983 ABC series, we learned one thing, The late Bea Arthur was no John Cleese.

"Amanda's" was about Amanada Cartwright who ran a sea side resort called "Amanda's By The Sea" and her trials with family and staff including a bumbling foreign assistant, this time played by Canadian SCTV alum Tony Rosato.

Despite Arthur's presence and Rosato being inspired as "Manuel", it didn't gel and was quickly axed. As a mid season replacement, it's fate was likely sealed before it hit the air. One of these days I've got to talk about "Condo" it's lead in show.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

DVD Release: 30 Rock Season 3

The big get on DVD today (unless you're a Spongebob Squarepants fan, which I totally am) would be Season 3 of 30 Rock, Tina Fey's Emmy award winning series about the back stage life at a comedy variety show.
I'm a believer that 30 Rock is the best sitcom on US television currently and while many complained about the over use of celebrity guest stars this season (and they are correct) the show's quality didn't waiver IMO.

Below is a series of highlights from Season 3, my two personal favourites:

  • Liz using the Lego train as a "Robot Penis" at the Six Sigma meeting. This is famous because my son happened to downstairs (he's supposed to be sleeping) when it was on and he hasn't let it go. He's six and that is the funniest thing he has ever seen.
  • Alan Alda making that "Guy crying over a Chicken and a Baby" comment. It seems almost taboo to mock the last episode of M*A*S*H and it was simply a bit of brilliance that you won't see on "According To Jim".

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Short Lived: Get Smart (1995)

If you didn't like last year's Steve Carrel movie based on the classic sitcom, you may want a reminder of how things could be worse. "Get Smart" had it's share of ups and downs since it's classic, original run in the 1960s. Max returned in a 1980 solo theatrical movie called "The Nude Bomb" which was indeed a bomb and later the franchise was redeemed with a great TV reuinion movie nine years later in "Get Smart Again"!

Then the franchise hit a real low point with this 1995 mid season replacement, which finds Max now the chief of control and his son now working as a fledgling agent. Zach Smart was far goofier than his pop, mostly because he was played by Andy Dick, yes that Andy Dick.

Damning the show further was the writing, Dick can be a funny performer when he's got some direction (see News Radio) but when he runs out in the pilot to distract some of the Villain's (Lars) goons by yelling "Hey, Lars sucks!" you know exactly why this wasn't on the fall schedule.

Andy Dick has had his share of dumb moves in his career but this version of "Get Smart" may highlight his brightest, while he was still under contract to Fox for potentially more episodes, he signed on to do "Newsradio" which aired a couple of months later. This could have gotten him in legal trouble but proved to be "smart" because Fox didn't come knocking again...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

DVD Release: IT Crowd Season 3

Hot Damn! My favourite situation comedy of the last few years has a new DVD release and the quality is still there. Season 3 has plots about being Roy and Moss becoming "real men", the horrors of facebook Friendface, Renholm's employee of the month and a topless nerds calendar.

Here are some scenes from Season 3 in no order and they won't make any sense, the embedding id disabled on my absolute favourite scene from this season but click on this link to see it: Electric Sex Pants:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Short Lived: Women in Prison

Ahhhh, the early days of the Fox network, where they were trying to make their name by offering things that no other network had before. This paid off with "Married with Children" their first big hit, so they tried the formula a half dozen more times. "The Simpsons" came out of the deal, so it wasn't all bad.

"Women in Prison" was one of those things that fell somewhat flat, the story of Vicki (Julia Campbell) a housewife framed by her husband and the folks she meets while doing time in prison. There's Dawn, the murderer (played by the very talented CCH Pounder, who probably doesn't include this in her resume), Pam the computer thief (sitcom veteran Wendy Jo Sperber) and the guards played by Denny Dillon (the first I had heard of her but she's better known for "Dream On") and always working charactor actor Blake Clarke.

After 13 episodes in 1987, the Women in Prison were set free or so I imagine. I think Fox didn't realise that if you remove the shower scenes from these kinds of things, nobody wants to watch 'em.

In a weird bit of trivia, actor Blake Clarke can be seen in costume on the set of WIP in the Ramones "Something to believe in" video, lord knows why...

