Monday, April 21, 2008

Shows With Many Lives

I posted about the show Stingray on the other blog, but one thing I wanted to add here is that it's an example of a show that went through multiple lives. There are some shows that are never really popular, yet they always seem like they're on the verge of being a big hit, so people keep trying to bring them back. (I think Family Guy was the first show to really become a big hit after going through multiple comebacks like that. That or Charles in Charge.) In the case of Stingray the chronology is:

- Stephen J. Cannell produced a two-hour pilot for NBC. NBC declined to pick up the show (either because they didn't like the pilot or they couldn't agree with Cannell on what the series should be like).

- When NBC burned off the pilot as a two-hour movie special, which was often done with double-length pilots in those days, the ratings were unexpectedly huge. (This, by the way, was one of the reasons why TV producers in the '80s liked to do two-hour pilots: it increased the chances of getting the pilot "burned off" in a decent time slot, and thereby increased the chances that it might catch on after all.)

- The show was picked up for 13 episodes with Lawrence Hertzog as showrunner. Production moved to Canada, making it one of the first U.S. shows to film in Vancouver.

- The show didn't do nearly as well as a mid-season replacement as it had in the two-hour pilot form, and NBC didn't renew it for the fall season. But it was brought back the following mid-season with a combination of episodes from the first 13 and some newly-produced episodes, this time with Frank Lupo (co-creator of The A-Team, Hunter and Wiseguy) as the showrunner. Then the show was finally officially cancelled by NBC.

- But the show did well enough in some markets (probably overseas markets) and had enough of a cult following that in the early '90s Cannell decided to revive it for first-run syndication. But the star, Nick Mancuso, committed to another show and the project fell through. But...

- Cannell, ever willing to turn out inexpensive imitations of any show including his own, filled the spot planned for the new Stingray by coming up with Cobra, a bad series that not only used a similar premise to Stingray but sometimes recycled footage from that series to save money.

So that's a show with nearly 10 years of comebacks or attempted comebacks. It makes Charles in Charge look positively stable.

What are some other shows you could think of that just would not stay down, no matter how many times they were canceled?


Anonymous said...

What's Happening?
Brady Bunch

Anonymous said...

Didn't Airwolf also get one of those weird syndication revivals with a whole new cast playing essentially the same characters?

Anonymous said...


Great post. I didn't realize that NBC had originally turned down the show until the pilot did well.

I remember seeing Mancuso and the cast from "Wild Palms" on some talk show in the early 90s (Jenny Jones? Sally Jessy?) and someone in the audience asked him about Stingray and he said he was thinking about doing it again. Too bad it didn't work out and he went on to "Matrix" instead.

J. John Aquino said...

It's a Living is the most memorable example of this. I think it went through three or four different incarnations (for one season, it was retitled Making a Living). The Naked Truth was like that too, and that TV version of 9 to 5 just couldn't seem to die either. I wonder why the predominantly female workplace sitcom is the Agent Gromek of TV shows.

Anonymous said...

'Saved by the Bell' had the new class, and a few weeks before April Fools Day one year, the producers announced they were going to do a third version. Then, on April Fools Day, they announced that the announced of a few weeks back was an April Fools joke. That way: everyone was confused. Was the original announcement a premature April Fools Joke? Or was the announcement that the original announcement was an April Fools Joke an April Fools Joke? Turned out it was the former. Still: Genius.

Also: Degrassi. That has had about seventy thousand different versions.

And a show that only Australians will know about: Full Frontal. Started out as Fast Forward, continued on as Totally Full Frontal.