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. Oh, and this episode is part of the A to Z Challenge (linked in the banner at the bottom of this post), where I post alphabetically throughout the month of April. This is S-Day. Enjoy... if you dare.
It's About Time - Sneaking in somewhere between Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch, this "other" Sherwood Schwartz-created sit-com lasted just one season on CBS in 1966-67. The premise was simple. Much like the goofy castaways of Gilligan's Island, our two hapless heroes are astronauts who accidentally go back in time (using some pretty fuzzy science to do so) and find themselves marooned in the days of cavemen and dinosaurs. The fact that cavemen and dinosaurs were actually separated by about 65 million years is probably not an important thing to mention when it isn't even close to the dumbest thing in this show. The show would use many of the sets from Gilligan's Island, which was in its final season at the time, but strangely enough, when compared even to a show as ridiculous as the aforementioned Gilligan's Island, this clunker fails. Even as stupid as Gilligan's Island was, it at least had some fun characters doing the dumb stuff. In It's About Time, all we got was stock characters doing boring, ridiculous things. Wow, a show has got to be pretty freakin' bad to make Gilligan's Island look good, huh!? Granted, at first the show was a success, probably feeding off the reputation of Gilligan, but after a few weeks of viewers realizing just how bad the show was, these good ratings went right out the proverbial cave door. After eighteen of these dud episodes, Schwartz decided to finally send the astronauts (the poor man's Major Nelson and Major Healey) back home to the modern day world, and in an episode titled "20th Century Here We Come," they did just that - with their adopted cave family (Imogene Coco and Joe E. Brown) tagging along. Essentially reversing the show's premise didn't seem to help, and the show was not renewed for a second season. Granted, it should be no surprise that this was a bad show, but ya know what? I really like the theme song. It is by far far far, the best thing about this show.
Queen For A Day - Let's see. Sure, it's a show about giving money and prizes to deserving women, and that can't be a bad thing, right? Right? Well actually, this was kind of a rather nasty show. You see, the idea was that host Jack Bailey would introduce the contestants and then get them to tell their tales of woe. There would be tears and such, and Bailey would try to make the women feel better about their harrowing circumstances, but it all came down to the applause-o-meter, and just how bad everyone in the audience felt for these flights of despair. From dying children to losing there homes to any and every bad thing that could happen to a woman and her family (at least any and every bad thing that could be talked about on television in the 1950's and 1960's - or for that matter on radio, where the show began, back in the 1940's), Queen For A Day would take sad and desperate women, and if the audience felt bad enough (by applauding these women's sad plights), and award much needed prizes to those with the most heartbreaking story (again, through the applause of the audience). I suppose the losing contestants went home with nothing, and cried themselves to sleep as their child went blind or their home was taken away from them. Who knows. And when the winners were awarded these much needed prizes (along with other sundry items such as dishes and maybe a vacuum cleaner), they were draped in velvet, given a crown, and paraded around the stage to blaring music. Meanwhile, the losers went home in tears. Yeah, great show. I know they were trying to help people, but it all seems very grand guignol in its presentation. The winning lady gets glasses for her child who is slowly going blind, and maybe a brand new mop too. The losers go home to their obviously desperate, sad lives. Hell, at least give 'em a mop or something. Jesus Christ, ya heartless bastards! Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit here (I do love hyperbole) but most of this rant is the truth about the show.
