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August 17, 2019 8:56 pm  #1


Instant Replay: Not So Famous Flops - The TV Shows You Never Saw

They were big names or big concepts. And they were brought to you by a breathless number of American networks, all sure that they had the exact formula that would get you to tune in. Everybody remembers the great series that have become classic shows, beloved in TV history.
 
No one – probably not even those who were in them – remembers the programs that follow. They came on in September as part of the annual Fall TV Season with great promise. Many of them disappeared so quickly, they're even hard to find on YouTube. But perhaps what’s really amazing is how often the failed ideas are recycled sometimes years and years later.
 
Here’s a look back at some famous flops, with an emphasis on stars (or those who would one day become big names) and the efforts they’d rather you didn’t remember.
 
Everything Old Is New Again
 
Think there’s nothing new on TV? You’re probably right. Take a look at these failed flops that seemed to have been recycled in one way or another, years later.
 
The New People ABC, 1969
 
Let’s see, a plane filled with a cast of attractive young people has no hope of rescue and decides to start a society of their own. That was the premise of “The New People,” an ABC show that tried to tap into the counterculture of the era. It was a weird anomaly because the entire thing only lasted 45 minutes instead of the usual hour. But if it sounds familiar, it’s because the same network had a much bigger hit on its hands in 2004. Its name? “Lost.”
 
https://i.ibb.co/Lkbkhtv/Flop-The-New-People-1969.jpg

See it on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bXYM-bHSwg
 
The Oldest Rookie, CBS, 1987
 
An older guy with lots of experience decides his job isn’t fulfilling anymore, so he gives it all up to become a rookie police officer. If this sounds like a show that’s currently on ABC starring Nathan Fillion, that’s because it is. But it was also another show decades earlier featuring Paul Sorvino.
 
https://i.ibb.co/S0jshmk/Flops-The-Oldest-Rookie-1987.jpg

https://i.ibb.co/RHGCxBV/Flops-The-Oldest-Rookie-Ad-1987.jpg

See it on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8iFUrQ_Nwc
 
The Invisible Man, NBC, 1975
The Gemini Man, NBC, 1976
 
Former Man From U.N.C.L.E. David McCallum was seen – er, not seen – as the star of this show about a guy who wasn’t always there. In a rare case of a flop inspiring another flop, a year after its cancellation, it was back in a new form – another stinker with a nearly identical premise on the exact same network!
 
https://i.ibb.co/4s5qVff/Flop-The-Invisible-Man-1975.jpg

https://i.ibb.co/ryyhkF6/Flop-Gemini-Man-1976.jpg

 
See the Invisible Man (well sort of!) on YouTube 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjTMwvmaFG8
See The Gemini Man on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEnMsWpkz1U
 
Katts & Dogs, CTV, 1988
 
Police vet pairs up with a K-9 partner and they help each other solve crimes, one with his keen cop instinct and the other with his nose. I’ll leave you to figure out which one is which. Fast forward to 2019, and City TV has its own show called “Hudson & Rex,” a police show featuring a detective and his dog. Three guesses what it might remind you of.
 
https://i.ibb.co/FV828MF/Flops-Katts-And-Dog-CTV-1988.jpg

See it on YouTube
https://youtu.be/Mx1G86brzeg
 
Rafferty, CBS, 1977
 
A brilliant doctor saves lives but can’t seem to get along with anybody because he hates them all. Sound like the long running Fox series House starring Brit Hugh Laurie? Actually, this physician was prescribing regular viewing on CBS. And like the later show, it also featured a big time Brit in the lead role – former Secret Agent Man-turned-Prisoner Patrick McGoohan. While the good (or bad) doc rarely lost a patient, audiences didn’t have patience and this practice was quickly cancelled.
 
