Monday, July 29, 2019

Happy Days: “Turnabout”

There’s no telling why some television shows get greenlit. Many times it appears as though network execs just blindly throw darts at random lists of projects to determine what gets on the air. Often there is *some* reasoning involved in greenlighting a show- it might not make sense, but someone had a reason for greenlighting it. In 1979, NBC decided to greenlight a show based on a hit movie with a premise that had recently been successful for Disney. Described in those vague terms, one would think that such a project would be a slam dunk. But what if you found out that the film had been made almost forty years earlier? That the gimmick behind the film was of two people switching places and while the Disney film had a mother and daughter changing places, this show would have a husband and wife swap bodies? This sitcom would star Sharon Gless and John Schuck as a wayward couple who would have to learn how live life in their spouse’s body.

The idea was an odd one; while Disney’s Freaky Friday provided wish fulfillment to its youthful audience who no doubt imagined what life would be like as an adult, hardly anyone has ever fantasized about switching places with their spouse. Plus, 1940’s Turnabout was just a 90 minute trifle of a film. How could NBC turn its Turnabout into a running series?

As it turned out, NBC learned its lesson the hard way. Turnabout was a disastrous flop that lasted less than ten episodes. The network was able to tie four episodes together to produce a TV movie that would help it make at least some of its money back. Had Turnabout been a success, where would the show have gone anyway? It was a perfect example of a show that was never fully baked.