Monday, March 10, 2014

Spectacularly Bad TV: Episode #1

There is TV, and there is bad TV, and then there is spectacularly bad TV. Sometimes this is TV that is so spectacularly bad, that it has come full circle, and is actually good again. Other times, it's just plain bad. Spectacularly bad. Well, it is this spectacularly bad TV for which we are here today. This is the first in a series that will explore the worst of broadcast history, the most mind-blowingly ridiculous and utterly unexplainable in all of television programming. In each episode we will take a look at five random TV shows that will most certainly make you wonder what the hell they were thinking. So, without further ado, on with the show.

My Mother the Car - I think that if any TV show should have the dubious honour of kicking off this series, it should be My Mother the Car. Just for the historical significance of it being so famously bad bad bad, it should be first up - and first up it shall be. Notoriously bad, this 1965-66 show (and yes, it lasted just that one season) is definitely the go-to show when discussing bad TV, even Spectacularly Bad TV (patent pending). In 2002, it was named the second worst show of all-time (coming in behind just Jerry Springer), and even though it didn't "win" that contest, it is often cited as the actual worst show, pretty much everywhere else. Now I must admit that of the episodes I have seen (about a third of the thirty made), I did not think it a terrible show. Not a good one mind you, not by a longshot, but probably not what one would call spectacularly bad either. But nonetheless, this is a show that has been considered so bad for so long (the Citizen Kane of bad TV, perhaps), that I am still leading with it.

The show starred Jerry Van Dyke, as a lawyer who buys a dilapidated 1928 Porter, only to find out that the car is actually possessed by his dead mother, who has come back to help her son through life. Now this premise was no stranger than a show such as Mr. Ed, which was somewhat successful, but for some reason this one did not catch on, which is a shame really. Okay, perhaps it's not a shame, but it was kind of a shame for the career of Mr. Van Dyke. A few years earlier, the actor turned down the role of Barney Fife in The Andy Griffith Show (you're welcome Don Knotts), and then he turned down the role of Gilligan on Gilligan's Island (you're welcome Bob Denver), and then he accepts this role. Great way to make that career fly dude. As for the shows two main writers, Allan Burns would go on to create The Mary Tyler More Show and Rhoda, while James L. Brooks would create Taxi and was the man responsible for giving Matt Groening his first break drawing The Simpsons on The Tracey Ullman Show, afterward acting as exec producer on The Simpsons. Not a bad couple of careers there, huh? In the end though, I do feel kinda bad placing this show as the lead for Spectacularly Bad TV, especially since I actually kinda liked what I saw of it, but alas, it is the go to show for such things, so here it is. Now let's move onto some seriously bad television, shall we?

Manimal - "Dr. Jonathan Chase. Wealthy, young, handsome. A man with the brightest of futures,  A man with the darkest of pasts. From Africa's deepest recesses, to the rarefied peaks of Tibet, heir to his father's legacy and the world's darkest mysteries.  Jonathan Chase, master of the secrets that divide man from animal, animal from man... Manimal!"  These are the words that led off every episode of the 1983 NBC series Manimal - all eight of them. Yup, this show, which ran from September through December has only eight episodes to its name - and what an eight episodes are they. Um, yeah...okay, so this show sucked. There's no getting around it, this show sucked big time.  Basically, in case you don't already know, Manimal was an hour long drama/action thing wherein Dr. Jonathan Chase changed into various animals and fought crime. Basically the only two animals he would ever change into were a hawk and a black panther. Every now and again he would become a horse or a snake or something. The special effects were pretty bad, even for that time period, but the funniest thing was how during the transformation, we would see his clothes rip off, only to have him transform back later, fully clothed. Yeah, a great show indeed, but one that fascinates for some strange reason. This spectacularly bad TV show was produced by Glen A. Larson, the man responsible (at least in part) for such other shows as Magnum P.I., Knight Rider, and Battlestar Galactica, so at least the guy had some successes to go with this ridiculousness. There has been some talk of making a Manimal movie over the years, but nothing has come of such plans. I want to say I hope it stays that way, but something deep down inside me (okay, not really all that deep) really wants to see this happen. What can I say, I'm a freak for bad TV. Of course the movie version would probably just ruin the kitschiness of the show, and make the special effects look good with CGI. Bastards. We want cheezy bad TV. Don't we? Oh well, let's move on to the next spectacularly bad TV show.

