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Pilot Error: Shitcoms From CBS in 1987

This week all of the shitcoms are 1987 CBS cast offs.

Why 1987 CBS shows? Because I happened to pick these out of my collection (seriously I did NOT plan this… it just kind of happened).


This is not the 1993 movie titled Sirens nor is it the unrelated but also 1993 TV series titled Sirens, also not the 2002 TV movie titled Sirens, also also not the 2011 TV series titled Sirens, also also also not the 2014 TV series titled Sirens (have we worn out that title yet)? No this is the faulted pilot titled Sirens that predates all of them (for the record though I LOVE the 1993 series with Liza Snyder, Sirens).

This Sirens stars Dinah Manoff (Empty Nest), Loretta Devine (Grey’s Anatomy) and Shannon freaking Tweed! I want to note that Devine would later appear now and then on the completely unrelated 2014 series Sirens. That must have been weird. Alan Oppenheimer (SKELETOR) even shows up at one point because why not.

Anyway this Sirens is a non-laugh track comedy (technically not a Shitcom) produced by Stephen J. Cannell which makes it even more surprising it was not picked up (that man was kind of a TV series machine in the 80’s). Directed by Michael Pressman who has much experience having directed dozens and dozens of TV movies over the years.

There really is no plot, sure there is a running gag of a couple of thugs trying to get revenge on the main characters while they attempt to prove that just because they are women they can do the same job the boys can but even that is barely there.

The pilot is mainly character stuff and lame gags. With the opening shot of the show being an obvious parody of the Hill Street Blues intro I think this was meant to be some kind of satire on cop shows but if it was it failed on every level. The characters are not funny, not enduring and most of all not people I would want to spend time with week after week. Now, Tweed does look amazing in this but that’s it.

Honestly, I normally like Manoff but here she is essentially playing a manic neurotic and she does not sell it well yet on Empty Nest she played a very similar character who was far more likeable.

Dr. Paradise

Dr. Paradise somehow convinced Frank Langella (!!!!) to try his hand at a shitcom. It’s daunting to say the least as Langella gives the same great performance he always does but here it’s with such… substandard material. Frank Langella is joined by Sally Kellerman (Star Trek), Tommy Hinkley (about one episode of every show ever), Xander Berkeley (The Walking Dead) and Barry Gordon (Donatello from the TMNT Cartoon).

In Jamaica, Langella is the arrogant and super snooty head MD at the Dr. Paradise clinic. He is joined by his sister (Kellerman), his gambling addict nephew (Hinkley), hippy shrink (Berkley) as well as a snippy receptionist, a 50’s style comic pediatrician and the wacky locals and visitors to the island. Oh and there is a running gag about a talking bird that won’t talk in front of humans. There is also a deep discussion about Myra Breckenridge because… yeah.

The “comedy” is inane and tedious but I have to say at least that in this case a very strong cast really sell a very underwhelming script. The show would not have worked but at least there was an impressive display of talent on display plus that all of them looked like they were having fun… too bad it was not a better script.

Another veteran shitcom director in Peter Baldwin shoots this as average as possible (although I did notice he had trouble keeping everything framed at times). Produced by Neal Israel (creator of the Police Academy movie series).

The real odd credit here is that of writer Ron Zimmerman. Zimmerman is a writer who’s career is odd (and wildly uneven) to say the least. He would write for garbage such as Charles in Charge, the Married with Children spin off of a spin off Vinnie & Bobby and 7th Heaven. Then he would write for the amazingly underrated FOX series Action, The Simpsons and even the terrible yet fun V.I.P. with Pamela Anderson.

I simply lament that all the talent in front of and behind the camera had it not coalesced into a giant turd.

King of the Building

King of the Building was meant to be a 1987 shitcom starring Richard Lewis.

Yeah, you can already see why this was not picked up. Richard Lewis has never been funny and it has always baffled me that he has a career at all. His overly jewish “why me” neurotic shtick has always been grating on the nerves and was NEVER funny. NEVER. So with that CBS decided to let him have a shitcom… well an attempt at a shitcom.

Yes, I know he has had many over the years, but this is awful.

Lewis stars as Joey the kind-hearted doorman to a prestigious apartment building in lower Manhattan and he generally runs the place (while avoiding the ire of the actual manager, played by snooty Simon Jones, who has disdain for all of the tenants). Joey has help with all the shenanigans by bellboy Eddie (comic Bobby Slayton) and janitor Leon (Tiger Haynes). Billie Bird (Home Alone and Max Headroom) looks like she would have been a regular as well.

I guess every week we would have been privy to the wacky people who live in the building and Richard Lewis’ attempts to keep order. No one missed a damn thing.

Here is the thing… this is just bland. It’s not offensively unfunny, it’s just “meh”. Not outrageous enough to stand out and not horrid enough that it shows contempt for it’s audience King of the Building is just bland and forgettable. Directed by shitcom hack James Komack, a veteran of TV shitcoms such as The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Chico and the Man and Welcome Back, Kotter. Directing over 300 episodes of just those 3 shows not to mention all the rest of his forgettable resume. Written by Barry Vigon (another shitcom hack) who is best known for his Martin work. There is a sure label of quality right there.

The closing question here is… why?

Why were so many dull, monotonous shitcoms made? I mean isn’t the COM part of Shitcom for Comedy?

Shouldn’t you at least TRY to be funny?

I hope this look Shitcoms over the past months has made you question the ethics of TV production in that someone thought these might be hits. Someone put money into these and worse yet, someone like me has copies of them.

Next time I will try to get back to Sci-Fi stuff. I will try, I make no guarantees.


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