Perhaps the surgeon went on to hang out with the San Pedro Beach Bums, another huge flop that same year.
 
https://i.ibb.co/b7VrzMR/Flops-Rafferty-San-Pedro-Beach-Bums-1977.jpg

https://i.ibb.co/m0mmn8g/Flops-Rafferty-Ad-1977.jpg

See Rafferty on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyYcIgaOeqY
 
See San Pedro Beach Bums on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0SgXjF3G6g
 
 
Everything New Is Old Again
 
Earth Force, CBS, 1990
 
Some shows come along a bit too early. Consider a weekly that concentrates on caring for the environment, and putting together a special task force to try and protect the earth. It might make it big in 2019. It didn’t clean up in 1990. Outside of Gil Gerrard, it featured a no-name cast. But you have to wonder if, with climate change front and centre now, it would succeed today.
 
https://i.ibb.co/WDsM9YS/Flops-Earth-Force-1990.jpg

 
See Earth Force on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2POaVP708Y
 
Search, NBC, 1972
 
Talk about a show ahead of its time. It’s the early 70s and the heroes here have computerized implants that allows them to be tracked using mini-TV cameras. Must have seemed far-fetched then. Today, we just call it Tuesday.
 
https://i.ibb.co/9nR0W9N/Flop-Search-1972.jpg

See Search on YouTube
https://youtu.be/Axb1EiJdbCg
 
 
Before They Were Stars
 
Everybody starts somewhere. Which is why it won’t surprise you that some of the biggest names in TV and film began their careers in shows they’d probably prefer you didn’t remember. Here are some big names who didn’t exactly earn big credits in shows that didn’t make it the first time around.
 
Misfits Of Science, NBC, 1985
The Trouble With Larry, CBS, 1993
 
The “Misfits Of Science,” a would-be sci-fi hit, was an experiment that failed. And “The Trouble With Larry” is that no one wanted to watch his show in the early 90s. The former featured a very young actress who had gotten her big break dancing in the dark in a Bruce Springsteen video the year before. She flopped again eight years later.
 
But this actress would not be denied. She wound up one of the stars of a huge TV hit just a year after she said goodbye to Larry. With a little help from her “Friends.” Her name: Courteney Cox.
 
https://i.ibb.co/1m469Dz/Flops-Misfits-Of-Science-CC-1985.jpg

https://i.ibb.co/ZTgg2XZ/Flops-Trouble-With-Larry-Cox-1993.jpg

 
See Misfits of Science on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVf4RIH5Gkw
 
See The Trouble With Larry on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQ1S1HJ4kRM


TV 101, CBS, 1988
 
Courteney Cox wasn’t the only Friend who owed her future fortune to a pink slip. The case of the long forgotten “TV 101” featured a very young actor who was about to become a household name. If you’d asked him after its cancellation, “How you doin?” the star-to-be then known as Matthew LeBlanc might have said not great. But with a million-dollar-an-episode payday in his future, he wouldn’t be saying it for long.
 
https://i.ibb.co/Ct66Lnn/Flops-TV-101-Le-Blanc-1988.jpg
 
 
See TV 101 on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsqHg45l1U8
 
 
Against The Grain, NBC, 1993
 
If you were a fan of “Friday Night Lights,” this show might have been a touchdown. Instead, this football game was called on account of too few viewers. Still, this “Grain” yielded at least one big crop, with a guy who would go on to win two Oscars, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and three Golden Globes. And Ben Affleck isn’t done yet.
 
https://i.ibb.co/JBSCTRN/Flops-Against-The-Grain-Affleck-1993.jpg

See Against The Grain on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afqGtTxlUPY
 
 
The Interns, CBS, 1970
 
At least we now know where B.J. Hunnicut cut his medical teeth. It was as a harried fresh-faced resident under the tutelage of veteran actor Broderick Crawford. Mike Farrell didn’t get far as an intern. But just five years later he would go on to become a surgin’ surgeon and best pal to Hawkeye Pierce on the classic “M*A*S*H.”
 
https://i.ibb.co/yh8xnRF/Flops-The-Interns-1970.jpg

See The Interns on YouTube
https://youtu.be/MvqNHkRn9jQ
 
Everything’s Relative, CBS, 1987
 
It was a show about something – but apparently not enough about anything to keep it on the air. And yada, yada, yada, its lack of success thankfully freed up one of its stars to go to work at Vandelay Industries two years later, an organization also known as “Seinfeld.” George Costanza might have complained. But this show’s early cancellation was likely the best thing that ever happened to Jason Alexander. Except maybe that full head of hair.
 
https://i.ibb.co/hMMJB7H/Flops-Everything-s-Relative-J-Alexander-1987.jpg

See Everything’s Relative on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hmMI5u5_e4
 
E/R, CBS, 1984
 
This is a rare instance of a famous flop intertwined with an almost unbelievable coincidence. In 1984, Elliott Gould fronted a medical comedy that took place in an emergency room. It wasn’t long before it was put on life support and this TV patient died. But the thing that really stands out is that one of the bit players in this long forgotten program was an unknown named George Clooney.
 
