Thursday, May 25, 2017

What Might've Been: South of Sunset (1993)

In the history of television, there've been a small handful of shows that have been one-&-done. That is, only one episode aired before the network pulled the plug. Jackie Gleason had to publicly apologize for You're In The Picture on an empty set the next week. George Schlatter's Turn-On, which ABC asked for in the wake of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, was an even bigger bomb. CBS had the teen comedy, Co-Ed Fever, which tried to mine the audience that had so enjoyed "National Lampoon's Animal House", but was DOA.

And, then, there is South of Sunset.

At a time when CBS had the rights to the World Series, the network believed that Eagles vocalist-guitarist Glenn Frey, whose majority of acting experience was a recurring gig on Miami Vice a few years earlier, was enough of a draw to front his own show. Ehhhh, no.

Despite all the hype, South of Sunset was one-&-done. The network wasn't willing to take a chance that the show could improve, despite the fact that the pilot was pre-empted in much of the west coast due to breaking news the night of the broadcast. It wasn't until years later, when VH-1 ran five episodes of the series, as part of a salute to the Eagles, that anyone got to see the rest of the finished product. By that time, comedian Aries Spears had moved on to a gig on MadTV, for which he's better known. Maria Pitillo (ex-Ryan's Hope) would later appear in the remake of "Godzilla" that nearly ruined that franchise, and a few other films.

Here's the intro. I believe that's also Frey singing the theme song.

No rating.


Mike Doran said...

I've had to make this correction in some other places:

Jackie Gleason's You're In The Picture doesn't really count as "one and done".
CBS was prepared to go ahead with the game show; it was Gleason himself who scuttled the format and did a live apology on a bare stage for the second show.
Gleason held on to the time slot for the remainder of his contract (13 weeks total), thanks to his deal with one of the sponsors, L&M cigarettes. From Week 3 onward, The Jackie Gleason Show was a half-hour of ad-lib talk with Jackie and celebrity guests, something he'd never done before. As memory serves, he was surprisingly good at it, and might have changed the whole direction of his career, had he been able to get at least one other sponsor to go with that format - but that's another story ...

Over at the Mystery*File blog a while back, a bunch of us went back and forth about South Of Sunset's "one-time-only" appearance. As close to consensus as we got was that this was the latest example of how "demographics", the junk science of broadcasting, caused the whole mess; you can look it up over there (and if you do, set aside some time - we all had a lot to say about it).

hobbyfan said...

I've read of Gleason spending a whole half hour apologizing, not having anything ready as a sub until the following week. Of course, the later "Jackie Gleason Show", the hour-long version I remember from my childhood, could've been even bigger if it had continued unabated, expanding from 30 to 60 minutes after those first 13 weeks.