Checking In - I enjoyed The Jeffersons. They moved on up from All in the Family (one of the best sit-coms of all-time) to a deluxe apartment in the sky. It was a funny show - for the first six or seven seasons. By the time they reached seasons eight and nine and ten and (especially) eleven, the comedy had worn off. But it was still a ratings winner until the final season, so CBS kept it running as long as they could. Back while it was still a good show, in season six, one of the characters got their own spin-off. It lasted for exactly four episodes before being canceled. The show (obviously) was Checking In, and it starred Marla Gibbs, who played Florence Johnston, the smart-mouthed, wise-cracking maid of the Jeffersons. This failed spin-off was set in the St. Frederick Hotel in Manhattan, and Florence moved on up as well, from maid to executive housekeeper. Granted, this so-called moving on up (and from maid to head maid, it really wasn't all that far of a move on up - not like Benson's move from butler to Governor during the run of his series) did not last long, and it was lucky for Florence that the Jeffersons were willing to take her back. I suppose it was also lucky for Gibbs, that the producers were willing to take her back on The Jeffersons after her four episodes away, but then that was probably written into her contract. The show also starred Larry Linville, ex-Frank Burns of M*A*S*H (again, one of the best sit-coms of all-time) as Florence's fresh new foil. As for me, I really don't remember much of anything about this show. I remember it being on TV, and I do remember watching it (for the lengthy time it was on the air) but the show was so forgettable, that I don't remember anything else about the damn thing.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - This one has the distinction of being the only show so far in this series (out of fifteen) that is actually still on the air. Well, at least it's still on the air for now. I gotta be honest here though, I really really really want this to be a good show. Not wanted it to be good, but still want it to be good. I watch it week after week, hoping that this will be the episode where it finally starts being good, but alas, 'tis never to be. I'm sure including this show on such a list is going to piss off more than just a few rabid fanboys (like there is any other kind of fanboy) but I really have no choice. Granted, this ABC show is not bad the way things like The Ropers or Joanie Loves Chachi were bad, but it was an extraordinary disappointment for this (somewhat rabid) fanboy. Like I said above, I really want this show to be good. Being a lifelong reader and fan of Marvel Comics and the Avengers, and being a big fan of The Avengers movie (as well as being a fan of series star, Clark Gregg, from back in his New Adventures of Old Christine days, right through to his film version of Agent Phil Coulson in the aforementioned Avengers movie) and being a fan of exec. producer Joss Whedon, I really really really wanted this show to be good. And I really really really still do. As I said, I watch week after week, hoping that maybe this will be the episode that finally brings me on board, and am disappointed week after week. Even the occasional appearance of Colbie Smulders as Maria Hill (and who wouldn't want to watch her on just about anything!?) or the promise of Samuel L. Jackson guest starring as Nick Fury, is not enough to save what may very well be the most disappointing show currently on TV. Okay, perhaps I am being a bit too hard on the poor show (every show deserves time to work things out) and AOS is not the worst show on right now, mind you (is Sean Saves the World still on?) but due to my rather high anticipation level, it is just the most disappointing one out there right now. Have I mentioned that I really really really want this to be a good show? Yeah? Okay, well I really really do. Maybe in season two. Oh wait, if ratings are any indication (and damn, have they ever been low low low), this show will never have a season two - unless Joss Whedon pulls a few strings. Here's hopin' it gets better.
Hee Haw Honeys - Anyone who grew up as a member of so-called Generation X, probably remembers a show called Hee Haw, which ran on TV from 1969 through 1992. You probably remember Roy Clark a-pickin' and Buck Owens a-grinnin' - or was that the other way around? With it's silly skits and cornball homespun humour, it can be looked at like a country bumpkin version of the similar but much hipper Laugh-In, which debuted the year before. Actually, it was inspired by Laugh-In's success. This redneck variety show also featured some of the biggest acts in country music, complete with appropriately grand ole opry hair - if ya'll happen to be into that. Lasting for 25 seasons, all but the first two in first run syndication, Hee Haw was a staple of many a household. I know my mom and dad watched it every week, but it was always a bit to cornpone for my tastes, even as an not-so-discerning kid. But we're not here to talk about the success of Hee Haw, so much as the very much lack of success of it's attempt at a spin-off, the hilariously titled Hee Haw Honeys.
Running for just one season in 1978-79, Hee Haw Honeys took some of the Daisy Duke-esque pretties of the show, along with some not-so-pretties, and created one of the dumbest shows this side of Mama's Family. Instead of sticking to their cornfed bread 'n' butter of short spurts and quick silly jokes, Hee Haw Honeys was basically a sit-com, and this attempt at narrative within the silly antics just never worked. Oh, and did I mention that a non-Hee Haw regular, a young woman by the name of Kathie Lee Johnson was the star of the show? Kathie Lee Johnson had been a regular on Name That Tune prior to starring in this rustic dud. Johnson would later go on to marry ex-football star Frank Gifford, and become that oh so annoying daytime entity known as Kathie Lee Gifford. When Hee Haw Honeys was inevitably canceled, all the Hee Haw regulars were brought back into the bumpkin fold. Kathie Lee was not invited to join the Hee Haw cast. Huh. Anyway, that's all the time we have this time around. Hope ya'll enjoyed this look at some of the worst TV has to offer. I'll be back next time with five more spectacularly bad TV shows, including one of the unfunniest yet most successful sit-coms of all-time. Really, this thing lasted for eight seasons!!? WTF!!? Anyhoo, that's it gang. See ya 'round the web.