Category Archives: Saved by the Bell

15 Spin-Offs That Never Existed That Were Cancelled Too Soon

Coach Ioki

Last month we took a look at 15 shows that never existed that were cancelled too soon, and with today’s news that a Married With…Children spin-off focusing on Grandmaster B Bud Bundy is a (germ of an idea of a plea of a) reality, it seems right to shift perspective and now look at some forgotten spin-offs from television history. There are some dramas, some comedies, some animated series; some won several awards, some were roundly ignored; some were praised by critics, and some just adored by fans. But these spin-offs all have one thing in common: they never got the chance they deserved (because they never existed).

Ioki’s Place (FOX, 1990): After misfiring with Booker Fox attempted another 21 Jump Street spin-off, this time with Sergeant Harry Truman Ioki leaving the force to open a neighborhood bar and banh mi shop. But Ioki gets more than he bargains for when his father/head chef (the legendary Pat Morita) can’t help but meddle with his leadership style, and sparks begin to fly with his new manager, Samantha (Ellen DeGeneres). Most notable for featuring a pre-teen Seth Rogen as neighborhood kid and prankster Billy Goldstein. Peter DeLuise appears uncredited in every episode.

AIDS (TNBC, 1992-1993): An obvious ploy to capitalize on the success of Saved by the Bell, AIDS focused on a group of hall monitors and office assistants at Manhattan Beach Preparatory High School. Despite much fanfare, a plum time-slot, a young Michelle Rodriguez and a sweeps week visit from Screech and Mr. Belding, the show inexplicably failed to catch on with viewers and was soon replaced by a second helping of California Dreams. 

Knight Rider Knights (Syndicated, 1986-1987): When Glen A. Larson and NBC agreed that 44 minutes of David Hasselhoff per week was not sufficient, they expanded the franchise with this short-lived look at how Michael Knight and his sentient car-best friend KITT spend their nights when they’re not fighting crime and chasing bad guys. Loosely based on the provocative 1980 Al Pacino thriller Cruising, the majority of episodes featured Knight and KITT hopping from drive-in movie theaters to Dairy Queens to mall parking lots to drug-fueled sex parties. The rambling, ramshackle nature of the show – there was clearly no script and some scenes were obviously just Hasselhoff’s home movies shot on a cheap VHS camera – quickly turned off loyal fans of the brand, and even a cross-over event with the original series, dubbed “The KITT Stays in the Picture” failed to bring viewers back. Delved into the supernatural towards the end of its run, and most remembered for the penultimate episode in which a jealous Wiccan transforms KITT into a 60-year-old man, portrayed by KITT voice William Daniels, sporting the same wardrobe and mannerisms he’d later incorporate into his iconic role of Mr. Feeny. Not to be confused with the animated series Knight Rider Knights (1988), in which a lightning storm sends KITT back in time to Camelot where he serves in King Arthur’s Court, or Team Knight Rider (1997-1998), which was a real show.

The Urkels (ABC, 1993): With the white-hot heat emanating from Family Matters resident nerd-in-love Steve Urkel, ABC quickly green-lit this spin-off – a drama focused on Steve’s parents and his autistic brother Stewart – for the fall ’93 slate. Unfortunately, even with an advantageous TGIF slot following Full House and a gushing review from Entertainment Weekly‘s Ken Tucker, the series struggled in the ratings and ended with an unresolved cliff-hanger in which Mrs. Urkel (Wanda Sykes) files for divorce. Young son Stewart was initially played by an aging Emmanuel Lewis, but was replaced with Wild & Crazy Kids‘ Omar Gooding after the pilot.

The Cosby Mysteries: Sex Files (NBC, 1996): An ill-advised attempt by Bill Cosby and then-NBC head of programming Warren Littlefield to revive the Cosby Mysteries, this time moving away from the wholesome, family-friendly storylines of the original series towards the more graphic and explicit fare that has become the hallmark of NBC’s later primetime hit Law & Order: SVU. The six produced episodes were never aired and quickly destroyed, and all cast and crew involved were paid off to never talk about it.

Mail Bonding (NBC, 1989): Quietly falling between The Tortellis and Frasier, this short-lived and quickly forgotten Cheers spin-off swapped out the bar for the post office. Unfortunately, Cheers producers Glen & Les Charles forgot to bring over the sharp wit and clever writing of its progenitor, and the talented cast – which featured Gordon Jump, Brian-Doyle Murray, Ellen DeGeneres, former NFL great Bubba Smith, a young Marc Maron and Tom Bosley as Postmaster General Charlie O’Flaherty – never quite found the chemistry that was the trademark of Sam, Norm, Woody and the gang. By the time Cliff Clavin stopped by the Beacon Hill Post Office in episode nine, the bad news of cancellation had already been delivered.

