Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hey, TV programmers, free ideas!

Well, the new fall TV season is well under way; by the end of the week, I expect to have a backlog of stuff to watch.

I've learned to not get too attached to shows this early. It's usually much better if I catch a show after it's already started.

Scrubs, for example, I didn't catch until just before the second season started. If I had liked it from the first episode, it likely would've been canceled.

As it is, NBC saw fit to leave this Emmy-nominated show off the fall schedule, penciling it in as a midseason replacement. Why? Because they found out I liked it, that's why. I'd be willing to bet, though, I don't have to wait that long before it's on again. I'm sure at least one of NBC's new shows will bomb in only a few weeks.

That's fairly common these days. But 20-25 years ago, your show had to suck spectacularly to get axed that quickly. Manimal lasted for two full months. Manimal! B.J. and the Bear lasted more than two years and gave birth to a spin-off!

I think TV Land or someone should have a show that spotlights TV's failures. Stick it in a late-night timeslot, but just cycle through 60 years of misfires. I'm sure they can spare one rerun slot to accommodate this. I'd bet it would be popular with those weirdoes who are fascinated by bad movies and TV.

Trio has shown shows under their "Brilliant But Canceled" umbrella, which is cool to a certain extent.

To my way of thinking, that's almost like rubbing salt in the wound: Here's a show that was really good, and it got canceled for no good reason.

It's more interesting to me to see these train wrecks that someone actually put on the schedule; someone thought it was a good enough show to be seen by the viewing audience.

I'd use a special and a mini-marathon to kick it off. The special could highlight the variety of shows and the various reasons they got canceled. The mini-marathon would consist of the quickest-canceled shows Рthe cr̬me de la crap, so to speak. If these shows are too bad to bear, you could have behind-the-scenes information, a la Pop-Up Video to keep people watching.

Here are my picks for what's on the special (in countdown order; feel free to imagine Casey Kasem reading this part):

3. Co-ed Fever

"Inspired" by the success of National Lampoon's Animal House, this frat comedy premiered and ended on Feb. 4, 1979. It starred David Keith (who I think should star in a movie with Keith David), Heather Thomas and Hamilton Camp, who also appeared in one other show in the countdown.

2. You're in the Picture

A game show starring Jackie Gleason, this famously bombed after its initial episode, prompting Gleason to apologize to the audience on the next show. I always thought that was pretty cool. Did anyone apologize for Manimal? I didn't think so.

1. Turn-On

I must see this show someday. I finally saw a few clips of it when Trio had a special on canceled shows, but I want to see the whole thing.

On Feb. 5, 1969 (almost 10 years to the day Co-ed Fever premiered), this Laugh-In-esque show (it was also from Laugh-In producers George Schlatter and Ed Friendly) featured guest Tim Conway and a collection of skits and blackouts. One of the other people on the show was Hamilton Camp, who would later be on Co-ed Fever. That's got to be some kind of record in itself.

The first episode fared so poorly, I've read, that some ABC affiliates canceled the show in the middle of broadcast.


That would've been interesting. I wonder how that looked. Did they cut to a different program or cite "technical difficulties"? Did Jackie Gleason come out to take back his apology for You're in the Picture?

Those aren't the only shows that were canceled after only one episode, but I think those would be the most interesting to watch, just to get some kind of glimmer as to what went wrong.

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