A revamp of an equally awful sitcom
September 21, 2017 12:31 PM   Subscribe

As the fall season in TV picks up steam (don't forget to check FanFare), Flashbak takes a look at the September 1989 TVGuide season preview.

Notably absent is Seinfeld; the pilot aired in July that year, but it failed to attract ratings, and was put on hold until 1990 as NBC still believed in the show. The ones that were ready for a September launch were:

Totally Hidden Video ran until 1992 and one of the highest rated FOX shows at the time. Was accused by Candid Camera creator of stealing his ideas.
COPS is still on the air, although now on Spike, after FOX cancelled it in 1993.
Open House lasted one season. Ellen got her first regular TV gig here.
Anything But Love also ran until 1992.
Quantum Leap lasted five seasons and became a cult show over the years
Prime Time Live was a live news magazine that ran in some shape until 2012.
Living Dolls, from a back-door pilot in Who's the Boss. Although at the time helped Halle Berry's career from floundering before it started, it was cancelled after just 12 episodes.
Life Goes On ran until 1993, collecting a few awards along the way. Notable for being the first show to feature a main character with Down syndrome.
Booker was a spin-off from 21 Jump Street. Cancelled after one season.
Free Spirit brings the old "witch in the household" trope for a single season, with Alyson Hannigan on her first TV role.
Sister Kate tried to put the fun in orphanage. There isn't, so it was cancelled after 18 episodes.
Homeroom was a vehicle for Darryl Sivad, also starring Penny Johnson. Also cancelled mid-season.
Major Dad ran until 1993.
The People Next Door was a Wes Craven sitcom that was cancelled after 5 episodes
Alien Nation was a TV adaptation from a sci-fi movie of the previous year. Despite being an early success for FOX, it was obviously cancelled.
The Famous Teddy Z was a sitcom featuring Jon Cryer. Cancelled after 20 episodes, it still managed to win an Emmy.
Rescue 911 was a docudrama presented by Shatner that featured re-enactments from real 911 calls. Lasted for 7 season, and apparently helped save over 350 lives.
Wolf was a CBS cop show. One season.
Chicken Soup lasted 8 episodes before cancellation due to low ratings and leading man Jackie Mason being booted out Rudy Giuliani 1989 mayoral campaign support.
A Peaceable Kingdom was cancelled after 7 episodes were aired
Doogie Howser, M.D. ran until 1993 and launched the career of everyone's favourite fictional space nazi telepath/creep bro/IRL awesome person Neil Patrick Harris
The Nutt House was a Mel Brooks and Alan Spencer sitcom farce that ran for just 5 episodes.
The Young Riders, a western that ran for 3 seasons, despite struggling early
Snoops got one season worth 13 episodes
Baywatch needs to introductions.
Family Matters was another success, lasting 9 seasons in part thanks to the mid-season addition of Steve Urkel
Hardball was another cop show, lasting one season of 18 episodes
Mancuso, FBI made it to 20.
posted by lmfsilva (63 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ah, Open House. I had affection for that show, but it had Allison LaPlaca, who, along with Ted McGinley, can be the death knell of any show.
posted by xingcat at 12:39 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]


Whatever other mistakes I have made in life, at least I never had that terrible late-'80s/early-'90s swoopy white guy mullet parted down the middle.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:43 PM on September 21 [4 favorites]


The other girls in my 6th grade class and I were OBSESSED with Baywatch. We would get together and watch it every Friday night. We even baked a cake for Shawnie and Eddie's wedding.

Looking back, it's kind of weird that we really latched onto THAT show over other, more tween-friendly shows - and that the parents of multiple 12-year-olds were okay with us obsessing over "Babewatch". We all cried when it was cancelled. It DID get picked up by another network, but by then we'd all moved on to Junior High and other exciting things, I suppose.
posted by Elly Vortex at 12:52 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]


Do we still have posed publicity stills for shows where every character is embracing each other and gurning at the same time?