Designing Men (CBS, 1991-1992): After leaving Sugarbaker Designs, Anthony Bouvier (the late Meshach Taylor), heads to New York to open up his own interior design firm and get a taste of the big city. Partnering with his former prison cellmate, Fuzzy Mendez (Luis Guzman), and moving in with old college friends Eli and Paris (David Paymer and Harvey Firestein), Anthony is ready to bring a little southern peach to the Big Apple. The series’ final episode, “Bullies Over Broadway” was heralded for its brave depiction of ageism in theatre, winning an AARP award and snaring Firestein a BAFTA nomination for his performance. Despite lasting only one season, the show was a phenomenon in Germany, where it was titled Girly Männer and can still be found in reruns on the country’s RTL II network.

Private Boner (ABC, 1990): After a vocal (and sometimes openly hostile) write-in campaign persuaded ABC brass to bring back Growing Pains‘ Richard “Boner” Stabone (the late Andrew Koenig), this short-lived midseason replacement found Mike Seaver’s best buddy on the ground in Kuwait, trying to mine laughs from minefields. Hoping to combine the pedantic and sanctimonious tone of Growing Pains with the poignant authenticity of M*A*S*H, the series was, ironically, preempted for a special report on Operation Desert Shield and never returned to air. A later effort to return Boner to Growing Pains was, in fact, aborted by the now Born-Again Kirk Cameron, who objected to Koenig’s staunch belief in the right to choose.

MonsterMASH (CBS, 1987): A poorly conceived collaboration between M*A*S*H creator Larry Gelbhart and the Brady Bunch’s Sherwood Schwartz, this variety show was the first (and only) program to blend elements of comedy, drama, musical numbers, and the Korean War. Adam Arkin stepped into Alan Alda’s boots as Hawkeye Pierce, reimagined now as an exceedingly neurotic and easily frightened Brooklyn Jew, and Jamie Farr reprised his role as cross-dresser Max Klinger. The pilot aired as a Halloween special, but, like many pilots in Korea, it crashed and burned, as some viewers were offended by the portrayal of Koreans as werewolves, vampires, Yetis, Frankensteins and other figures of the occult. Airing up against ABC’s Mr. Belvedere, the series never really had a shot, and was DOA.

Just Close Enough for Comfort (Syndicated, 1987): After retooling Too Close for Comfort into The Ted Knight Show to middling returns, executive producer Earl Barret decided to take the opposite tack, dropping the show’s star, the eponymous Knight, and bringing back original cast members Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Lydia Cornell, and Audrey Meadows, along with new additions Robert Hegyes, Anson Williams and third Quaid brother, Barry (in his only credited role). The series picks up with Knight’s character Henry Rush inexplicably absent and shifts the focus to Jim J. Bullock’s Monroe Ficus, whose opens a handmade sofa and loveseat gallery to immediate success (later episodes would reveal that Rush left Marin County to pursue his dream of writing political cartoons for The New York Post). Early reviews were not kind, noting, accurately, that “nothing ever really happens in this show,” “the characters just basically get along really well and pay each other compliments. I counted seventeen hugs in the first episode alone, which I guess is fine, but super, super boring,” and “one episode is devoted entirely to the characters offering excessive praise of Ficus’ new chaise lounge. Granted, it was a very nice lounge, but the whole 22-minutes were completely devoid of any conflict – or charm – whatsoever.”  Said chaise lounge is now on display at the Paley Center for Media (Los Angeles).

Mona’s Place (ABC, 1992-1993): When Angela Bower sells her Connecticut home to move to Manhattan with new husband Tony Miceli, her vivacious and hyper-sexually-active mother Mona stays behind in the guest-house and proves that 70 is the new 20. Originally titled The Cougar Den, this Who’s the Boss? spin-off failed to appeal to young TGIF viewers, but was applauded for its frank discussions of sex, ageism and menopause. Despite lasting just thirteen episodes, Katherine Helmond earned a Nickelodeon’s Kids Choice award for her performance in “A Round of Appalled” in which she learns she has contracted the Clap, an episode that continues to be shown in many high school Health Education classes today. An interesting footnote: following cancellation, Mona’s bedroom/sex den was repurposed into Cory and Eric Matthews’ room on Boy Meets World, which debuted the following fall.

