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This Week’s Entry: TV Series Cancelled After One Episode
What It’s About: While television history is littered with great short-lived shows that were cancelled before their time — Police Squad!, Freaks and Geeks, and of course, Firefly being some of the classic examples — some shows were simply so bad, the networks canned them after airing only one episode.
Strangest Fact: Eagles guitarist Glenn Frey was very, very briefly a TV detective. In 1993, Frey starred in South of Sunset, about a Beverly Hills gumshoe, with future MAD TV fixture Aries Spears as his sidekick. However, the show’s natural audience never got a chance to see the show, as news of wildfires in Malibu pre-empted the show’s first episode in Southern California and most of the West Coast. By the time the smoke cleared, CBS decided it had had a long day and hated the fucking Eagles, man, and the show was cancelled, although the remaining four episodes that were shot were later burned off on VH1.
Controversy: In 1990, new UK satellite channel Galaxy aired a sitcom called Heil Honey I’m Home, spoofing 1950s sitcoms (it in fact claimed to be a ‘lost’ show from the ‘50s). It what was described as “perhaps the world’s most tasteless situation comedy,” the show featured Hitler and Eva Braun living in suburbia and trying to murder their Jewish next-door neighbors. Shockingly, it was cancelled after one episode, and the Galaxy network folded later that year, which is probably for the best.
Thing We Were Happiest To Learn: Sometimes a one-episode show can still have a legacy. At NYPD Blue’s peak, creator Steven Bochco followed up one of his legendary great ideas with one of his legendary terrible ideas, a sitcom about a NYC vice squad called Public Morals. It starred cop-show fixture Stuart Gharty (who later went on to recurring roles on Homicide, The Wire, Brotherhood, Life On Mars, Blue Bloods, Prime Suspect, The Good Wife, and four different Laws & Order). The show also included NYPD Blue’s Bill Brochtrup, playing the same role on the sitcom he had on the gritty drama. Although thirteen episodes were filmed, affiliates complained the pilot was too vulgar, so a different episode was aired, and even then some local stations didn’t show it. The show was widely panned by critics, it was immediately cancelled, but there was one survivor of the debacle; Brochtrup was shuttled back to Blue, where he remained in a recurring role for the remainder of that show’s run.
Thing We Were Unhappiest To Learn: America had to suffer through more of the Brady Bunch variety show than we realized. Ill-conceived The Brady Bunch Hour is famous for having been cancelled before its first episode finished airing, but that’s a common misconception. In fact, it ran for eight terrible weeks. There was, however, an Australian show that didn’t last a full hour. Australia’s Naughtiest Home Videos was a spin-off of Australia’s Funniest Home Videos. The owner of the network happened to be watching, and was so offended, he called his own station and demanded “Get that shit off the air!” The station came back from the commercial break with a rerun of Cheers, claiming technical difficulties.
Also noteworthy: One of the earliest one-off failures was You’re In the Picture, a game show in which celebrity guests would stick their head through a hole in a picture, then have to guess what sort of scene they were completing, with the help of clues from host Jackie Gleason. The premiere episode was trashed by critics, and the following week, Gleason appeared on a bare stage, and spent a full half-hour apologizing for the previous week’s effort, blaming “the intangibles of show business,” but admitting the show was “the biggest bomb in history,” although in fairness, network TV was only thirteen years old at the time. Gleason waxed rhapsodic about other flops he had been involved with, and the apology episode was much better-received than the show itself. By nearly everyone, anyway. Sponsor Kellogg’s objected to a gag in which Gleason claimed his coffee was in fact “Chock Full O’Booze” and dropped out. But Gleason was back the following week with a new sponsor, on was was now a talk show called The Jackie Gleason Show, which filled out the rest of the year.
Best link to elsewhere on Wikipedia: Naturally, there’s a List of TV Series Cancelled Before Airing an Episode, and for those unclear on the concept, Television Program.
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