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.