Saved by the Bell: The Early Years (TNBC, 1994-1995): Ever wonder what Bayside High was like when sixteen-year-old Richie “the Big Bopper” Belding was spinning records for KKTY? Neither did anyone else.

Just the Nine of Us (ABC, 1991): In a last-ditch effort to capture viewers, Just the Ten of Us producers Guntzelman-Sullivan-Marshall retooled the series as a season-long kidnapping mystery. Unfortunately, due to abysmal ratings, production was quickly halted and we never learned which of the Lubbock children had been abducted. Series star Bill Kirchenbauer later called it “the single worst professional experience of my life. No one knew why we were there and all of our lawyers were combing through our contracts desperately trying to find a way out. To say that cancellation came as sweet relief is a massive understatement.” An extremely short blooper reel can be found on the Growing Pains Season 7 DVD.

UnsDuck in Time: The Lost Tales of Launchpad McQuack (Syndicated, 1993-1994): Unlicensed and dangerously incompetent pilot Launchpad McQuack, second banana to Scrooge McDuck and sidekick to Darkwing Duck, finally takes center stage in this rare collaboration between Disney Television Animation and the Children’s Television Workshop. Thanks to a temperamental and possibly demonic time machine invented by Gyro Gearloose, McQuack is sent backwards through the ages to important events in history, from the Revolutionary War to the JFK Assassination. Designed as way to teach children about world history while keeping them entertained, the program failed at both aims, and ended with a controversial finale in which a Launchpad McQuack from the year 2020 is sent back from the future to kill his present day self in order to prevent a nuclear holocaust. That finale, ironically, netted the show its largest audience by a wide-margin, but talks to revive the series were abandoned following the runaway success of the newest Disney Afternoon sensation Bonkers, as well as the rampant drug use by the show’s animators. However, the story did continue in a spin-off comic book series published by Malibu Comics, which ran for seven years, and featured the writing debut of future Spider-Man scribe and Eisner Award winner Brian Michael Bendis.

Heidi’s Head (FOX, 1992): Encouraged by the mild success of Herman’s Head, FOX executives fast-tracked this spin-off that followed the same blueprint. Joan Cusack starred as the titular Heidi, an aspiring designer at a hip fashion label, with Soliel Moon Frye representing her sensitivity, Sandra Berhardt her lust, a young Jeremy Piven standing in as her anxiety and Robert Guillaume as her intellect, with occasional appearances from Marsha Warfield as Anger. A back-door pilot in which Herman’s Head star William Ragsdale sleeps with Heidi (after Hank Azaria’s womanizing scoundrel Jay drugs her at bar) was shelved in favor of a Married with Children clip-show. Was later ripped off by Pixar.

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Filed under Feeny, Lists, Mickey Mouse Club, Must Flee TV, Saved by the Bell, TGIF, Who's the Boss?

Saturday Night’s All Right For Leaving

Screen shot 2013-05-21 at 6.42.30 PMMuch was made last week about the departure of Saturday Night Live stalwart Bill Hader, and still more was made when word broke just before (or, perhaps, during) last Saturday night’s show that longtime cast member Fred Armisen would be joining Hader in exiting Studio 8H. Add to that the speculation that Jason Sudeikis is a part of the exodus – only a year after show centerpiece Kristen Wiig left the show – and we seem to have a full-fledged panic. Hader, Armisen and Sudeikis – who accrued twenty-eight seasons of combined service on the show – will certainly leave a gaping hole, having portrayed such vital characters as President Obama, Vice President Biden, James Carville, David Patterson, the Devil, and, of course, Stefon. How could the show possibly survive such a great loss of talent, three of their leading men, a trio of go-tos. Losing one, sure, it happens. But all three, plus the farewell of Head Writer Seth Meyers at mid-season? Won’t that just be the end of SNL?

No, no it won’t. Despite some histrionics that seem to point to the opposite sentiment, the show will persist just fine. In fact, this is the circle of life for Saturday Night Live (it’s just Saturday Night Life?). Granted, if Sudeikis does, in fact, join Hader and Armisen, then you would have a more severe than normal bloodletting, but it’s not a lethal loss. The show has always and will always subsist on the infusion of new, exciting, eager talent. This season SNL was without Kristen Wiig, who seemed to have shouldered the load for so many seasons (to the show’s detriment, in our opinion) and it went on unencumbered in her absence, bolstered by noteworthy performances by newcomers Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong, two fantastic young talents who might have not had the chance to breakout if Wiig was still around. And the show has weathered the loss of every great star during its history, with someone waiting in the wings to step up. Chevy Chase leaves after the inaugural season and Bill Murray gets the call. Farley and Sandler leave and we get Will Ferrell. Ferrell leaves but Armisen and Will Forte join the show and Amy Poehler receives more screen time. Every time SNL closes a door it opens a window, a window cracked just wide enough for a talented young sketch comedian to crawl.

