In the 80’s and 90’s, NBC Must See TV was king! If you were watching TV on Thursday night, chances are you were probably watching NBC.Unless you were over 60 than you would be watching CBS. Just kidding…anyways,the shows that aired are classics, Cheers, Cosby Show, Seinfeld, Friends, and so on.
Well, not all the shows are classics. There was a dark side to Must See TV, in that the show had to be really special to make an impact.Some shows struggled for a season or two before being moved to a different timeslot and quietly fading away. Anyone remember The Single Guy, Caroline in the City, or Veronicaâ€™s Closet? Others were just bombs, gone so fast many don’t even remember them. How could a show fail in that time slot? Well, let’s take a look at a few that did.
Grand-This one is cheating because it did manage to get a full season of episodes out. But it sure didn’t rise to the popularity of the show it was after, Cheers. Actually the post Cheers spot was a tough one.Night Court worked well there, but Wings and Dear John did not. Seinfeld was the show that really took off at that time slot. Grand was like Soap from the 70’s, a soap opera parody which satirized rich people and their quirky ways.
Rhythm and Blues-Now this was just a horrible show. The premise was simple; an all black radio station gets a new D.J. The hook? The new D.J.is white! Yeah not only was this full of stereotypes but the show was based on one joke. You can’t sustain a whole series when every episode has basically the same gag.
Out All Night-Yawn! That’s what I think of when I remember this show. Patti LaBelle was the owner of a nightclub and the show was about the quirky employees. Boring. Every episode ended with a musical number from some celebrity of the week, and usually the story was rushed to get to that number. A sitcom is not a variety show; you can’t rush the story in favor of a celebrity singer. They even did a crossover with Fresh Prince of Bel Air and even that didn’t help this series.
Madman of the People-How do you premiere in 1994, after Friends and Seinfeld and as the lead in to ER, and still suck? This show found a way! Dabney Coleman starred in this vehicle as an outspoken newspaper columnist. The premise of the show is that Coleman’s daughter is brought in to help her father be more contemporary. This show just didn’t know what it wanted to be, and it sure wasn’t funny. This was the first show to demonstrate how tough the post Seinfeld or Friends slot was. It didn’t to that bad in theratings, but if you’re the show airing after Seinfeld you need to be better than that.
Union Square-Hey, what if we took all the Central Perk scenes from Friends and make a show about that? Dear lord did this show suck! I really have no idea what they were thinking with this one. It was basically about a group of friends who hang around a union square cafe in Manhattan. Â This as a true Friends clone, the main character was just like Rachel and the show even copied jokes right from Friends. The problem I had with this show is that while Seinfeld and Friends atleast felt like it could be in the real world. Union Square clearly was not. It was so fake that it was a turn off, which is what most people did. Turned itoff.
Battery Park-Elizabeth Perkins starred in this cop show which barely lasted a month. Don’t have much to say about this one.
Stark Raving Mad-I actually didn’t hate this show. Tony Shaloub was an eccentric horror novelist obsessed with practical jokes. Neil PatrickHarris is his editor who has all kinds of phobias and is a hypochondriac. The problem was that the premise didn’t really go too much further than that, and while the characters were strong the stories were not.
Inside Schwartz-There are failures, and then there are FAILURES. This was a stupid idea which never should have been green lit. What was it about? A guy named Adam Schwartz goes on dates, and imaginary sportscasters comment on it. Yeah that’s about it. This was supposed to be a long lasting series? The show featured other sports cameos but it was just dumb and if you weren’t into spots than the cameos were meaningless.
Cursed-What a fitting title for this show! If youâ€™re goingto create a premise..think it out! Steve Weber played a man who gets cursed in the pilot, and the series was supposed to be about what happened next. But the gag fell flat and audiences were not interested. The cursed stuff was forgotten and the show renamed The Steve Weber Show. It still didn’t work.
Leap of Faith-This show was about….you know, I have noidea. I have no memory of it. It premiered after Friends in 2002 and lastedthree episodes. It was yet another Friends rip off. Why do executives do that?Just because a format works once doesn’t mean it will work over and over.
Coupling-What’s worse than a bad rip off of Friends? How about a bad rip off of an English series which is a bad rip off of Friends?Yeah this was based on a British series which was critically acclaimed. This was not and disappeared fast. The show seemed more about the risquÃ© stuff and less about being funny.
For some reason NBC just couldnâ€™t understand that no matter how popular their Thursday night line up was, you couldnâ€™t just throw anything on there. People still wanted quality and if they didnâ€™t get they werenâ€™t afraid to change the channel. Eventually they did get that and the network started stacking the deck so to speak by putting proven shows like Will & Grace, Just Shoot Me, Frasier, and Scrubs on the schedule. There is just one last series I had to mention:
Joey-Yeah this one really hurt. True It doesn’t really count because it did manage a second season, but how could I not mention this? The spin-off of Friends was supposed to keep NBC Thursday running, instead it was the final nail in the coffin that killed it! The show was terrible, making Joeyinto a jerk and losing everything we liked about the character.
I still miss Must See TV, it was a fascinating experience, and I am just glad that I still have many of these shows on my videotapes. I still like to pop them in every so often and get that nostalgic tear in my eye.