Friday, August 28, 2009

merch: Sweat Hogs Dream Machine

MPC had this little trick when it came to licensed models, they'd take an existing kit, add figures of the characters and release it as a waifer thin tie-in to the show. In this case, you get a kit of a car that I guess the Sweathogs like. You also get tiny figurines that you can place around the car to create a scene of them, looking at a parked car....

They also did this with Fonzie but it wasn't as bad because:
a) He's a mechanic
b) for that one MPC rereleased the "Monkee Mobile", an actual car from a sitcom.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Merch: Friends Trivia Game

Available exclusively at Goodwill stores. I admit I watched Friends for a long while but now I can't change the channel fast enough....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Syndicated: You Can't Take It With You

Even though it's only about 20 years old, this is easily one of the most forgotten television shows I've ever encountered. Even the IMDB page has it all wrong and seems to get it confused with the play of the same name, of which this series was an updating. It's like everybody's memory was wiped clean.
The series revolved around the character of Martin (played by Harry Morgan, a man who must love to work) who lived with his daughter and her husand (Richard Sanders from WKRP) Paul, who designed toys and according to Martin " played with them too".
Martin was this free spirit who painted and never paid his taxes, he narrated the show's opening highlighting how eclectic each family member was, he himself marched to the beat of a different drummer.
My local UHF station played this show at five on Sunday and I remember being somewhat confused why it existed. It was clearly based on something but I'd never heard of the play or the film, I doubt most people had. Much of the show took place on the living room set and the writing was dated and weak. There weren't many laughs to be had.
Despite having the presence of Morgan and Sanders, YCTIWY faded after one unmemorable season and apparently, all evidence of it was destroyed.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cop Week: Nobody's Perfect

There is little photographic or video evidence of this series but the picture of Clouseau is fitting. "Nobody's Perfect" was an Arne Sultan prduction, the same man who brought you "Holmes and Yo-Yo". It's premise was a little more grounded, Det. Insp. Roger Hart (Played by actor Ron Moody) was brought from Scotland Yard to San Francisco in exchange program.

Hart was a competant police officer but he was also quite bumbling, where ever he went so did calamity, as things would often get crazy in a slapstick kind of way. It was a vapour thin attempt to cash in on the popularity of Blake Edward's Pink Panther series.

Nobody's Perfect was cancelled by ABC before it aired, which was pretty damned rare. It wasn't regulated to a mid season status, it debuted in June of 1980. Summer time is traditionally known as "Garbage Dump Theatre" for lost pilots and this launch showed how much confidence ABC had.

I remember it pretty well for some reason, even the episode "It was a very good year" which was about a stolen rare bottle of wine. Hart and his superior officer end up drinking the wine after the bottle breaks and discover it tastes like crap. I don't understand why that memory is strong, but it is....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cop Week: She's The Sheriff

1987 saw the rise of first run syndicated sitcoms to our households and one of the most talked about was "She's The Sherriff" the big TV comeback of Suzanne Somers. This show actually generated a lot of attention, as many network afiliates were putting "Sheriff" on prior to their prime time programming.

The series revolves around Hildy (played by Somers) whose husband dies in the line of duty, so she takes his badge and becomes Sheriff. Plotting against her is Deputy Max Rubin (played by the easy to dislike George Wyner) who feels he deserved the job. Veteran actor Lou Richards was also in the mix as a dumb guy deputy.

The results were rather weak, like a lot of first run syndicated shows, "Sheriff" didn't have the polish and much of the humour seemed forced. Somers proved she could play something other than a dumb blonde but that wasn't holding anybody's attention. "She's the Sheriff" was cancelled after 44 episodes, lasting much longer than a lot of syndicated sitcoms..

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cop Week: The Thin Blue Line

I had forgotten about this great British made series until I started googling "police" and "sitcom" but I watched an entire season when CBC ran it here ages ago. Thin Blue Line stars Rowan Atkinson (obviously best known for Mr Bean and Blackaddar) as Raymond Fowler, a nerdy and somewhat uptight Police Inspector.