I remember liking some of these on account of being ten years old. A little surprised that nobody has put Alien Nation in the reboot garage already; it would be super timely, and if there's anything white people love to do, it's to discuss issues of racism and immigration with totally fictional proxies. Never watched the show myself, though I heard it was good.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:53 PM on September 21 [7 favorites]


I turned 15 in 1989 and watched a lot of TV. I guess Doctor Doctor isn't on the list because it premiered in June of that year.It starred Matt Frewer and I remember it being excellent, although I was a teenager at the time, so YMMV.

This is a good enough place to ask: there was a sitcom where the main character's name was Jenny, and possibly the lead actor's as well. She was tall and blonde and I remember nothing else. It may have been earlier in the 1980s which is why my memory is shaky. Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

Also did we ever solve the "paint on someone's face TV show" question? Ironically I cannot find it.
posted by AFABulous at 12:55 PM on September 21 [4 favorites]


What paint on somebody's face question? I have no idea what you're talking about. You must have imagined it
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:59 PM on September 21 [13 favorites]


Sister Kate tried to put the fun in orphanage. There isn't, so it was cancelled after 18 episodes.

And yet, despite not having thought about it once in the past 28 years, I instantly remember being attracted to that nun, and horrified at what an evil sinner I was. Dang, Stephanie Beacham you've had a career.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:59 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]


Snoops! We used to watch Snoops as a family. I liked Snoops. Snoops!
posted by UltraMorgnus at 1:00 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]


WAIT SECOND AUNT VIV IS MARRIED TO VENUS FLYTRAP?!?!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:02 PM on September 21 [5 favorites]


SO curious about The People Next Door! October 1989 was an intense & busy moment in my life (high school) but I was also watching a lot of crap on VH1 that fall, so I clearly had time... and if I’d known about it I would definitely have enjoyed a short-lived Wes Craven sitcom with Jeffrey Jones, no matter how horrible or strange it was.
posted by miles per flower at 1:03 PM on September 21 [2 favorites]


The Arsenio Hall show started at the beginning of the year.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:04 PM on September 21 [2 favorites]


Oh god, how I loved Alien Nation. It was like one of my very, very favorite shows at the time.

It was also the second show I adored from Fox that was canceled stupidly soon. They took out my beloved Max Headroom the year before.
posted by teleri025 at 1:04 PM on September 21 [8 favorites]


Paint roller to the face, did it really happen? 258 responses, and the answer was:

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Which TV-show intro was this?!
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 1:04 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]


Ellen DeGeneres as "sassy man-hungry secretary Margo". Talk about your typecasting!
posted by briank at 1:10 PM on September 21 [6 favorites]


The paint roller thing kept me up at night. I found some weirdly obsessive Perfect Strangers fan site because of it. Rule 34.
posted by AFABulous at 1:14 PM on September 21 [2 favorites]


I never watched Alien Nation, but I remember it so vividly that I would have guessed it ran for at least three seasons. I'm genuinely shocked that it was cancelled so quickly. Teddy Z and Sister Kate are two of the duds that I certainly watched but remember only vaguely.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:14 PM on September 21


Pretty sure Max Headroom was ABC, telerio25. Definitely one of the 'big 3' networks, not Fox.
posted by oh yeah! at 1:18 PM on September 21 [4 favorites]


I used to have about 20 VHS tapes of original Simpsons episodes taped off tv, with the commercials. When I was at library school in the late '90s my housemate and I had a pad of paper in the living room where we started writing down the name of every Fox show we saw in a commercial on those tapes that had been cancelled by then. It wound up being a long, long list.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:37 PM on September 21


BOOKER'S A GOOD COP!
posted by Chrysostom at 1:40 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]


Doogie Howser, M.D. ran until 1993 and launched the career of everyone's favourite fictional space nazi telepath/creep bro/IRL awesome person Neil Patrick Harris

I dated a girl who was super into Dougie Howser; I'm thinking our relationship got picked up in the fall of 1990. I annoyed her every week because I would mock the end segment, where Dougie would write in his computer journal about what he had learned that week; he always paused and looked skyward before coming up with a final, pithy statement. I called it Dougie's Pause...for Reflection, and she hated it.

