Thursday, April 26, 2007

Speaking of the Late '90s

I see that Sabrina the Teenage Witch Season 2 is getting released. As I've said before, this show was never again as good as it was in the first season, when Nell Scovell was running it. She left or was pushed out, several cast members were dropped by the new producers (including Paul "Freaks and Geeks" Feig), and it just wasn't quite the same. But it was still entertaining in the second season, and certainly it remained one of the more entertaining entries in the very difficult genre of fantasy-comedy.

How difficult it is to do fantasy-comedy was proved that very season (1997-8) when ABC made a decision that may have killed off its Friday night TGIF lineup: delighted with the success of Sabrina, they ordered two more shows that were fantasy-comedies in the exact same style. You Wish was from the underrated Michael Jacobs (creator of the underrated Boy Meets World), about a genie working for a single mom and her kids. And Teen Angel was from The Simpsons' Al Jean and Mike Reiss, about a kid who dies from eating a spoiled hamburger but comes back as the guardian angel of his geeky friend, who lives with his... yes, you guessed it... single mom. (Hilda and Zelda were so popular on Sabrina that the network apparently figured that people primarily wanted to see kids without father figures.) These producers weren't particularly happy to be doing this kind of material; Jean and Reiss admitted that they pitched Teen Angel only because ABC/Disney wouldn't take any of their other sitcom ideas. But the glut of wisecracking fantasy-comedies, of Sabrina followed by two inferior imitations, not only weakened Sabrina but weakened the once-mighty ABC family-friendly lineup.


Andrew Leal said...

The most bizarre but telling aspect of both "You Wish" and "Teen Angel." In attempts to raise the ratings, both did some retooling, and both apparently decided one vital ingredient was missing: Jerry Van Dyke as a grandfather! "You Wish" added him as the genie's magical grandfather, then when that show was canned, "Teen Angel" was retooled, suddenly replacing the single mom with a single dad, and adding Jerry as a non-magical grandpa.

And yes, it's sad that I know enough about the shows (or at least their opening scenes and titles, which made such changes obvious) to remember this. It just struck me as incredibly odd. I keep expecting that if another fantasy sitcom comes down the pike, it will be contractually obligated to add Jerry Van Dyke if ratings drop one iota.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Maureen McCormick play the mom on Teen Angel? If I remember correctly, she was pretty darned hot on that show. Also, I seem to recall that show being not terrible. Not great, but not terrible either.

Anonymous said...

I loved Teen Angel, but not You Wish. Remember that four show crossover with Boy Meets World?