Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gone, But Not Forgotten (At Least by Me)...

A recent post on one of my favorite blogs, kenneth in the (212), focused on short-lived television shows he remembered from years past. As a huge television fan growing up and a total pop culture savant, of course I remembered—and probably watched—99 percent of the shows he listed.

The post, of course, got me thinking about which shows made an impression on me but never hit it that big. Given the networks' penchant for pulling shows off the air fairly quickly, I could probably list a ton of these shows, but I decided to come up with my top 10, in random order:

1. Better off Ted (2009-2010): Easily one of the funniest and most well-written shows on television in the last 5-10 years, I've waxed poetic about this show before. Despite a terrific premise (heartless and soul-less corporation is forced into caring about its employees and the products it develops) and a fantastic cast, highlighted by Portia de Rossi in a truly Emmy-worthy role, ABC shuffled the show from night to night and time slot to time slot. The show is available on DVD and is worth watching for just the fake commercials for Viridian alone.

2. Parker Lewis Can't Lose (aka Parker Lewis) (1990-1993): This was a slightly kooky show that was a bit ahead of its time, given its unique camera work. Like Ferris Bueller, Parker Lewis (played by Corin "Corky" Nemec) was a popular high school student obsessed with being cool and beating authority at every turn. However, his schemes were often thwarted by his super-smart younger sister, his principal and run-ins with Kubiac, the school bully (played by Abraham Benrubi before his turn as Jerry on ER). Really fun show.

3. It Takes Two (1982-1983): I have a confession here. I don't know if I liked this show, which starred Patty Duke and Richard Crenna as a busy couple (she's a lawyer, he's a doctor) who barely have time for each other or their family, because of the performances, the fact that a young Helen Hunt and Anthony Edwards played their kids, or the 80s soft-rock theme song. Whatever the case, the show only lasted a season.

4. Throb (1986-1988): This show started out on NBC on Saturday evenings and then was moved to syndication after it didn't succeed in its first season. Diana Canova starred as a recent divorcee who gets a job at an "edgy" record label, where she works for a younger boss, played by Jonathan Prince. A pre-Frasier Jane Leeves played the "punk" receptionist, Blue, and future hottie Paul Walker (of Fast and Furious fame) played Canova's son in the first season. A much better show than it sounds, although it definitely seems dated now.

5. Brooklyn Bridge (1991-1993): Gary David Goldberg followed Family Ties with this semi-autobiographical look at a Jewish family in 1950s Brooklyn, living with their grandparents. The main character, young teenager Alan, is in love with Irish Katie Monahan (played by Rilo Kiley lead singer Jenny Lewis in her acting days), which causes his grandparents great consternation. This was a fantastic, well-acted show that should have lasted far longer than it did. Marion Ross gave an Emmy-worthy performance as Alan's grandmother.

6. The Powers That Be (1992-1993): This is another one of those shows that might have turned out to be really funny if it had been given a chance to flourish, as I remember laughing out loud during one scene. Senator William Powers (John Forsythe) is fairly clueless, but his career is run by his maniacal wife (Holland Taylor), his chief-of-staff/mistress, and his political aide (Peter MacNicol). David Hyde-Pierce played Powers' depressed and suicidal son-in-law, who was secretly in love with the family's maid (a little Frasier foreshadowing, perhaps?), and Robin Bartlett played Powers' illegitimate daughter, Sophie Lipkin, whose Jewishness causes Powers' wife to come unhinged.

7. Oliver Beene (2003-2004): Another show with a nostalgic bent, Fox aired this for 1-1/2 seasons, although it was moved from time slot to time slot. Set in 1962, the show followed the adventures of 11- and 12-year-old Oliver Beene, his wacky parents, his dumb, girl-crazy older brother, and his friends, including his flamboyant friend, Michael. The show was narrated by an older Oliver (given voice by Arrested Development's David Cross), and the action would often be stopped by flashbacks or flash forwards. Grant Shaud, who played Murphy Brown's high-strung Miles Silverberg, tried a new, crazier persona on this show. Like many other shows on this list, I thought it could have gone somewhere if given the chance.

8. Angie (1979-1980): One of my earliest experiences with getting hooked on a television program and having it be canceled, Angie starred Donna Pescow as a coffee shop waitress who falls in love with, and eventually marries, one of her regular customers, pediatrician Brad (Robert Hays). The clash of social classes, particularly as Angie's mother (Doris Roberts) and sister (Debralee Scott) related to Brad's snooty relatives, caused much of the hijinks during the first season. And then, like many shows, once Angie and Brad got married, the show declined, in part because it kept trying to reinvent itself. Its theme song, Different Worlds, sung by Maureen McGovern, became a minor pop hit.

9. Square Pegs (1982-1983): Nearly 30 years after this show premiered, I still can quote back pieces of one episode (and even sing a song featured in that episode). Yes, that's scary, but it just proves how much I enjoyed and related to this show. Sarah Jessica Parker and Amy Linker play high school misfits (get it, square pegs?) who want nothing more than to fit in with the "in-crowd," which includes Valley Girl-wannabe Jennifer (Tracy Nelson) and preppy Muffy Tepperman (Jami Gertz). Who would have thought Sarah Jessica Parker would turn into a fashionista? Extra points for the theme song by The Waitresses.

10. Voyagers! (1982-1983): This sci-fi show combined history and adventure, and was a whole lot of fun. Hunky Jon-Erik Hexum (who would die in 1984, in a tragic accident on the set of his next series, Cover-Up) played a time traveler responsible for revisiting historical events and fixing them when necessary. When he accidentally winds up in 1982 (he was only supposed to be able to travel as far as 1970), he encounters 12-year-old Jeffrey Jones (Meeno Peluce), and winds up having to take him on his time travels. Most people have never heard of this show, but those who have really enjoyed it.

I could have added so many more shows—Grand, Hope and Gloria, Love Sidney and Homefront, to name a few—to this list, but this is a good start.

Do you remember any of these? What short-lived shows do you miss?

1 comment:

  1. Great post (Voyagers!) I thought Profit (Adrian Pasdar) was ahead of its time. I think it only lasted one season. Very sad when Sports Night was cancelled, too.