Tag: Television

Saved by the Bell

Saved by the Bell

On July 11, 1987, a prime-time special entitled Good Morning, Miss Bliss aired on NBC. Soon after, it became a series on the Disney Channel, starring The Parent Trap’s Hayley Mills as the teacher, Miss Bliss. Among her students were a young Zack, Screech, and Lisa. Their principal was Mr. Belding, who could switch from best pal to stern disciplinarian at a moment’s notice.

The show moved to NBC in 1989, soon to become the network’s first live-action hit since Land of the Lost in 1977. Playing with the big boys now, the show got rid of its title character as well as its title. Now known as Saved by the Bell, the new show featured Zack, the “preppie” stud, Screech, the nerd, and Lisa, the aspiring dress designer, as well as their new friends Slater, the handsome jock, Kelly, the boys’ object of desire, and Jessie, the intelligent girl (who was just as pretty and well-dressed as the other two girls, but no one seemed to notice). Continue reading “Saved by the Bell”

American Gladiators

American Gladiators

TV was never really fair to jocks. If you were a nerd, there were any number of game shows you could try out for, but if you were a muscle bound fitness guru, your game show pickings were slim. But a little program called American Gladiators set out to right that wrong, taking revenge back from the nerds and putting it back in the brawny hands of workout kings and queens. Once more, might made right, and the rest of us got to sit back and watch the mayhem unfold on syndicated television.

The hour-long spectacle pitted four contestants (two he-men, two she-women) against a lineup of menacing Gladiators with names like Nitro, Zap, Gemini, Ice, Lace and Laser. The contestants were actually competing against each other (man vs. man, woman vs. woman), trying to outscore each other in a variety of events. The Gladiators were just there to make sure everybody scored as few points as possible. Continue reading “American Gladiators”

Eerie Indiana

Eerie Indiana

This ultra-quirky sitcom was notable for any reasons. Not only did it place the family sitcom in a unique setting and situation, its sophisticated handling of its paranormal elements also paved the way for later non-sitcom shows like The X-Files and Roswell.

The show focused on Marshall Teller, a young man who felt quite homesick when his inventor father, Edgar, uprooted the family from their New Jersey home and moved them to Eerie, a small town in Indiana. Also along for the ride were Marilyn, Marshall’s mom, and Syndi, his narcissistic older sister. Marshall’s post-move depression quickly gave way to bemusement when he took stock of his new surroundings. Continue reading “Eerie Indiana”

Tales of the Gold Monkey

Tales of the Gold Monkey

Like any true success, Raiders of the Lost Ark was frequently imitated.Tales of the Gold Monkey was frequently lumped in with the ‘Raiders’ clones but it had actually been dreamt up by creator Donald Bellisario two years before Spielberg’s film came out. It was initially rejected by network executives, who thought no one would care for a show set in the 1930’s. However, Tales was quickly snapped up by ABC once Raiders of the Lost Ark proved audiences would respond to a period adventure.

The show was set on the fictional Pacific island of Boragora in 1938. The protagonist was Jake Cutter, a dashing cargo pilot who provided the only inter-island transportation via his plan,e the Grumman Goose. Cutter’s best friends were Corky, his often-drunk mechanic, and Jack, a one-eyed terrier who could communicate with his owner (one bark for ‘no’, two for ‘yes’).  Continue reading “Tales of the Gold Monkey”

Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo

Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo

Boasting both big-rig trucks and a chimpanzee co-star, B.J. and the Bear was an immediate hit on NBC’s late 70’s lineup, also making a star out of its charming-but-corrupt villain, Sheriff Elroy P. Lobo. NBC capitalized on this character’s popularity by almost immediately spinning him off into his own one-hour comedy/adventure series in the fall of 1979.

In The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, the title character was placed in the unique position of becoming an unintentional hero. He would conspire to make money in some illicit fashion and inevitably end up stumbling onto some serious criminal activity in the process. Since the nature of his job was to uphold the law, he’d find himself forced to bring the criminals to justice, thus missing out on his chance at ill-gotten gains.

Lobo’s two deputies, the dim-witted Perkins and smarter-but-still-naïve Birdie, were just thick enough to believe that the sheriff was strictly on the up-and-up. The show also introduced a sister for Lobo in Rose, who also was married to Perkins. Rounding out the original cast of characters were Sarah, a motel owner who dated Birdie, and Margaret Ellen, a waitress with a penchant for skimpy outfits. The tone of the series was light, emphasizing three things that boys of all ages could agree on: slapstick humor, car-chase action, and plenty of sexy women.

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B.J. and the Bear

Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can were big hits for star Clint Eastwood in 1978 and 1979. Both films focused on the adventures of a man and his simian companion as they traveled through rural areas. It was a very television-friendly concept and was cleverly appropriated in 1979 for a one-hour NBC show entitled B.J. and the Bear.

The show focused on B.J., a trucker who roamed down the highways and byways in his red-and-white rig with his companion Bear, who happened to be a chimp. B.J.’s arch nemesis was initially Lobo, a corrupt sheriff. Lobo became popular enough to get his own spin-off series (The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo) and was replaced with additional corrupt-lawmen characters in the form of Sergeant Beauregard Wiley and his two sheriffs, Masters and Cain.

When he wasn’t busy locking horns with local lawmen, B.J. frequently spent his spare time at the Country Comfort Truck Stop, owned by Bullets. Other characters B. J. interacted with included Wilhemina “The Fox” Johnson, a state cop sent out to keep an eye on Sergeant Wiley, and Tommy, one of B.J.’s fellow truckers. Continue reading “B.J. and the Bear”

Hill Street Blues

Hill Street Blues

Before Hill Street Blues, conventional cop show wisdom dictated that there should just a handful of core characters, one or two plotlines, and everything in the way of crisis and crime should be wrapped up neatly at the close of each episode. But Hill Street Blues changed all that, and the hour-long dramas that came after it—even if they had nothing to do with men in blue—were inspired by this notorious breaker of old TV rules.

It was early 80’s president of NBC Fred Silverman who brought up the idea of a different cop show, a show that focused on the cops’ lives a bit more than the cops’ work. For the task, the network hired producers Michael Kozoll and Steven Bochco and gave them total creative control. Producer Bochco had written for several Columbo television movies, and had clear ideas about what he wanted for his new venture.

The station house would be noisy and some of its inhabitants uncouth. There wouldn’t be any typical all-perfect, all-the-time characters either—each would have his or her flaws. And though there would of course be crimes to solve, the show’s focus would be those characters. Investigations and cop goings-on were often worked out over the course of several episodes, instead of self-contained in just one episode, and sometimes, just like in real life, the cases would never be solved at all and bad guys would get off scott-free.

Continue reading “Hill Street Blues”