Fowler is dedicated to his police work to a fault, he also enjoys model kits but he's not all that into sex, much to the chagrin of his live in girlfriend Pat, who also is a police officer. It's the Ropers again from the country that first created them.

The rest of the crew on "Thin Blue Line" range from the sloppy cop, the straight laced professional female officer, the nemesis detective and the old guy on his way to retirement. It's a funny ensemble and Atkinson is so good in this kind of role that the whole thing clicks. Like all good Britcoms, there are only 14 episodes, leaving you wanting more..

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cop Week: The Last Precinct

The Last Precinct was a shortlived attempt by NBC (and oddly Stephen J Cannell) to capture some of the popularity of the "Police Academy" movies for the small screen. The concept was pure 1980s, all the oddball officers including an Elvis Impersonator, a fat guy, a transgender were all put into a bad neighbourhood to keep the peace under the guidance of Captain Rick Wright (Adam West!) who was a bit of an oddball himself.

The cast included Rick Ducommun, Ernie Hudson, Wings Hauser and James Cromwell. It aired in the Spring of 1986 (after a Superbowl launch) and just faded away.

There was a lot of that "Snobs vs Underdogs" theme in the series, as the team faced opposition from other better funded precincts.

The reason I think this died was they were doing a watered down version of something that wasn't that great to begin with, sorry if I've hurt any feelings here but I never thought much of the Police Academy movies. I did enjoy it while it lasted however, it was goofy and fun to watch, especially West, who played his usual out of his mind character...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cop Week: Police Squad!

Created by the same team that brought you Airplane! and Kentucky Fried Movie, Police Squad was a brilliant series that was unfairly cancelled.

The Premise was simple, Police Squad was a straight laced 70s crime show (heavily swiping from Quinn Martin shows) full of sight gags and jokes delivered with a deadpan nature. Leading the team was Leslie Nielsen as Frank Drebin, a straight laced no nonense kind of cop who is sometimes a sgt and later a lt detective, they kept intentionally changing that.

ABC cancelled the series because "the viewer had to pay attention" which means that ABC thought we were all morons, I was eleven and had no trouble keeping up. Police Squad! was a never miss program in my house.

After it's cancellation of course, the series was eventually brought to feature films as "the Naked Gun" making Nielsen a comedy star in the process. As much as I like those, I kind of miss when Frank Drebin wasn't a buffoon who seemed in on the joke. (In general I wish no one had ever told Leslie Nielsen he was funny) One of the best things about Police Squad was it's hard boiled tone.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Serious Spin Offs Week: The Bradys

Of all the serious spin offs, this is probably the most extreme (Unless you somehow think "Lost" is based on "Gilligans Island", I do). With the popularity of their cheesy Christmas reunion movie, the Bradys were greenlit for a "Dramedy" series on CBS in 1990.

Nobody got a football in the nose this time, it was straight up drama laced with a little bit of that Brady humour. The show got announced on Oprah (!) with all the cast members present. Marcia dropped out this time and was replaced by another actress.

I seem to recall a storyline of Bobby getting in a racing accident and suffering possible paralysis. Nobody wanted to watch that and the show went away after six episodes.

Theories on it's cancellation mention Robert Reed's illness but I personally just think the whole idea smelled.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Serious Spin Offs: Trapper John MD

Although producers argued this was a spin off from the movie and not the subsequent TV Series, who's kidding who? It was meant to cash in on the popularity of the TV series which was super popular in 1979.

So Wayne Rogers is going to age to look a great deal like Adam Cartwright I guess. Trapper was a serious medical show in the hollywood fashion, with Gregory Harrison in tow(fresh from Logan's Run) as the young good looking Viet Nam vet Doctor "Gonzo" Gates.

The series ran from 1979-1986 when it started to look dated next to shows like "St. Elsewhere". You occasional heard mention of Hawkeye and the 4077 but nobody ever stopped by sadly...

Just wanted to add: Wee67 pointed out that the above video has scenes from the pilot. Look at Trapper's office adorned with pictures from M*A*S*H, has nothing else happened to the guy in the past 27 years?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Serious Spin Offs Week: Lou Grant

Another theme week, this one devoted not to sitcoms but their weird dramatic offspring, the spin off. It's odd when a character from a sitcom moves over to a dramatic series but hey, it's happened more than once.

