Continuing my celebration of my 100th blog by looking at famous production companies.
Carsey-Werner (sometimes Carsey-Warner-Mandbach) Productions was founded in 1981 by former ABC writer/producer duo Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner. Producer Caryn Mandabach was also an integral part of this company, acting as supervising producer for many of these shows. The company produced many ground breaking programs. Their first was a little program called:
The Cosby Show
Itâ€™s hard for people today to realize it, but this show saved sitcoms and revolutionized the way families were portrayed. This was one of the first time we got a show where the adults got the last word, not some wisecracking kid. Bill Cosby was Cliff Huxtable and Phylicia Rashad was his wife. We all know how the show worked, and I will have lots more to say about it in a future article. This show led to a spin-off show, which wasnâ€™t too bad. What can I possibly say about this show that hasnâ€™t been said a hundred times? I adored it from the moment I saw the pilot episode back in 1984. I literally grew up with this show, when it first came on I was in 4th grade and the year it ended was also the year I graduated from high school.
A Different World
This show was supposed to be the star vehicle for Lisa Bonet. It didnâ€™t work out that way. This show was only ok in season 1, but the next year when Lisa Bonet left and Debbie Allen came in (as producer), the show finally found its identity. As I talked about before the big drive with this show is the whole Dwayne and Whitley romance which carried through the series. This was more edgier, as Bill Cosby used the show to deal very honestly with issues including race and even AIDS.
When you think about it, if you combined Cosby and A Different World and shook them up, youâ€™d get Roseanne. Maybe not. Roseanne took The Cosby Show and went the other way. Rather than a successful, wealthy family we have a poor, struggling family. This family may have been one of the most realistic on TV at the time. They worked, struggled, lived in a sloppy house, and so on. This was a great show for most of its run, dealing with problems more realistically than Cosby did. Roseanne Arnold was the star of course, and the show included John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf. It was funny for awhile, but as the years went on the show got depressing. Then there was that last seasonâ€¦.Iâ€™m not talking about that again.
In the last 80â€™s CW programs held the top 3 slots in annual program rankingsâ€”an unprecedented featâ€”with The Cosby Show, Roseanne and A Different World.
Cybil Shepherd got her own show, and it wasnâ€™t too bad. She plays a twice-divorced single mother of two and struggling actress in her 40s, who has never gotten her big show business break. However, the claim to fame for this series was Christine Baranski who appeared as Cybilâ€™s hard-drinking friend Maryann.
Randy Quaid had his own comedy series. Really. He played an elementary school teacher raising three kids. What else? Add Jonathan Winters as the wacky father! This show tried to be a basic family comedy, but it just didnâ€™t work.
Grace Under Fire
Brett Butler is a train wreck, but I give her credit for trying. This show was pretty good, for a little while. Take Roseanne and make her single mother than you have this show. Grace was kind of funny, as she she was a divorced single mother and recovering alcoholic struggling to raise her two kids by herself because her deadbeat husband was out of the picture. The first few seasons were pretty good, but as Brett Butlerâ€™s problems got worst, and more publicized, the show deteriorated along with her.
3rd Rock From The Sun
Finally, lighthearted comedy with no social commentary! Kind of funny that the same company which gave us Cosby and Roseanne also gave us this. This may have been the only thing John Lithgow did that I liked, his over the top acting worked so well here. The premise was simple; four aliens come to Earth in human form. Thatâ€™s it, we watch as they try to figure out how humans work much like Alf, Mork & Mindy, and My Favorite Martian had done before. Lots of great moments in this series and the actors were funny too. Yeah, it may have been a year to long, but thatâ€™s ok. Dick was the high commander, Tommy the information officer, Sally was head of security, and Harry wasâ€¦.weird. Add in Jane Curtin as Mary and an assortment of quirky characters and you get a real funny show. By the way, yes I know Harry was the transmitter. It was through him they communicated with their boss, the Big Giant Head. I loved the final episode of this show; itâ€™s one of my favorites.
That 70â€™s Show
Well, here is the one show that they produced that I did not like. I just never got into it. Yes, I have seen one or two episodes. I just donâ€™t get it. It did have a decent cast, including Ashton Kutcher and Kurtwood Smith. I really donâ€™t have much to say about this show, except that it was on for quite awhile.
Bill Cosby starred in this show with Phylicia Rashad as his wifeâ€¦..wait, didnâ€™t we just talk about this show? No, of course this was the show he had on CBS in the 90â€™s. It was darker and grittier, and that is probably why I hated it. It wasnâ€™t a bad show, just not for me. I do appreciate this show for being the final thing the amazing Madeline Khan was in.
Carsey-Werner also did a number of not-so great shows such as Chicken Soup, Grand, That 80â€™s Show, Grounded For Life, Whoopi, The Tracy Morgan Show, Normal Ohio, and its final project was The Scholar.
They also did the animated God, the Devil, and Bob
which is not something I can fully explain here.
Come back tomorrow as we conclude out look at production companies.