And it will be the same with this loss, which should better be classified as a transition than a remaking; it’s certainly nothing as a dramatic as the turnover before Ferrell’s first season. Bobby Moynihan, who had a stellar season with his “Weekend Update” appearances as Drunk Uncle and Anthony Crispino, has already been doing much of the heavy lifting, appearing in cold opens, monologues, parodies, and Update visits, performing as straight man as well as Guy Fieri. He’s certainly more than capable of being the show’s anchor in his sixth season. Likewise of Taran Killam, whose squared-jaw good looks and Baryshnikovian dance moves make him possibly the show’s most valuable not-yet-ready-for-prime-time-player, and who is due for his breakout season. Then you have Kenan Thompson, who has only improved with age, as he shook off his All That trappings and grew into a reliable SNL presence, and Tim Robinson, who had a strong, confident debut season, and Jay Pharoah, who is an incredible mimic but still looking to find his groove, despite getting the nod to play Obama this season. Not to mention the fresh new talent they might recruit to replace the departing cast members. And add to that the terrific female players that we already discussed, and you have a dynamic, hungry, inspired cast ready to make their mark and define their era on SNL. If the show is guilty of anything over its last 38 seasons, it’s of being lazy, relying on the old standbys. With the old guard on its way out, SNL just might not have that luxury next season, and we might be better off for it.

Yes, we had to say goodbye to Stefon, and that was very, very sad. But Stefon had to move on, and so do we. Because there’s another Stefon out there. There always is. We just don’t know him yet.

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Filed under Analysis, Be careful what you wish for, Makes You Think, Saved by the Bell

‘Survivor: Caramoan’ – Throat Punch

Rocky CochranOne of the great paradoxes in Survivor – an element of the game that makes this show truly fantastic and always enjoyable – is that to make it far  you must build a strong alliance with a numbers advantage, but a strong alliance that has the numbers almost always means that the alliance will need to turn on itself at some point, often times the weaker members taking out the strong. In many ways, you’re penalized for playing the game too well. If you form an alliance that is too strong, too large, you may wind up eating you own tail. And frequently, this happens just after the merge, which is why this junction in the Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites 2 Legit 2 Quit is so critical. It could be the last chance to dump some dead weight – or a significant threat – before getting too deep. With some players on the outs looking to get back in and other Survivors feeling vulnerable in their alliance, this is the time when loyalties shift, and when the permutations sometimes feel endless. This is why you can watch this show for twenty-three seasons and still see something new.

However, before we get to a merge the BeKool tribe, still not sure if actually voted out some person named Julia or just busted the myth of her existence, returns to camp from Tribal Council and Stealth ‘R’ Us CEO Former Federal Agent(?) Fillip immediately calls a board meeting. “Conference room, now!” Stepping into his executive chambers (a completely visible space four feet from the shelter), Fill clings to the tall tale he spun to Cochran last week, explaining to S’R’U Senior VPs Dawn and Corinne that he deliberately threw the Immunity Challenge in order to vote off that person who may or may not have existed (Gulia was it?). Of course, Dawn and Corinne know this is an absolute lie that Fillip absolutely believes, and, through some feat of herculean strength, play along with FFAF’s delusion. But they know that he’s living in a fantasy world, and Corinne is starting to find it really embarrassing.

More: Dawn goes to her special place, Cochran shocks the world, and Mutiny aboard the HMS Stealth ‘R’ Us…

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Filed under Analysis, It's gross., Saved by the Bell, Tribal Council

‘Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites’ – The Lion and the Mouse

First, does anyone know if caffeine pills are considered Performance Enhancing Drugs under Survivor rules and regulations? Even if they’re technically legal, one has to wonder how Sherri got a hold of them, because she has a Jessie Spano-level freakout upon returning to Goya camp after the tribe voted out Hope on the latest Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites 2 Legit 2 Quit. This might be an argument for random drug testing on Caramoan.

Perhaps Sherri needs to watch some more of 28 Days and less of The Blind Side.