Our relationship got cancelled before the show did, which was no bad thing now that I pause to reflect on it.
posted by nubs at 1:45 PM on September 21 [4 favorites]


Great, now my eyes are bleeding.
posted by Catblack at 1:46 PM on September 21


That list was so just so so cringe worthy.
posted by shoesietart at 1:46 PM on September 21


a short-lived Wes Craven sitcom with Jeffrey Jones

Apparently Wes was only successful when working with fictional monsters.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:50 PM on September 21


I was just starting 3rd year university and we only got a few channels with an antenna and mostly just watched Kids In The Hall on CBC and went out and spent our food money on beer so I only remember a few of these.
I do remember watching Quantum Leap at my girlfriend's mom's house when I came home to visit. Every episode started with him in a new predicament! "Oh boy!"
posted by chococat at 2:08 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]


If you enjoy this "window to the pop culture past" thing you might enjoy the podcast Thirty Twenty Ten. Each week it looks back at pop culture that week 10, 20, and 30 years ago.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:11 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]


Alien Nation didn't last long as a series, but spawned several made-for-tv movies throughout the rest of the 90s that kept it from fading from public consciousness. I always thought of District 9 as a reboot-in-spirit.
posted by AndrewStephens at 2:20 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]


I liked Alien Nation! Plus Det. Sikes was played by the guy from Robot Jox.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:23 PM on September 21 [2 favorites]


I recall loving Alien Nation (although I thought that reruns (?) of V (1983) was better, which did get a reboot in 2009 with Morena Baccarin).
posted by porpoise at 2:42 PM on September 21 [2 favorites]


I liked Alien Nation! Plus Det. Sikes was played by the guy from Robot Jox.

Jeffrey Combs, who played Weyoun and several other characters on various Star Trek shows was also in Robot Jox.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 2:48 PM on September 21 [2 favorites]


Is this a safe space to admit I kept this issue of TV Guide for years and recognize all these pages? Quantum Leap was already on the air (started as a midseason replacement in the spring of 1989) and I was a mega-fan in the way only a junior high nerd girl can be.
posted by Flannery Culp at 2:53 PM on September 21 [7 favorites]


So Gary Graham from Alien Nation is just Peter Gallagher doing some meta acting thing where he's playing this "Gary Graham" guy who is playing Detective Sikes, right?
posted by jason_steakums at 3:27 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]


I remember Free Spirit. Started my life-long crush on Corinne Bohrer, that did.
posted by hanov3r at 3:37 PM on September 21


Whatever other mistakes I have made in life, at least I never had that terrible late-'80s/early-'90s swoopy white guy mullet parted down the middle.

Wish I could say the same!

I enjoyed a lot of these shows, which I would admit without shame if I hadn't just done the math only to discover that I was probably old enough to know better.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:04 PM on September 21


I was six years old in 1989.

Quantum Leap

I'm told my my tough-as-nails first grade teacher would end parent-teacher association meetings early so she could get back home in time to see Scott Bakula.

Rescue 911

My brother constantly watched this one, but I was always squicked out by the blood and real life peril. I vaguely recall the infamous Charles Stuart episode being a really big deal when it eventually aired.

Major Dad

Yeah. I watched this. I may have even given up on the later seasons of MacGyver to watch this. Six-year old me is another country.

Family Matters

I also watched this one until TGIF grew wildly popular in my cohort and "Urkel" became a schoolyard taunt.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:05 PM on September 21


I think I might've watched an episode or two of Quantum Leap, but that's about it. Other than COPS, of course. COPS was rather unavoidable for a while. Or BASTARDS as a friend liked to call it.
posted by philip-random at 4:33 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]


Nutt House opening credits.
posted by stevil at 4:49 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]


1989 gave us Quantum Leap? Well then 1989 is pretty

@#*)(@)#*(

*hits side of monitor while chomping on a cigar*

pretty great in my book.
posted by curious nu at 5:31 PM on September 21 [10 favorites]


Sister Kate tried to put the fun in orphanage. There isn't, so it was cancelled after 18 episodes.
Are they eager to be adopted? Well, when prospective parents come to check them out, Hilary wears a sign that says "Low Mileage" and Eugene's sign says "$500 Rebate."
I tell you, we laughed and laughed. Those kids are crazy!