The biggest one had to be Lou Grant, fresh from the Mary Tyler Moore show, Ed Asner reprised the role of "lovable Mr Grant" on a straight forward show about running an LA newspaper.

I was seven when it came out and just didn't get it, where was Ted? Where was the laugh track? Why wasn't he funny?

Fortunately Lou Grant, survived without the "confused seven year old" demographic and lasted 5 seasons and piles of accolades.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Wrapping up Death Week

I thought I'd use this day to touch upon some other notable deaths and why I chose not to blog about them. One of the most famous is probably Nicholas Colasanto AKA "Coach" from Cheers pictured above. There is no doubt that he was vital to the show's success but I was always surprised about how well Woody Harrelson filled that void, especially considering he was almost playing the same character. Cheers got lucky twice that way. The show simply went on.

Night Court lost Selma Diamond and her Replacement Florence Halop in the course of two years (which must have made Marsha Warfield nervous about getting the role) but the show had such a revolving door of cast members at the time that it didn't seem to phase the series and it ran for six additional years. Four of which I enjoyed...

And of course, the biggie would be John Ritter, who died one season in to "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter". I wasn't as interested in this story because Ritter was doing better films than he was TV at this point in his career, the show seemed like a paycheck to a guy of his calibur and should have been cancelled immediately after he passed away.

Anyway, enough death, next week we get serious.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Death week: NewsRadio

This one still bothers me when I think about it. I believe that NewsRadio was one of the finest shows of the decade, consistantly funny with a terrific ensemble. One of the bright points being Phil Hartman's tour de force as Bill McNeil, pompous and slightly crazy news man for the station.

When Phil Hartman met a tragic end in the summer of 1998, I was not completely surprised to hear that the series would return, it was a strong show. I purposely didn't watch the opening episode, where they dealt with Bill's death (he had a heart attack on the series) as a long time fan of Hartman, it was just too real.

The resulting season just kind of fell apart but it wasn't the fault of Hartman's replacement (and friend) Jon Lovitz, who played his Max Lewis character as a kind of sad weirdo.

Something seemed to go wrong with NewsRadio's once crisp writing this year and it just wasn't itself. There seemed to be an over proliferation of big gags and plot twists including the season ending where Jimmy James retires.

Season 6 was going to switch locations for the series to a small New Hampshire AM station but NewsRadio was cancelled.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Death Week: The Royal Family

1991 was set to be the year of Redd Foxx's comeback, after being brought back into the public eye in "Harlem Nights" Foxx had a new CBS series "The Royal Family" with Della Reese. The show had good buzz and started out with solid ratings.

Then Foxx had a heart attack, seeing as he was known for faking them, he didn't get immediate help and died on set. A pretty awful way to go.

CBS tried hard to save the series, their ad campaign silent stating something to the effect "Our family has had a loss but like all families, we will move on" but the death of a main character can crush very popular shows let alone ones seven episodes in. The Royal Family ran for 15 episodes...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Death Week: Gimme a Break

Like Chico and the Man, a lot of the humour on "Gimme a Break" revolved around the friction of it's leads, in this case Nell Carter and Dolph Sweet. So when Sweet passed away from stomach cancer after the fourth season, the show completely lost it's bearings.

This lead to the show to slowly get rid of much of the supporting characters, namely the chief's daughters and co-workers and just like Chico and the Man, start adding some cutsey poo kids (The Lawrence brothers who would continue to plague tv for over a decade afterwards) to brighten things up.

In the end, the show had Nell, Addy, grandpa and the boys living in New York City with Nell's mother and a cast of wacky neighbours. It didn't resemble the series it once was at all, it's like biting into a mars bar and finding honey mustard. There was no longer a need to give breaks, so why go on?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Death Week: Chico and The Man

I was mistaken yesterday, Jack Soo's death actually wasn't the first celebrity death I remember, it has to be Freddy Prinze. Chico and the Man was a staple in my household, it's comedy deeply entranched in the chemistry between Prinze and Albertson.

So when Prinze took his own life in January of 1977, the show sort of limped along and finished the season explaining Chico had gone to Mexico. It couldn't return right? right?