While the Fans continue to be in disarray, cracks are starting to show over on the Favorites side, with Andrea becoming increasingly frustrated with Former Federal Agent Fillip’s looseness with handing out Stealth R Us agent names. FFAF, you must give out names with extreme discretion, you can’t hand them out like flyers advertising your new Verizon phones, or else they lose all meaning; you can’t just give them up for free like some two-bit strumpet to the first guy she meets who still has all his teeth. But when Brandon receives his own epithet (“the Conqueror,” although “the Lunatic” might be more apt) Andrea wonders bitterly “Where will it end? With Brenda?!? For the love of God, please no! Is there no decency left on this planet?”

Brenda, of course, is immediately given a name.

Read on: It all comes crashing down for the Fans…

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Filed under Analysis, Century 21 Reality, Count Bleh, Saved by the Bell, Tribal Council

‘Survivor: Caramoan’ – Hope Floats (But Heavy Wooden Chests Don’t)

Survivor Challenge Wooden ChestLast week’s episode of Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites 2 Legit 2 Quit began with another temper tantrum from Brandon upon returning from Tribal Council. This week, not to be outdone, Brandon’s counterpart on the Fans side, Shamar, sounded off loudly after the vote. We talked in our last post about our uneasiness concerning these two bellicose, volatile players, that their unhinged – and often selfish – behavior would unfairly take center stage, and this happened once again in the latest episode, right off the bat. Here’s how it sounded at Goata camp.

Keep Reading: Here comes the Blind Side…

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Filed under Analysis, Century 21 Reality, Crucial Taunt, Lists, Saved by the Bell, The State, Tribal Council

‘Survivor: Filippines’ – Player-by-Player Odds and Celebrity Look-Alikes Are Here!

Alright, guys, let’s try to do this before the entirety of the Matisyahu Tribe is completely decimated and all we have left is the memory of Angie’s boobs. We’ve been dark for the last few weeks, but all we missed discussing was the systematic destruction of Russell Swan and the Gang. But after tonight, when Denise and Malcolm will likely be forced into tribe cannibalism for survival and admission to the merge, things should get more interesting. So throw away your binders full of women and let’s get to it.

(Note: we want to thank Nate Silver from the Electoral Blog FiveThirtyEight for providing absolutely no scientific of statistical input for these predictions.)

Abi-Maria: Well, if the idea of the game was to out-crazy, out-make no sense, out-constantly touch your hair, then Abi-Maria would have this game completely locked up. Unfortunately for her, that is not how the game is played, and what she considers strategic, clever gameplay is actually loose cannon paranoia that verges on schizophrenia. Perhaps the reason that she keeps pulling at her tresses is that she’s trying to keep the voices out (or in). Certainly, considering the rapid disintegration of her alliance with RC Cola, her loyalty and judgment are suspect, and we think she’s ripe for a  blind-side down the road. Odds of Winning: 45-1

Up Next: Sinbad!

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Filed under Analysis, Bob Loblaw, Century 21 Reality, Dillon Panthers, Saved by the Bell, Tribal Council

In Defense of Mark-Paul Gosselaar

In keeping with the trend started with yesterday’s post, we’re talking about Saved by the Bell again.  But this time we’re responding to Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s comments to Yahoo News about Saved by the Bell, telling them “It’s not a great show.”  This statement seemed to promote outrage among the blogosphere, viewed as heresy committed by the biggest star of the legendary, landmark, immortal teen sitcom.  But we’re here to say that not only is Mark-Paul not guilty of treachery, he’s downright accurate.

Now we feel comfortable saying we adore Saved by the Bell as much as anyone.  There are two reasons to marathon the entire series, as we did last year: 1) Masochism or 2) Genuine appreciation for the show.  While watching all five seasons wasn’t a completely painless experience, our feelings clearly place us in the second camp, SBTB acolytes.  But just because we volunteered ourselves to watch every episode – and enjoyed much of it – that doesn’t mean the show is infallible.  In fact, having recently viewed every minute of it, much of Saved by the Bell is terrible.  The acting, the writing, the jokes, the sets, the music, the lipdubs, all bad.  But whether or not we appreciated that camp factor at the time (and we doubt we did, considering how invested we were in Zack and Kelly’s relationship, to this day the most important relationship in our lives, real or fictional), we certainly do now.  It couldn’t be less like a realistic portrayal of high school, the opposite of Freaks and Geeks. But that’s fine.  It was the perfect show for Saturday mornings in 1991 and weekeday afternoons in 1993.  It wasn’t the high school experience we had, it was the one we wanted.

Just because something is bad it doesn’t mean it can’t be really, really, really good.

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Filed under In defense of:, Saved by the Bell