More than once on the blue I have tried to convey how dizzying Twin Peaks was when it arrived in the spring of 1990. I want to submit this as exhibit A.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:54 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]


I found some weirdly obsessive Perfect Strangers fan site because of it. Rule 34.

Perfect Strangers porn?!
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:18 PM on September 21


Perfect Strangers porn?!

"Now we are so happy, we do the Dance of Joy!"
posted by jason_steakums at 9:06 PM on September 21 [4 favorites]


Is this a safe space to admit I kept this issue of TV Guide for years and recognize all these pages? Quantum Leap was already on the air (started as a midseason replacement in the spring of 1989) and I was a mega-fan in the way only a junior high nerd girl can be.

Definitely a safe space for that. My family didn't subscribe to TV Guide, but I bought the Fall TV Preview every year and read it cover-to-cover multiple times.

And as for junior high fandom, the image of Richard Grieco as Booker and young Jason Priestly on Sister Kate were so ingrained on my 14 year old baby gay soul that I could have closed my eyes and described them exactly without even clicking the links.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:16 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]


I still love Alien Nation and The Young Riders (c'mon! Anthony Zerbe was their crusty mentor!) and watch them whenever some channel picks them up. Glad the reviewer decided to keep their gob shut about Doogie Howser.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:16 PM on September 21


My sister and I would always buy the fall preview issue of the TV Guide the day it hit the newsstand and pore over it together cover to cover.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:19 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]


I was a big fan of Anything but Love. Great casting, sharp dialog. I was very unhappy when they got rid of Joseph Maher's Brian Allquist. Brian was nasty, cynical, and erudite: everything I ever wanted to be. I remember his arguing with someone on the phone about a theater review: "It was the absolute worst experience of my life, and I've been strafed by the Luftwaffe!"
posted by bryon at 9:30 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]


It's not getting much love here, so pipping up to say I have fond memories of Major Dad from its syndication days on USA. Haven't seen it since jr high, but remember aspiring to have Gunny's level of deadpan.
posted by Tentacle of Trust at 10:26 PM on September 21


Like many of my jr high aspirations it has gone unfulfilled.
posted by Tentacle of Trust at 11:09 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]


Perfect Strangers porn?!

So the name Balki is a possible romanization of the Korean 발기 (modern methods would probably write "balgi" though), which means erection.
posted by Literaryhero at 1:04 AM on September 22


Alien Nation got picked up by a Dutch tv channel and was one of the few science fiction show I watched with my father, usually not interested in that sort of stuff. (Star Trek: TNG I watched with my mother). I remember thinking it was pretty good, though it's probably horribly dated by now.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:30 AM on September 22


I'm in the middle of watching Quantum Leap for the first time. I'm pretty sure that I would not have liked it if I had watched it when I was a kid. But it's fun! They made Scott Bakula do all kinds of crazy, humiliating, and inappropriate stuff on that show. Dean Stockwell was a good counterpoint. He really did act like no one but Sam could see him, which was usually funny or awkward or both.

There have already been a bunch of episodes that were real standouts: good character work, poignant, or just jaw-on-the-floor weird. The Halloween episode has got to be one of the best Halloween episodes of all time. What a great twist! And MIA destroyed me. I was sitting there at the end of that episode feeling embarrassed that I was crying over Quantum Leap.

There's a certain feeling about the show that's hard to put my finger on, that I've only experienced from something like Buffy or X-Files. I think the people who made this show really understood what their fans liked about it, because a lot of episodes are surprisingly imaginative and feel like fanfiction. I'm enjoying it so much more than I thought I would.
posted by heatvision at 4:01 AM on September 22 [6 favorites]


Jeffrey Combs was in Robo Jox because it was directed Stuart Gordon, who also directed him in Re-
Animator
and From Beyond.
posted by beowulf573 at 5:49 AM on September 22 [1 favorite]


"The People Next Door was a Wes Craven sitcom..." excuse me? Even at only five episodes, I can't believe I've never heard of this.
posted by broken wheelchair at 8:03 AM on September 22 [1 favorite]


