March 8, 2011

Time travel IS possible. Part III

Okay, we’re back in the time machine, and this post will look at the New Series section of the ABC press kit from 1996. ABC announced eight new shows debuting that fall, two dramas and six comedies. The dramas were Dangerous Minds and Relativity. The comedies were Life’s Work, Spin City, Townies, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Clueless and Common Law.

Personally I only remember watching Relativity and Spin City. I do remember Townies (Molly Ringwald on TV!) and Sabrina (Who doesn’t remember Sabrina?), but I had completely forgotten the rest of these shows.

The new schedule looked like this:
Monday – Dangerous Minds and ABC’s NFL Monday Night Football
Tuesday – Rosanne, Life’s Work, Home Improvement, Spin City and NYPD Blue
Wednesday – Ellen, Townies, Grace Under Fire, The Drew Carey Show and Primetime Live
Thursday – High Incident, Murder One and Turning Point
Friday – Family Matters, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, Clueless, Boy Meets World and 20/20
Saturday – Second Noah, Coach, Common Law and Relativity
Sunday – America’s Funniest Home Videos, Lois and Clark and The ABC Sunday Night Movie

Two things you may have noticed; the Friday and Saturday night lineups. Except for Clueless the Friday night comedy lineup was a strong performer for ABC over a number of seasons. And yes, there was a time in our past when you could find networks that put original programming on Saturday night!

So let us begin the dissection of these eight new shows. I want to know how they did in the ratings, how long they lasted on air and what became of the actors and producers. We’ll proceed in the order they are presented in the press kit.

(Click on the image to see larger versions of the press kit cards.)

Dangerous Minds
A Walt Disney/Simpson-Bruckheimer production, based on the movie (also from Bruckheimer) and starring Annie Potts as Louanne Johnson.
Premiered: September 30, 1996
Ended: March 15, 1997
Seasons: 1
Episodes: 17

Jerry Bruckheimer has produced several television projects including CSI, Without A Trace, and The Amazing Race. He’s produced about a billion movies too!

Annie Potts starred in several TV series afterward, including: Over The Top, Any Day Now, Joan of Arcadia and Men in Trees. She also voices Boo Peep in the Toy Story franchise.

Co-star Tamala Jones (Callie Timmons) currently appears on Castle as Medical Examiner Lanie Parish.

Life’s Work
Produced by Touchstone Television & Executive Producer Warren Bell and starring Lisa Ann Walter as Lisa Hunter.
Premiered: September 17, 1996
Ended: June 10, 1997
Seasons: 1
Episodes: 18

Warren Bell was a Producer on Coach & Ellen, and later on What I like About You and According to Jim.

Lisa Ann Walter would go on to star in 11 episodes of Emeril and guest on Nip/Tuck and Watch Over Me. She also appeared in Disney’s Parent Trap.

Co-star Alexa Vega (Tess Hunter) would go on to roles in To Have and to Hold, Ladies Man, Ruby & the Rockits, and the Spy Kids movie franchise.

Prior to Life’s Work Co-star Michael O’Keefe (Kevin Hunter) had starred in Against the Law and Rosanne and of course as Danny Noonan in Caddyshack.

Spin City
From Dreamworks and Gary David Goldberg, Spin City starred Michael J. Fox.
Premiered: September 17, 1996
Ended: April 30, 2002
Seasons: 6
Episodes: 145

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this was a bona fide hit for ABC. Executive Producer Gary David Goldberg was of course the Executive Producer of that OTHER Michael J. Fox show Family Ties (which ran 175 episodes!). And we all know Michael J. Fox as Alex P. Keaton from Family Ties and Marty McFly form the Back to the Future movie trilogy. In 1998 Fox revealed he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and, after working on 103 episodes of Spin City, stepped down in 2000. He did of course keep acting and has given some great performances on shows like Boston Legal; Rescue Me and The Good Wife.

Lots of notables in the Cast/Guest category: Of the original cast 3 actors worked in all 145 episodes, Richard Kind, Michael Boatman and Barry Bostwick. Alan Ruck appeared in 141.

Heather Locklear appeared in 93 episodes as Caitlin Moore. Her character was brought in to take some of the workload off Michael J. Fox. She stayed on until the end of the series.

Mike (Michael J. Fox) Flaherty’s original love interest was Ashley Schaeffer played by Carla Gugino. She left after 13 episodes (not renewing her contract after series pickup) and went on to have a pretty darn good career in TV and movies. She headlined Karen Sisco on ABC, and starred in Chicago Hope, Threshold and Entourage. And on the press kit insert they spelled her last name wrong - Cugino.

For the 5th and 6th seasons Charlie Sheen (of all people) was brought in as a replacement for Fox. Needless to say after the departure of Fox and several writers and actors the show saw a steady decline in the ratings and was canceled in 2002.

There are numerous actors that stopped by for 2 and 3 episode arcs. Some of the more notable are: Paula Marshal, Denise Richards, Regis Philbin, Farrah Fawcett, Raquel Welch, Meredith Baxter, Michael Gross, Tracy Pollan, Alyssa Milano, Jeffery Donovan, Queen Latifah and Martin Sheen.