Never underestimate the greed of Hollywood, despite the show no longer having "Chico", "The Man" returned and now he had precocious 12 year old Raul to deal with. To keep things zany, they also added Charo, no seriously they added freaking Charo to the cast. The show was mercifully cancelled as it should be no surprise, the sad loss of Prinze tainted everything and no amount of "Cuchie-Cuchie" could make people watch.

I will give props for the series later dealing with the fact that Chico was in fact dead during it's final episodes but it really was an exercise in poor taste that they even had a fourth season.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Death Week

I thought I'd be a ray of sunshine and talk about death in sitcoms, not "Henry Blake" type deaths but ones where the actor's unexpected death actually takes the wind out of a series.

The first one I can recall is actor Jack Soo who played Detective Nick Yemana on "Barney Miller" for 80 episodes before falling to Cancer in 1978. "Miller" had a truly great ensemble cast and Soo was a big part of that, his laid back style and incredibly wry wit were sorely missed. Without a doubt, Yemana was my favourite character on the series, watch the clips, the humour is actually timeless.

Perhaps because of the great ensemble and good writing, "Barney Miller" would run another 80 episodes and remain a quality program, this is one of the few examples of a show that survived a sudden cast member death as we'll explore the rest of the week.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Merch: Sweathogs Bop Bag

Most children's bop bags I don't understand, why would you want to punch your idols like Batman (considering he'd mess you up) or Mr. Spock (he's got crazt super strength) but this one I get. Not only does the Welcome Back Kotter Bop Bag allow you to smack the smarmy face of John Travolta but you can also kick Gabe Kaplin in the throat while you're doing it.

That'll teach them for trying to entertain me....

Friday, July 24, 2009

Syndicated: The Munsters Today

In the 80s John Schuck bounced around guesting on a lot of popular shows and movies, also playing Murray the cop for a brief time on "The New Odd Couple". The he did this, a syndicated remake of the 60s classic series "The Munsters" (duh).

This continuation of the original series has one of the most douche chilling startings I've ever seen, where the cast warbled along to the theme song "we're the munsters tooooday!" Ech.

I'll admit that if you have to find a replacement for Fred Gwynne, Schuck is the best "fake Herman" but Howard Morton (the gentle voiced Officer Ralph Simpson from "Gimmee a Break") is no Al Lewis and their chemistry isn't there. Lee Meriwether is another decent choice to play Lily but the series itself just suffers from that "Syndicated Sitcom" smell, where you know it would be torn to pieces in prime time. Essentially it was a D Student.

Well, when you're up against "Bowling for Dollars" and followed by "Small Wonder" on some awful Rochester TV station at 3pm on Sunday, you can indeed go very far. This D Student ran for three seasons and actually made more episodes than the (Superior) original.

This concludes John Schuck week, I hope you enjoyed as I'm quite sure we shant see it's like again in our lifetime.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Shortlived: Turnabout

It's officially John Schuck week here at Sitcom Diablo, mostly because I wanted to be the first blog in history to hold such an event (take that Aquaman shrine!) and I'm kind of fond of the guy.

After Holmes and YoYo got yanked, Shuck returned to the dreary final season of McMillan and wife now just called "McMillan" and soon found himself on another sitcom with fantastic elements in Turnabout.

I couldn't find anything relating to this 1979 mid season replacement series, no youtube link or even a still photo so I used all my photoshop might to give you an idea of what it kind of looked like, so voila!

Turnabout starred Schuck and Sharon Gless as a husband and wife who accidently switch bodies thanks to a statue or gypsy curse, I forget. He's a big ol' sloppy sportswriter who subscribes to Oscar Madison monthly and she's a dainty housewife, oh the hilarity of seeing their lives face when they do the freaky friday.

I actually did watch this show every week but it started to grind for two reasons:

a) All the humour seemed to be based on that "let's not get caught" concept, like when Sharon Gless starts puffing on a cigar in front of a girlfriend or that she knows a lot about sports.

b) The fact that it skirted the bigger (and more hilarious) issue of a gender swap. If I woke up with a vagina tomorrow, it would likely be something I would mention on a regular basis until I no longer had it. Not so with Turnabout and that's likely the fail aspect of this series.