Exactly 10 years later, NBC would also air a far more successful show with the same title. ER ran for 15 years and made a star of one of its key players – the exact same George Clooney.
 
https://i.ibb.co/PWtJyc5/ER-US-1984.jpg

See E/R. on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BL5mmdZFrlI
 
The Texas Wheelers, ABC, 1974
 
This is not only one of my favourite examples in this category, it was one of my favourite shows. It didn’t last long, but how could you hate a subtle comedy whose theme song was a John Prine tune called “Illegal Smile” – a ditty about smoking marijuana? And this was in 1974!
 
Jack Elam was a veteran of westerns when he signed on to play the father of an impoverished family in this show. But it was two of his “sons” that would go on to make big impressions in Hollywood. Gary Busey didn’t have the healthiest lifestyle in later years. But here he’s a fresh faced kid and you can already see stardom written all over him.
 
But it was another actor who would be lauded and applauded by generations of sci fi fans in the coming years. It seems Luke Skywalker didn’t start life on Tatooine, but instead deep in the heart of Texas. And Mark Hamill’s character’s name seemed to align itself with the aforementioned theme song. He played a kid known as “Doobie.”
 
https://i.ibb.co/BPZ04Rz/Flop-The-Texas-Wheelers-TV-Guide-Fall-Preview-Sept-1974.jpg

See The Texas Wheelers on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvIG_unpLHE
 
Next week: More fatal flops featuring stars that should have known better and a look at the rare TV shows about radio.

 

August 17, 2019 9:42 pm  #2


Re: Instant Replay: Not So Famous Flops - The TV Shows You Never Saw

oh don't forget about the ABC juggernaut called cop rock.  considered one of the worst shows of the 90s.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cop_Rock

they use the phrase "let's be careful out there", a nod to hill street blues.  HSB originally used the sgt's phrase "let's do it to them before they do it to us" until it was deemed too aggressive for tv and changed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLm5Sn1cMyQ

gawd i'm old

Last edited by splunge (August 17, 2019 9:43 pm)

 

August 17, 2019 9:49 pm  #3


Re: Instant Replay: Not So Famous Flops - The TV Shows You Never Saw

As Mary Wells used to say: You beat me to the punch!

Cop Rock is in next week's installment, but it remains one of the biggest flops in TV history, if only because it was made by uber-successful genius Steven Bochco.

As for Hill Street Blues, one of the best cop shows ever, here is its Fall Preview entry from 1980.

https://i.ibb.co/0fF19zD/Fall-Preview-Hill-St-Blues-1980.jpg


Not sure how many people know this, but the two main cops - Hill and Renko - were gunned down in the pilot by a junkie in an apartment building they were investigating and were supposed to have been killed. But they tested so well and were such a great pair, it was decided they were only "wounded" and brought back alive when the show went to series. 

     Thread Starter
 

August 17, 2019 11:18 pm  #4


Re: Instant Replay: Not So Famous Flops - The TV Shows You Never Saw

lol sorry to steal your thunder RA!  Guilty as charged.

 

August 18, 2019 2:02 am  #5


Re: Instant Replay: Not So Famous Flops - The TV Shows You Never Saw

Here's a show that despite critical acclaim only lasted one season. I loved it. Anyone remember this program which starred Bruce Greenwood? It was called "Nowhere Man."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nowhere_Man_(TV_series)

Last edited by Dale Patterson (August 18, 2019 2:03 am)


"The radio craze ... will soon fade." - Thomas Edison, 1922
 

August 18, 2019 3:56 am  #6


Re: Instant Replay: Not So Famous Flops - The TV Shows You Never Saw

Remember You can't do that on television? 
A reboot is possible but
"In August 2017, it was announced that You Can't Do That on Television would be getting a reboot. Original creator Roger Price would be serving as executive producer, while Jimmy Fox of Main Event Media would be developing the project.[8] As of 2019, the reboot has yet to find a buyer."

