There have been more than a few flops in last decade of TV, comedies like Good Grief which thought death was funny and strange pairings of cops and robbers. But there was also a lot of good, it was the decade of ER, NYPD Blue, Law and Order, Ellen, Mad About You and Buffy. But somewhere between the flops and the hits is a gray area of shows that could have made it, should have made it but just never caught on. Take a look at these shows that should have been Must See TV.
In 1990, NBC gave us Working It Out, a comedy about two divorcees meeting in a cooking class. Okay, not a hot premise, but it starred Stephen Collins and Jane Curtin. Both of these leads have a good history on television but together it wasn’t to be. Good thing, I suppose since Collins went on to Seventh Heaven and Curtin to Third Rock From the Sun.
Fox was challenging the edge as usual with their comedy True Colors. This tale involved an inter-racial marriage with step-kids. Image Caucasian daughter Katie in her Laura Ashley dresses forced to translate for her black lingo impaired step-brother. Pretty faces all, with phenomena Nancy Walker as the live-in mother-in-law, True Colors should have made history but the mix just wasn’t right. They should have tried it as a drama.
1991 gave us Eerie, Indiana a TV series from Gremlins director Joe Dante. While the show has a cult following, most people kept flipping the channels on Sunday nights. Marshall is a 13 year old Fox Mulder and not by choice. His family moves to a town where children are kept young thanks to the tight seal of Foreverwear and Elvis lives right next door. It was cool, it was quirky and it should have lasted. Catch the reruns on Fox’s Family Channel.
1994 was the year of the big name fall from grace. Gene Wilder played a fortysomething dad raising 4 year old boys in Something Wilder. Martin Short was a dad in his self-titled series with equally dull results. Cicely Tyson and Melissa Gilbert stars at lawyers in the deep South in Sweet Justice. This one was given high ratings for good writing and an excellent cast so what happened? They weren’t stars yet but look close and you’ll find Felicity star Kerri Russell in Daddy’s Girl with Dudley Moore and that is Jennifer Love Hewitt next to Chad Everet in the outdoorsy family show McKenna.
Did you know that Marie Osmond stared in her own comedy show. It was called Maybe This Time (1995) and co-stared Betty White as Marie’s mom. Nice cast, family values plot, maybe this time, maybe not. CBS thought they had a hit with John Grishams’ The Client. The popular book should have made for a winner of a court room series. The show stared JoBeth Williams and John Heard with great character actors Ossie Davis and Polly Holliday in supporting roles. All that talent, a best selling story, the jury is still out wondering why this one failed.
I love Shaun Cassidy and I love what he creates for TV. I stand alone in this. In 1995, Cassidy gave us American Gothic – Complete Series, the incredibly creepy series that makes Salem’s Lot look like a children’s story. Gary Cole played Sheriff Lucas Buck who manages to manipulate and murder with a sweet southern smile. The show started with a general buzz that came from CBS sticking warning labels on the series. Reporters got a kick out of something so evil coming from the mind of teen idol and former Hardy Boy Cassidy. The show attracted a cult audience but that wasn’t enough to keep it on the air. The CBS eye doesn’t do evil. If they had premiered on Fox it would have had a fighting chance. Catch the reruns on Sci-Fi Channel.
Pearl brought Rhea Perlman back to TV in 1996. In her first role since Cheers, the mighty mouse goes to college to do battle with her professor played by Malcolm McDowell. Carol Kane co-stared but it didn’t help. Perlman’s a gem but Pearl was pure cubic zirconium
Finally, one of my personal crusades from 1997. 413 Hope Street. Somebody tell me why this show had to go? This gritty Fox drama was centered around a teen crisis center in the middle of a poor black neighborhood. It stared Jesse Martin (recently of Law and Order) Kelly Coffield, Michael Easton and Richard Roundtree as the head of the center. Produced by Damon Wayans, this ensemble show was fast paced, heart piercing and thought provoking. It should have been one of the top dramas on television but like many real-life centers for kids, Hope Street went out of business with too many stories left untold.