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Tis the Television Season
eight eighties series cancelled too soon…

Here we are only a few weeks into the new television season and shows are already being cancelled.

But there’s certainly nothing new to this.

The first series to be canceled after only one episode was in 1969 (a comedy/variety series called Turn-On). Most recently to be cancelled after only one episode was 2009 (Fox’s Osbournes Reloaded)

This season, as of this post, ABC has been first to cancel a new series with their low-rated, and very unlucky Lucky 7. It survived past its first episode, but never made it to three (much more common for cancelation timing).

Of course, a cancelled show can often be relief to Networks, but agony to the few fans that embraced their briefness. Rarely does a “fan campaign” work to bring back a series, however side effects have shown efforts can produce movies.

I remember fondly several shows from my youth, cancelled just as they were resonating with me, and I’m sure plenty of you had the same experience, regardless of what generation you’re from.

For every Automan or Tales of the Gold Monkey, there’s twenty-something waxing poetic on NightMan or Roar. As we’re right at the beginning of the selective chopping block, here are eight 80s television shows that never had a chance. They were all in-season casualties, killed by the cold bare hands of cowardly network executives (not to be dramatic or anything)…

HERBIE, THE LOVE BUG (1982)
After four successful Disney movies staring the charismatic VW, CBS took a gamble on a 60 minute series, which only lasted 5 episodes. Dean Jones reprised his movie role as Jim Douglas and Herbie returned as himself. Disney tried to disguise the often not seen sitcom with a movie made up of all five episodes called Herbie the Matchmaker. It would be 15 years until Herbie returned, again this time for television, in the made for television movie The Love Bug starring Bruce Campbell.

POLICE SQUAD! (1982)
It’s hard to believe that the Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker Police Squad series only lasted six episodes, since the cult appeal outlasted the series into three feature films and endless reruns. I remember watching every one of them during their late 82/83 season premiere and not understanding the reason for their quick demise. I highly recommend the Joe Dante directed episodes Ring of Fear and Testimony of Evil. You’ll find most of the episodes at any given moment on YouTube, but there was a DVD release a few years back of the entire series from Paramount.

THE QUEST (1982)
Only five episodes aired of this strange ABC Friday night Adventure series. It was produced by Stephen J. Cannell for the 82/83 season and centered around ancient ties to a land mass in the Mediterranean. John Rhys Davies played Sir Edward, the King’s Advisor who challenged four ordinary Americans with genetic ties to the land to reclaim the throne. Ray Vitte (Car Wash) played a hustler with a heart of gold, naturally.

DREAMS (1984)
Welder by day/rock musician at night. Sound familiar? Flashdance sort of became a sitcom, with Jennifer Beals’ stripteaser turned into John Stamos’ lead singer. CBS pulled the pressed mute after only 5 episodes, but 12 were shot. This was Stamos’ first regular gig on a television series and Jami Gertz’ third. Many would follow. Here’s the totally awesome band rocking out to their tune “Kiss Me Red.” Check those moves.

ONCE A HERO (1987) As overblown with hype and budget as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Is, superhero television series go back to the Golden Age of the format. For every Greatest American Hero there’s a Manimal though. Take for example Once A Hero which was the first cancelation of the 87/88 season for ABC. Jeff Lester played Captain Justice from the Forbidden Zone. With colorful lighting and over the top acting, it was a feeble attempt at what worked a lot better in 1980’s Flash Gordon and a decade later in Dick Tracy. Only three episodes aired of the series before an already filmed episode with Adam West made it on.

THE POPCORN KID (1987) This sitcom about teenage movie theater concession-stand employees spoke to me on many levels, but mainly because I had just become a movie theater concession-stand employee. Trust me though, there’s nothing Situation Comedy about that position. More of a Drama/Anthology. Still, when I wasn’t working Fridays, I’d tune into this short lived (cancelled after 6 episodes) CBS show. Penelope Ann Miller co-stared just before her role in Adventures in Babysitting and Big Top Pee-Wee.

THE FAMOUS TEDDY Z (1989)
CBS amazingly aired 15 episodes before finally canceling this true-story inspired tale of a mailroom clerk who is quickly promoted to Agent (hey, it could happen). It was a vehicle for the then looking-for-a-vehicle Jon Cryer, and it was written by Hugh Wilson of WKRP in Cincinnati fame. The show picked up three Emmy nominations and one win for Alex Rocco, who brought his character from this over to Murphy Brown for a crossover appearance. It has remained a cult favorite and aired in its entirety on Comedy Central and Trio.

WORKING STIFFS (1979)
Ok, technically a late 70s series, but it was originally intended to last into the early 80s. Working Stiffs hadn’t a chance. They shot 9 episodes, of which only 4 aired, but it brought to the scene James Belushi, Michael Keaton and an early appearance by Paul Reubens. The pilot is directed by Penny Marshall, and the series has had releases on home video and aired in full in syndication. You’ll find most of the episodes also on YouTube. Who would have known 22 years later, Jim would have his own series on ABC lasting 8 years.

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