Source: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Can%27t_Do_That_on_Television
 

Last edited by Radiowiz (August 18, 2019 3:57 am)

 

August 18, 2019 8:03 am  #7


Re: Instant Replay: Not So Famous Flops - The TV Shows You Never Saw

Dale Patterson wrote:

Here's a show that despite critical acclaim only lasted one season. I loved it. Anyone remember this program which starred Bruce Greenwood? It was called "Nowhere Man."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nowhere_Man_(TV_series)

I barely remember this show, but it reminds of a 2002 Fox show called "John Doe," in which Prison Break's Dominic Purcell plays a guy who suddenly wakes up in the middle of nowhere with no idea who he is or how he got there. That's the only thing he doesn't know. Otherwise he appears to have the sum of all human knowledge at his fingertips.

Interesting concept but the thing didn't last and as all too often happens, it ended with a cliffhanger that never got resolved - his best friend wound up being his biggest enemy. It still bugs me to this day that we don't know what happened afterwards. 

As far as Nowhere Man is concerned, it didn't last either, but at least it appears they wrapped up the storyline. All the episodes are on YouTube if you want to revisit it. 

https://i.ibb.co/NCt2CjJ/Flops-Nowhere-Man-1995.jpg


By the way, as I look over the Fall Preview Issue in question, it appears 1995 was a disastrous year for TV. Outside of The Drew Carey Show, JAG, Caroline in the City and perhaps Ned & Stacey, there wasn't a single program out of the 32 or so introduced that September that lasted more than a season. And trust me, you haven't heard of any of them. Surely one of the worst showings in network TV history! 

     Thread Starter
 

August 18, 2019 12:43 pm  #8


Re: Instant Replay: Not So Famous Flops - The TV Shows You Never Saw

Quality post, RA. I have fond memories of Misfits of Science.

 

August 18, 2019 7:52 pm  #9


Re: Instant Replay: Not So Famous Flops - The TV Shows You Never Saw

The New People sounds a lot like Lost.

 

August 19, 2019 5:38 am  #10


Re: Instant Replay: Not So Famous Flops - The TV Shows You Never Saw

Most of these shows didn't last because of powerful competition from the other networks. The New People was done in by Gunsmoke/Here's Lucy and Laugh-In. The Oldest Rookie-Perfect Strangers/Highway To Heaven. The Invisible Man-Rhoda/Phvllis. Gemini Man-Waltons/Kotter/Barney Miller. Rafferty-Colombo/Monday Night Football. San Pedro Beach Bums-Little House On The Prairie. Earth Force-Golden Girls/China Beach. Search-Cannon. Misfits Of Science-Dallas. TV101-Growing Pains/Head Of The Class/Unsolved Mysteries. The Interns-Brady Bunch/High Chaparral. ER-A-Team/Who's The Boss. Texas Wheelers-Rockford Files/CBS Movie.

 

August 19, 2019 8:03 am  #11


Re: Instant Replay: Not So Famous Flops - The TV Shows You Never Saw

You are correct. In thinking about it, competition and to a lesser extent lead-ins, made a big difference in those pre-VCR/streaming days. It's not quite so much the case now, when networks base their decisions less on live viewing and more on how many watched a show within 3 days to a week of its actual broadcast. 

Things are also a lot more complicated these days based on where the show comes from. Decisions on whether to renew a show or not is now often as contingent on who produces it. ABC is more likely to greenlight or renew a show if it comes from a company ABC owns. It's an unfortunate trend, but it's undeniable. 

That said, you have to admit that a lot of the shows highlighted in this thread were pretty awful to begin with and never really had a chance. But there's little question that times have certainly changed since these Fall Preview issues came out - including the fact there's no more TV Guide in Canada and thus no Fall Preview issues left.   

     Thread Starter
 

August 21, 2019 1:08 pm  #12


Re: Instant Replay: Not So Famous Flops - The TV Shows You Never Saw

RadioActive wrote:

By the way, as I look over the Fall Preview Issue in question, it appears 1995 was a disastrous year for TV. Outside of The Drew Carey Show, JAG, Caroline in the City and perhaps Ned & Stacey, there wasn't a single program out of the 32 or so introduced that September that lasted more than a season. And trust me, you haven't heard of any of them. Surely one of the worst showings in network TV history!

I distinctly remember catching Fox's MADtv (airing Fridays on Global/Saturdays on Fox) due to Starweek's mention of the show in its fall preview. It pulled a respectable fourteen seasons, plus that abortive CW revival. How many of those MADtv seasons are good is a subjective issue, but it was new in 1995 and lasted far longer than I expected it to at the time.

Last edited by gloryosky (August 21, 2019 1:09 pm)