Turnabout disappeared after only 7 episodes but the concept lived on and was made into about 385 different movies during 1987-1989.

The 1940 film version of the same novel, is superior to this series and just about as risque.

I have one more "Schuck-com" in the bag for this week and yep, it's another fantasy based show.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

ShortLived: Holmes and YoYo

I think if you remember this show you were likely a kid in the mid seventies as that had to be it's biggest audience. Premiering on my birthday (classy!) in 1976, the series followed the adventures of Alexander Holmes, a man luckless with partners until he's teamed up with YoYo (John Schuck), who just happens to be a robot.

The show had the same producers as "Get Smart", so it's essentially the "Hymie the Robot" show without the crisp writing. Many of the episodes as I recall had some laughs based on YoYo mechanics, one episode had him stuck in reverse during the climax. John Shuck actually left MacMillan and Wife for this and after it was yanked, he tried another fantasy sitcom with 1979's "Turnabout" more on that later...

The ending of the show is actually quite clever.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Merch: Room 222 Comic Book

I spent much of my frosh year in college watching midnight reruns of this light hearted show and remember being excited by the episode where a mustachioed Deforrest Kelly played a concerned parent but for the life of me can't think of a duller afternoon than reading this. I think I would prefer to get this CGC'd so I wouldn't have to read it.
Also, it's a Dell comic, a company known mostly for bland comics produced in a workmanlike fashion occasionally breaking to do some of the most fantastically terrible Superhero books known.

Although, I am curious to see how they drew Bernie's huge white guy afro...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

DUI 70s Edition

Two stars from classic ABC sitcoms getting pulled over for DUI in the same week, above, in case you didn't recognize him is Eddie Mekka AKA Carmine "The Big Ragu" from Laverne and Shirely.

And of course, Joyce Dewitt from Three's Company made (page16) headlines on the fourth. This is an awful picture of her BTW, I saw her upclose this spring and she's aged very gracefully.

My point was not to circulate celebrity gossip (although I guess I did that too) but to ask a question. Given that these things often happen in 3's, what 70s sitcom star do you think will next get pulled over ?

Here's my pick:

I'm going to go with Max Gail AKA "Wojo" from Barney Miller. I'm not basing this assumption on any knowledge of his private life, for all I know he's a lifelong teetotaller. What's your guess?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Merch: Happy Days Comic

Funny that there's a phone on that cover because the whole thing was pretty much phoned in by the good people at Western Publishing. Not that I expect hyper detail in my sitcom based sequential art but everything in these comics was brand weak. I was a sucker for this kind of item as a kid, even had more than one issue, guess I craved blandness...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Another Look at TV"s Fabulous Faces

Another selection from the 1976 Scholastic book "TV's Fabulous Faces" by Peggy Herz. I would have done this sooner but I accidently misplaced the book, here now is a little known fact about "One Day at a Time"' star McKenzie Phillips.

MacKenzie likes to go to parties "Not school parties," she explained "Hollywood parties!" she laughed.

None of that "pop and chip" crap for her....

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Some Great DVDs Out Today

Just had to pass this info on as it's a pretty expensive DVD day (if you're me that is) with these two new releases:

First up, the second season of the brilliant UK series The IT Crowd, hands down this one of the funniest things on TV right now. Clever writing, great actors and you don't have to British to enjoy it.

Second, we have the first season of Parker Lewis can't Lose, a show I probably haven't watched since it originally aired but I remember being a big fan of this fast paced and creative comedy. I just hope it holds up, the series was obviously inspired by "Ferris Beuler's Day Off" but completely pwned the TV version of that.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Disturbing Dreams

I've been kind of lazy about posting lately, mostly because of the paying gigs but I had to share this little bit of dimentia and sadness. In a recent dream, I found myself mountain climbing with none other than TV's Dick Van Patten, I guess I couldn't get a sitter because my kids were also in tow. Lucky for me the mountain had a play place (I kid you not).
Suddenly, the rope breaks and Dick is hanging by his finger nails about to plummet to his death. I race down and say the following sentence "hang on buddy, I don't want to live in a world without Dick Van Patten!" I woke up around then, probably because my conscious mind heard this.