Woops! - Have you ever thought to yourself (or to someone else for that matter) that there are just not enough situation comedies about nuclear holocaust. Just not enough funny shows about the apocalypse, dammit! Well, in September of 1992, the relatively new Fox television network must have been listening, because they put exactly that on the air. And then, exactly ten weeks later, the still relatively new Fox television network, pulled the show off the air. I never saw the show during it's initial run (not sure how I missed such a long running show as this) and just recently discovered it. The pilot episode is up and running on YouTube, and ya know what, it's kinda good. I know that such a revelation goes against the grain of the title of this series, but then again, I do mention in the intro about how some shows are so bad, they come full circle, and are actually good again. Maybe that is the case with the oddly spelled Woops!. Maybe not. Basically, the show is about what appear to be the last six people left on Earth after some pesky teens accidentally cause world wide Nuclear destruction, and them coming together at a farm house, which incidentally seems to be the last house standing in all the world as well. I like the premise ( am currently working on a proposal/pitch for a zombie apocalypse sitcom - not that I would know anyone to whom I would pitch such an idea) and I actually really enjoyed the aforementioned pilot. Now I haven't seen any of the other nine episodes that aired (nor the three that were filmed and never allowed to air), one of which includes guest star Stuart Pankin as a supposed disgruntled widower Santa Claus, but I gotta admit that I am kinda excited to search them out and see them. Yeah, Woops! may very well have that whole so bad, it's good vibe going, and yes, the six characters are full of cliche and stereotype and all that jazz, but I laughed quite a bit watching the pilot, and ain't that what a situation comedy's supposed to be all about? You got it, baby.

Supertrain - Essentially, this 1979 NBC series was little more than the already super successful Love Boat, transferred from cruise ship to illogically large train - a super train, if you will. The show, a midseason replacement which ran for just nine episodes before (inevitably?) being canceled, had a small regular cast who hosted a gaggle of guest stars each week - just like the aforementioned Love Boat. I remember this show as a TV junkie eleven year old, and remember thinking it was pretty lame, even at that young age - and yes, I was a Love Boat fan at the time. But it wasn't just bad ratings that sunk this ship..er, I mean train. Sure, that certainly helped, as it was a huge flop, but at the same time, Supertrain was the most expensive show ever put on the air at the time. Even a moderate success it may not have made it to the 1979-80 season anyway. But damn, this was a bad show! And they couldn't even get the technical aspects right. Supposedly the supertrain would travel at 190 mph, and would travel from New York to L.A. The only problem is that it took 36 hours to traverse this distance, placing it's speed at approximately 78 mph. Even with making stops as they did on occasion, this never seems to ad up. But hell, one could forget such things if the show was actually any good. But hey, it did have some pretty stellar guest stars, including Joyce DeWitt, Larry Linville, Isabel Sanford, Rue McClanahan, and Tony Danza. So there. But seriously, the show was just really really bad. Now perhaps that was just me being a kid and not 'getting it' (I kinda did like the premise - still kinda do) but chances are, especially since it seems to pop up on many a worst TV shows list, that I was correct in my initial assumption. But enough of this crazy train, let's move on to our fifth bad show of the episode - and probably the most controversial.

Heil Honey, I'm Home! - As I said above, this Brit-com is probably the most controversial show on this list, and possibly the most controversial show ever put on the air. It ran for exactly one episode, before Galaxy, part of British Satellite Broadcasting, was pretty much forced to cancel it. Seven other episodes were scheduled, but they never filmed, let alone aired. Television historian Marian Calabro called the show, "Perhaps the world's most tasteless situation comedy." Indeed it may very well have been. But why oh why, you may ask. What exactly was it about this show that made it so so hated? Glad ya asked. Ya see, Heil Honey, I'm Home! was a situation comedy about Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun living in the suburbs, next door to a Jewish couple with whom they can not get along. That's right! Yes, the show was meant as satire, but even in 1990, said satire was not very welcome. Now I have seen this one aired episode, and I gotta say, it really wasn't all that offensive. Well okay, it was rather offensive, but it is meant to parody the complacency of many people to Hitler in the late 1930's.

The show was set up to act like a typical 1950's American sit-com, a la Leave it to Beaver or Father Knows Best, or mostly I Love Lucy, complete with silly canned laughter. Sure, it may have seemed offensive, but from the one episode I have seen (or anyone has seen) it really isn't all that bad. One supposes the idea was to show Hitler as a buffoon, much in the same way Mel Brooks did in The Producers. The fact that it didn't come through in that manner is probably more due to the quality, or should I say lack of quality, of the show itself. They tried to sell it by placing it right after the highly successful Dad's Army (this according to the always reliable Wikipedia, which may not be accurate since Dad's Army went off the air thirteen years prior to this). But alas, it did not sell, and off the air it went. Into TV obscurity - and this episode of Spectacularly Bad TV. And speaking of Spectacularly Bad TV, that is a wrap for this inaugural episode of what I hope will be a long running series here at All Things Kevyn. At least longer running than any of these shows were. God willing (wait, what?), I'll be back with the second episode in about two weeks or so, taking a look at another five truly terrible TV shows. What shows we these be? I can't say right now, but one of 'em might just be a show about singing and dancing cops. Oh yeah, baby!

That's it gang.  See ya 'round the web.

2 comments:

  1. As a loyal subject of the Queen, I grew up watching many of the shows you so crassly moniker with the term Brit-com, and I must agree with so many, that Heil Honey, I'm Home was just an awful awful program. At the same time, I thought it a genius premise, if only it had been done better.

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  2. Thanx Dex... I think. I agree... great premise, just bad execution. There's some sort of poor taste joke hidden in that comment somewhere. Best not try to find it though.

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