Saturday, September 19, 2020

Forgotten TV: What a Dummy (1990)

Before Nickelodeon foisted the equally goofy Cousin Skeeter on its audience, Arthur Amarachico, after reviving Dragnet, Adam-12, & The Munsters for a new generation, co-created What a Dummy, an oddball fantasy-sitcom that was designed mostly as a knockoff of NBC's ALF, substituting a ventriloquist dummy for an alien.

By 1990, when Dummy premiered, ALF was in its 4th season, and had spawned a pair of Saturday morning spin-offs. Dummy got 24 weeks, and no more. It was the first regular series gig for Stephen Dorff, after making guest appearances elsewhere, and a comeback vehicle for Kaye Ballard (ex-The Mothers-in-Law). Stephen is the oldest of the children on the show, and has to play straight man not only to Buzz, the titular dummy (voiced by Loren Freeman), but to his siblings.

After Dummy was cancelled by distributor MCA (now NBC-Universal), Dorff would not get another regular series gig until being cast in Fox's 2017 series, Star, and for one season of HBO's True Detective.

In "Whose Life is it Anyway?", Tucker (Dorff) has to emulate his younger brother's sensitive lifestyle to win the affections of a young girl.

Part of the reason this show failed was because some stations that had the rights also were network affiliates and had commitments to sports (i.e. college football), meaning Dummy, depending on where you lived, didn't have a steady time slot.

No rating.


Silverstar said...

The key difference between Cousin Skeeter and What a Dummy was that in-universe Skeeter wasn't supposed to be a puppet; he was a 'real boy', albeit one with puppet-y features. Skeeter also had a more desirable schedule (it aired as part of Nick's weeknight primetime block the Nickel-O-Zone) and debatably better writing, since Skeeter managed to eke out 2 seasons whereas Dummy was gone after 1.

I only caught a single episode of What a Dummy, and based on what I saw, the titular dummy, Buzz, was barely an element in it; he only appeared in a few scenes and spouted some wisecracks but much else, compare that to the aforementioned ALF and Cousin Skeeter, in which most of those shows' stories directly focused on the title characters. It doesn't bode well for a series when its' alleged gimmick is treated as an afterthought on its' own show.

Silverstar said...

^That's supposed to be "not much else".

hobbyfan said...

I get the idea, and I can see why "Dummy" bombed.