Sunday, December 1, 2013

Blast from the Past: Syndicated TV Showcase!

As I said earlier, I've had a fever most of the weekend, which combined with Thanksgiving lent itself to no blogging this weekend. I almost wrote off my "Blast from the Past" feature for the week, but then remembered this older post of mine. I thought it was a good time to update it to include the opening/closing theme of Throb, the sitcom that featured Paul Walker--star of The Fast and the Furious series, and the unfortunate victim of a lethal fiery car crash this weekend. It's a forgotten gem (albeit very 1980s).

ORIGINAL POST (with revisions):

Back in the eighties, there was the strange phenomenon of "syndicated" TV shows. Actually, that's not a great description, since shows still are syndicated. What I mean is, network shows that got cancelled, and then padded their episode runs by running new ones in syndication. Sometimes, shows that never got run on regular networks in the first place made a stab at it in syndication instead. This worked spectacularly for shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation and Babylon 5. But I'm not after the spectacular successes here. Just the cheesily notable.

All of these shows either got cancelled and then were extended in syndication, or lived nowhere else but syndication. See if you remember any of them.

#1 - Mama's Family - This series--before it was reborn in syndication--was actually spun off from The Carol Burnett Show in the first place. After a short run on NBC, the show was cancelled, and then resurrected to run for several years.It was never high art, but Vicki Lawrence was shrewd enough to parlay her much older character into a Vegas act. She's still not old enough to be Thelma Harper, so she's got many years to go. Oh, and adding Alan Kayser as Bubba Higgins was a master stroke. No, uh, pun intended.

#2 - Charles in Charge - Scott Baio made his career with Happy Days. He was good looking, not a bad actor by 80s sitcom standards, and a hot property (even after the crash and burn that was Joanie Loves Chachi). So, they gave him his own sitcom. And it didn't work. But for some reason, they syndicated it two years after it was cancelled. It also extended the 15 minutes of Eight is Enough heartthrob, Willie Ames.  The theme song is one of the worst ever, by the way.

#3 - It's a Living - This series about T & A waitresses at a swanky restaurant limped through two seasons (with two different titles) on ABC. Later, they syndicated it with some of the same cast, most prominently, Ann Jillian. It had a much longer afterlife, and for some reason I loved this show. Maybe it was the theme song.

#4 - Small Wonder - One of the strangest sitcoms of this genre was Small Wonder. It was a show about a robot disguised as a 10-year-old. It never--not surprisingly--had a network run. But it lasted in syndication for years. Even Edie McClurg (playing a variation of the nosy neighbor she played on The Hogan Family) couldn't save this abomination. I wonder what they'd have done if the show had lasted longer, and Vicki the robot had become Post-pubescent Wonder?

#5 - Throb - Diana Canova of Soap starred as the center of the storm at a very 80s record company. Jane Leeves of Frasier got her notoriety here, and it's an early appearance by the afore-mentioned, sadly now deceased Paul Walker. He eventually left the show to be replaced by a boy who looked nothing like him.

#6 - The New WKRP in Cincinnati - One of the best shows of the late-70s/early-80s (and most mistreated by a network) was WKRP in Cincinnati. Aside from the fashions of the time (which only serves to make the show a period piece), the show still holds up as a top-notch comedy. The syndicated sequel brought back the "suits" but (mostly) not the "dungarees" of the group, and never really clicked like the original.

If you slogged down this very odd trip down 80s TV-lane, here's a bonus:  The theme song from Joanie Loves Chachi.  They couldn't even save this one with syndication.

1 comment:

  1. I loved the theme song to "Please Stand By," I think that was a direct to syndication show as well.


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