Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Temporary Layoffs Summer Showcase: The Seinfeld Chronicles

Before it became one of the biggest hits of the 1990's, Seinfeld was yet another unsold pilot, burned off by NBC in the middle of the summer. The show didn't set the world on fire, but critics praised it, surprised that NBC hadn't ordered a full season.

An NBC executive became bullish on the show and convinced the network to let him fund more episodes out of his department's own budget. Only four episodes were ordered, but it was enough. The show would get a second season based on the results- a wise decision.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Temporary Layoffs Summer Showcase: The Life & Times of Barney Miller

U.S. Television Networks commission hundreds of television scripts each year. They pick several of these shows to actually produce a filmed sample- a pilot. The pilots are used to determine which shows to actually place on the Fall schedule. The vast majority of pilots nowadays slip into obscurity, never to be seen again.

It wasn't always this way; pilots have always been expensive to produce. Therefore, up until the late 1980's, the networks would try to recoup some of their investment by burning off the episodes in the summer. Thus ABC had Just For Laughs, a summer anthology series that featured unpurchased pilots. One of which was The Life & Times of Barney Miller.

Despite being originally rejected, the pilot became a sensation. ABC quickly tried to retool and get the show back into production. The only two actors who made it into the New and improved Barney Miller were Hal Linden and Abe Vigoda.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Gimme A Break! at the 1984 World's Fair

In 1984, Nell Carter took her show on the road to New Orleans for the 1984 World's Fair.

Her NBC show Gimme A Break! was a middling success at the time, but it was hoped that the show would bring more crowds to the struggling Fair, which had already declared bankruptcy before it closed its gates.

Ah the days when a company could hand out free cigarettes in the United States!

The show would expose the fair to a national audience, but it would be too little, too late. Nell Carter couldn't save this debacle.