I don't know what this says about me but I am concerned. My wife has a new catchphrase as well....

Friday, June 5, 2009

Shortlived: Carter Country

This two season wonder set in Clinton Corners, Georgia (presumably where Jimmy Carter came from) made light of racial tension in the South. Victor French played Police Chief Roy Mobey and Kene Holliday played Sgt. Baker, a young African America who was the smartest man in the room. It was a comedic "In the Heat of the Night" so to speak.

The big stand out in the series was actor Richard Paul, who made a career playing southern blowhards and preachers, his catch phrase on the series was "Handle it Roy" meaning he asked the chief of police to make things disappear.

While the show was a staple at my house, I imagine that Carter Country's cancellation was likely America's falling out of love with "corn pone" television in general and the fact that it was up against "C.H.i.Ps" on NBC. Probably more to do with that...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Merch: Mork Mania

This commercial from my DVD [/shill] takes me back, I remember wanting a lot of this stuff when it came out especially the egg ship. Mattel certainly didn't spend a lot of money on R&D, the 3" figure had a Battlestar Galactica body and the 9" figure was made of recycled Sunshine Family and Big Jim parts. Probably wise of them as Mork Mania was quick and fleeting....

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Shortlived: Delta House

Delta House was ABC's kick at the "Frat House Craze of 1979" spawned by "Animal House" (CBS and NBC also released frat shows this year) and it was actually the TV version of Animal House. Much of the cast remained including John Vernon and Stephen Furst although Josh Mostel filled in as Bluto's brother and Tim Matheson is nowhere to be found. some girl named "Michelle Pfeiffer" also starred, wonder what ever happened to her.

I can tell you this, I LOVED this show as a kid but I hadn't seen the original movie either so I wasn't aware how watered down it was.

Between this and "Brothers and Sisters" , I was so stoked to go to college and live this crazy lifestyle. I was disappointed beyond belief...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Shortlived: Day By Day

While the starting looks like pure 80s cheese now, Day by Day was actually an entertaining show with likable characters. The story of a yuppie couple who get off the fast track to open a home daycare center, Day by Day avoidedthe mire of "cutsie-poo" humour unlike "Full House" but perhaps it's premise kept people away regardless.

Most people remember the Brady Bunch themed episode where the couple's teenage son (played by C.B Barnes)imagines he's Greg Brady, oddly, he would later play Greg Brady in the movies.

A lot of talent came out of this series, this was Julia Louis Dreyfus's first noticable stop post SNL and pre Seinfeld, Courtney Thorne Smith went on to a longer running but much poorer quality sitcom and fans of Thora Birch may find her role as a kindergartener a huge contrast to "American Beauty".

The series only ran for two seasons, despite it's "Family Ties" lead in, which was odd considering it was generally well praised and remembered.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Merch: Eight is Enough Kite Fun Book

Is that supposed to be Dick Van Patten? Kind of looks like Bo Svenson.

The image on the cover is one of my nightmares, why are they smiling?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Movie Related: Baby Talk

"Look who's Talking" was a clever and fun little movie that spawned nothing but failure in the form of it's spin offs and sequels. I'm not going to even go into the movies here, just it's loosely based TV version "Baby Talk" which ran on ABC in 1991.

I'm always amused by the "TV Equivalent" casting of movies, here Bruce Willis equals Tony Danza and John Travolta's TV version were George Clooney and Scott Baio respectively. Hard to believe that there was a time when Clooney was a poor man's Travolta, it's also hard to believe, given his career at the time that Travolta didn't take the TV gig.

Connie Selleca was the original mom (ABC even aired preview clips of her in the role) but she smelled a stinky diaper with this series and walked out. Julia Duffy, fresh from Newhart, took the role (most likely in a pinch) but she was recast when the show returned in the fall.

Time slot changes, a revolving door for cast members and a baby with the thoughts of Tony Danza are usual signs of impending doom, oh and a little thing like being rated "worst series on Television" didn't help either.

I'm sure somebody out there has a petition to get this on DVD, *shiver*....