A Carsey-Werner production starring Molly Ringwald.
Premiered: September 18, 1996
Ended: December 4, 1996
Seasons: 1
Episodes: 15

Another attempt to bring big-screen/big-name recognition to a TV series, Townies was to be the comeback vehicle for its star Molly Ringwald. Coming from Carsey-Werner (Rosanne, Grace Under Fire, That 70’s Show) Townies SHOULD have been a hit. Unfortunately it failed to attract an audience and was canceled three months after the premiere. Other notables in the Townies cast were Jenna Elfman, Lauren Graham, and Eric McCormack.

Molly Ringwald would go on to appear in several movies and as one of the adult leads in The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

Jenna Elfman appeared in several film and TV projects between Townies and her biggest TV hit Dharma & Greg (1997-2002).

After Townies Lauren Graham appeared on Law & Order and News Radio before hitting big as Lorelai Gilmore on Gilmore Girls (2000-2007).

Eric McCormack appeared in several television series and movie projects before his breakout role as Will Truman in Will & Grace (1998-2006).

Sabrina, The Teenage Witch
A Hartbreak Films/Viacom production starring Melissa Joan Hart.
Premiered: September 27, 1996
Ended: April 24, 2003
Seasons: 7
Episodes: 163

The newest addition to ABC’s family-friendly Friday night line up, Sabrina was probably the biggest hit (after Spin City) to come out of the ‘96 crop of new shows.
The series was spun off from a television movie of the same name that aired on Showtime and was developed by Melissa Joan Hart’s mother Paula. Paula and Melissa served as producers on the series and on the spin-off Sabrina, the Animated Series.
Viacom was also part of another witch-centric series Charmed.

As you can see on the insert above the show was announced without any of the other cast member’s names. So, were they not cast yet? I guess that’s a mystery for another day. The only cast members to appear in all 163 episodes were Hart and Nick Bakay who voiced Salem the cat.

For a show that ran 163 episodes it’s interesting to note how few big name guest stars appeared over the course of its run. There are a few names that stand out though: Soleil Moon Frye, Martin Mull, George Wendt, Donald Faison, Barbara Eden, Erik Estrada, Robby Benson and Avril Lavigne.

A Paramount/Amy Heckerling production starring Rachel Blanchard.
Premiered: September 20, 1996
Ended: May 25, 1996
Seasons: 1
Episodes: 18

Clueless was based on the 1995 film of the same name. The series premiered on ABC as a part of the “TGIF” lineup during its first season. When ABC cancelled Clueless, UPN picked it up where it ran for two more seasons (44 episodes).

Clueless was created by the film’s director Amy Heckerling who directed such hits as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, National Lampoon's European Vacation and Look Who’s Talking.

Series star Rachel Blanchard had been on the series Are You Afraid of the Dark?, and after Clueless starred on the shows 7th Heaven and Peep Show.

Costars Stacey Dash, Donald Faison, and Elisa Donovan all appeared in the feature film.

Donald Faison went on to Felicity and of course the hit series Scrubs (2001-2010).

Elisa Donovan was a costar on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch for 59 episodes.

Common Law
A Witt-Thomas production starring Greg Giraldo.
Premiered: September 28, 1996
Ended: October 19, 1996
Seasons: 1
Episodes: 9 - 4 aired, 5 unaired

After just four episodes aired the show was canceled. The canceling came at the same time that ABC canned Coach and Second Noah.

Witt-Thomas had produced such hits as Beauty and the Beast and Blossom.

Series star Greg Giraldo was a stand-up comic and retired lawyer who passed away in 2010 at age 44 from an apparent accidental prescription drug overdose.

A 20th Century Fox/Bedford Falls production starring Kimberly Williams and David Conrad.
Premiered: September 24, 1996
Ended: April 14, 1997
Seasons: 1
Episodes: 17

Yet another show with a great cast, good writing and a production pedigree that should have spelled hit series for ABC, but did not. This is one show that I do remember watching that season and really enjoying. Its also one of those shows that has a supporting cast that is at least, if not occasionally more, interesting as the series stars.

Relativity was created by Jason Katims (Roswell, Boston Public, Friday Night Lights) and produced by Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz (thirtysomething and My So-Called Life).

Series star Kimberly Williams was of course the pixie-faced cutie from Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride Part II. She would later appear on the long running According to Jim (2001-2009).

David Conrad would go on to star in Roswell, Boston Public and Ghost Whisperer (2005-2010).

The series costars included Richard Schiff (The West Wing), Cliff De Young (JAG), Jane Adams (Hung), Poppy Montgomery (Without a Trace), Lisa Edelstein (House) and Adam Goldstein (Entourage).

And here we are, the end of our time travel adventure. I'm sure that there are all sorts of 'Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon' games we could play with this list, and I'll let you do that on your own. But feel free to share!

My "research partners" were, IMDb and Wikipedia.

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