Based on the opening credits I would have loved The People Next Door (and probably still would). Looks like a bizarre mashup of 80's sitcom schmaltzy tropes and Terry Gilliam-esque surrealism. I thought the salad hand was genuinely unsettling, and I have to admit the family picture gag at the end got a chuckle out of me.
posted by treepour at 8:50 AM on September 22 [2 favorites]


Jesus, that looks like a combination of Too Many Cooks and Candle Cove.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:47 AM on September 22 [1 favorite]


This is a good enough place to ask: there was a sitcom where the main character's name was Jenny, and possibly the lead actor's as well. She was tall and blonde and I remember nothing else. It may have been earlier in the 1980s which is why my memory is shaky. Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

Could it have been Jennifer Slept Here with Ann Jillian?
posted by Biblio at 9:56 AM on September 22


heatvision, I would love to sit with you and watch Quantum Leap. I had such a Bakula crush.

Alien Nation was great, it was like a test run for the kind of thing Deep Space 9 would go on to do (and Babylon 5 maybe? I never got to watch that one!).

The rest of these are forgettable dreck of course. Poor Tom Wopat.
posted by emjaybee at 1:03 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]


Could it have been Jennifer Slept Here with Ann Jillian?

YES THANK YOU
posted by AFABulous at 1:08 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]


I remember it fondly for some reason but wow, it sounds awful.
posted by AFABulous at 1:10 PM on September 22


I thought there was a fairly recent FPP on Jennifer Slept Here, but I can't find it. I thought I learned about the show through Metafilter because it totally seems like something I'd learn about through Metafilter, but maybe it was elsewhere.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:14 PM on September 22


I don't think it was here, jason. The only thread that Ann Jillian is mentioned in is this unrelated one from 2012.
posted by AFABulous at 1:21 PM on September 22


It's kind of maddening being unable to figure out what put Jennifer Slept Here, of all shows, on your radar. As a weird awful cultural artifact it's very distinct but I can't seem to find any trail of breadcrumbs that brought me there, it's like I have post-alien-abduction missing time.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:47 PM on September 22 [2 favorites]


I'm sure there was an FPP in which "Jennifer Slept Here" was linked - I also watched the pilot sometime in the past few months, and I can't think of any other way I would have stumbled into it. (Surely in one of Zarq's megalink FPPs?)

I adored Quantum Leap. I haven't re-watched it recently, but I think it would mostly hold up. (Like, I think they did a better job with sexism than racism; their hearts were in the right place, but, I recall an episode where Sam was able to talk a KKK mob out of a lynching, and other such white savior wish fulfillments.) I was always sad about the finale though - in the first couple of seasons I used to joke with a friend about how when/if Sam and Al ever occupied the same space in time again, would he hug him or slug him first? But then we had that bummer of a finale, and while there were occasional rumors of a reboot/relaunch, nothing ever came of it. Then several years ago Bakula & Stockwell were guests at DragonCon, and seeing them onstage together sharing the same physical space, I got so happily teary-eyed, it was like I'd at last gotten the finale I'd wanted. So now I'm hesitant to watch it again, for fear of killing that buzz.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:37 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]


Alien Nation got picked up by a Dutch tv channel and was one of the few science fiction show I watched with my father, usually not interested in that sort of stuff. (Star Trek: TNG I watched with my mother). I remember thinking it was pretty good, though it's probably horribly dated by now.

I watched a handful of episodes recently, and I found it timelier than ever. Xenophobia and fear of immigrants is even more rampant than it was in the 1980's, and that was the real theme of the show.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:16 PM on September 23


AFABulous: "I turned 15 in 1989 and watched a lot of TV. I guess Doctor Doctor isn't on the list because it premiered in June of that year.It starred Matt Frewer and I remember it being excellent, although I was a teenager at the time, so YMMV."

Oh, I liked that too! I was a Matt Frewer fan, having liked Max Headroom so much. And the theme song was Good Lovin' by the Rascals! (I guess it might have been a cover, a la Bosom Buddies)
posted by Chrysostom at 9:31 PM on September 25 [2 favorites]


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