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Alan Thicke shills for Woolco

Canadian super star Allan Thicke was the Woolco spokesman in Canada until it's demise, as I mentioned earlier, there used to be big "Thicke Price Pick" banners in the store with a photo of his face. He was to Woolco as Hasslehoff was to Germans....

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Merch: Family Ties Game

Anybody else think it's odd that the manufacturers felt the need to cram Skippy Handleman's face onto the box? I mean by this time Michael J Fox was a movie star, did they think Marc Price's mugging face was going to sell 10,000 more units?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tonight at 7: Fish!

I love old TV Guide ads, tonight's (if tonight is April 1, 1977) episode involves everyone getting suspicious when a local house goes up in flames seeing as Victor has a fascination with matches. Guest stars include Detrich from Barney Miller. I would sp be there!

Actually come to think of it, I probably did watch this....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Short Lived: Lush Life

A recent rerun of "Tank Girl" (a movie I like) made me think of Lori Petty's self created Fox sitcom "Lush Life" which had a miserably short tenure in 1996. The plot revolved around Petty and her roommate (Kayrn Parsons from "Fresh Prince") and the whacky schemes they got into. I watched every episode of this show and that's all I remember sadly, my own wife who watched alongside has no memory of it whatsoever.

As much as I think Petty is a fun person to watch, the public seemed to disagree and Lush Life was sent out to pasture after four episodes. Fox is known for cancelling fantastic shows like "Arrested Development" but I think in this case, they just axed something resoundingly average...

Monday, May 4, 2009

TV's Fabulous Faces

A new feature for a while here will be selections from the 1976 Scholastic book "TV's Fabulous Faces" by Peggy Herz. I picked this book up in 1984 on a weekend outing with my parents, mostly because it had info on "Space:1999". I was too old to be on this outing and old enough that my parents worried I'd have a party if left alone (because kids who are into "Space:1999" always have keggers) so I ended up memorizing this thing.

Thebook is a fun little time capsule into the TV Season that year as can be evidenced by the cover, I'm going to routinely post photos and nuggets of info from it. Here is the first segment, culled from an interview with actor Ron Pallilo:

"When the show first came on the air, people thought Horshak was retarded. "That made me very angry" Ron said "People pinned that label on Horshak because he is very young." Ron shook his head in disgust."

Ron you missed your Oscar calling....

Friday, May 1, 2009

Merch: Brady Bunch Kite Fun Book

What the %$&^#%? I've never heard of these things before but there were tons and they were made by Western (Gold Key). I love Gold Key comix. This one is more realistic than the Happy Days one I featured last week. Also much less homoerotic...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

RIP Bea Arthur

Bea Arthur has left this earth today and that makes me sad. I always liked her, she's never not been on TV in my lifetime, a hell of a good actress and a good sport too.

She gave us Maude, Amanda, Dorothy, a great stint on Futurama and of course, she gave us, this, the worst musical number this side of Shatner. We don't blame you Bea, nobody got out of this turd smelling good.

Goodbye Bea, you will be dearly missed and most certainly, never replaced.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Animated: New Adventures of Gilligan

Like any 70s kid, I had seen at least 100 straight hours of Gilligan's Island before I was out of diapers and I liked it! Fond memories prevailed for this Filmation animated series as well, which starred much (if not all, I'm too lazy to imdb it) of the original cast. This was part of the line up on Channel 7's Commander Tom show growing up, I get all fuzzy just thinking about ol' Commander Tom.

So as an adult, I managed to track down some copies of this on the insidious black market, where a one eyed man traded them to me in exchange for some copper wiring, a barrel of wash and four bald tires.

We simply must create a word or term that represents the feeling you get when you watch something you loved as a child and realize it's complete shit as an adult. Something like "Crappogutpunchnausea" but not so flowery.

I've put this DVD on for my kids on rainy days when I need to go lay down (sweet lady gin is a harsh mistress) and it can't hold their attention for more than ten minutes. God, even "Drac Pack" or "Robonic Stooges" gets them for an hour or so.

I know the next time I go to the black market, I'll likely buy those "Gilligan's Planet" DVDs but the realization won't be so hard this time.