Is It Possible for the Star of a Single-Episode Sitcom to Save Their Career?

Since 1961, only 10 American TV series have aired for only a single episode. If there is a God, that list will soon increase to 11 when ABC decides to LISTEN TO EVERYONE EVER and cancel Work It, quite possibly the worst sitcom — nay, show — of all-time. Of the 10 (soon-to-be 11?!?), half are either dramas (1993’s detective series South of Sunset and 1997’s Lawless starring former-NFL linebacker Brian Bosworth), reality shows (2005’s The Will and 2008’s Secret Talents of the Stars), or Etc. (2009’s Osbournes Reloaded).

For a show to last just a single episode, well, that’s impressive. I mean, that’s half as long as The Paul Reiser Show, and that was TERRIBLE. Below, I’ve taken a look at the lead star of the four comedies — why only four, not five? Because Ed Friendly and George Schlatter’s pre-Laugh In sketch show Turn-On wasn’t canceled because it was bad; it was canceled because people didn’t get it at the time — that got canned before they even reached the longevity of Beware of Dog, to see whether their career ever rebounded. I also included a British single episode show that might be the best one of them all. Benjamin Koldyke and Amaury Nolasco, you may want to read this, you cross dressing stars of Work It you.

Heather Graham, Emily’s Reasons Why Not
Single Episode Show: Emily’s Reasons Why Not, where Graham played self-help author Emily, who has a “unique” mantra when it comes to relationships: if she can list five reasons to break up with a guy, that’s a dealbreaker. KOOKY! She also has a gay caricature of a friend named Josh (not me).

Post-Single Episode Show: Before Emily’s Reasons, Graham had appeared on Twin Peaks, Arrested Development, and Scrubs (playing spacey psychiatrist Dr. Molly Clock), and in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, as Felicity Shagwell, and Boogie Nights, as Roller Girl, her single best performance. For some time after 2006, though, it was slim pickings from Graham. She was in The Hangover as Ed Helms’ Vegas stripper wife, Jade, but until 2011, it was a lot of forgettable parts in forgettable films, like Boogie Woogie and Father of Invention. Last year, however, was a rebound one for Graham, with roles in Portlandia and Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, and she’ll have a busy 2012, too, with starring roles in Cherry, working alongside James Franco and Dev Patel, and Shoedog, with Ethan Hawke and Sam Shepard.

Did Her Acting Career Rebound? Yes, but mostly as a dramatic, not comedic, actress.

Neil McCaul, Heil Honey, I’m Home!
Single Episode Show: Heil Honey I’m Home!, where McCaul played none other than Adolph Hitler, who, along with wife Eva Braun, lives next door to a Jewish couple, Arny and Rosa Goldenstein. The British show was set up as a “lost” series, but drew a predictable amount of controversy.

Post-Single Episode Show: You’d think it would be tough to get past playing a sitcom version of Hitler, but McCaul did somehow; he’s been extremely busy since Heil went off the air in 1990, appearing in a number of British comedies, including Up the Garden Path, Time After Time, and Father Ted. He’s also starred in countless theatre productions and even had a voice acting role in last year’s Gnomeo & Juliet. If only the kiddies knew Conjoined Gnome Right was voiced by History’s Greatest Monster (and I don’t mean Jimmy Carter).

Did His Acting Career Rebound? Yes.

Annabelle Gurwitch, Dot Comedy
Single Episode Show: Dot Comedy, which skewed web culture nine years before Tosh.0 became one of the most watched shows on cable. Gurwitch hosted, as did the Sklar Brothers.

Post Single Episode Show: Gurwitch has not only continued to act, including roles on Charmed, Boston Legal, and Dexter, she’s also an accomplished author (You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up, co-written with her husband, The Ben Stiller Show co-creator Jeff Kahn, was turned into a play, and Fired! Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, and Dismissed became the basis of a documentary that she wrote, produced, and directed). She also hosted the Planet Green Network reality show, Wa$ted, and recently taped a WTF podcast with Marc Maron, which can be heard here.

Did Her Acting Career Rebound? Yes.

David Keith, Co-Ed Fever
Single Episode Show: Co-Ed Fever, where Keith played Tuck, who attends a former-all girls university, in the Animal House knock(ers)-off. In 1979, ABC, NBC, and CBS all tried to capitalize on the success of John Landis frat comedy, and they all failed: Delta House lasted 13 episodes, while Brothers and Sisters ran for 12. But those are Simpsons-esque numbers compared to the one episode of Co-Ed Fever America was subjected to on February 4, 1979.

Post Single Episode Show: Co-Ed Fever was only Keith’s second credited role (after a 1978 episode of Happy Days), so he’s had plenty of opportunities to make people forget he was ever in that awful show. And he has. He was nominated for two Golden Globes for his performance as Sid Worley in An Officer and a Gentleman, he played Elvis Presley in 1988’s Heartbreak Hotel and Jack Parkman in 1994’s Major League II, and he’s had recurring roles on The Class and the new Hawaii Five-0. He is not Keith David.

Did His Acting Career Rebound? Yes, as a dramatic character actor.

Donal Logue, Public Morals
Single Episode Show: Public Morals, where Logue played Det. Ken Schuler in Steven Bochco’s ill-advised detective comedy. Bochco, the man behind such crime dramas as Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, and NYPD Blue, as well as medical “dramedy” Doogie Howser, M.D, wanted to create a classic sitcom — more Honeymooners than Hill Street — and ended up with a classic failure. And not even in a fun way, like Cop Rock.

Post Single Episode Show: As soon as some people see Donal Logue’s name, they start crying, then begin shaking with an uncontrollable rage. Why? Logue was the star of FX’s much-adored-by-a-tiny-group-of-people Terriers, which ran for a mere 13 episodes in 2010 before getting canceled. Luckily for Logue, his great-great grandchildren will still be earning money from his other, more commercially successful sitcom, Grounded for Life, which has been, and will continue to be, widely syndicated until the end of time. His film career has been a success, too, with high-profile roles in The Tao of Steve, Zodiac, and Max Payne. In short, Logue’s had a career most actors dream of: he can star in low-budget films and TV shows, because he makes enough money from his other, bigger hits. MISS YOU TERRIERS.

Did His Acting Career Rebound? Yes. So the Work It guys still have a shot, whether they deserve it or not.

Josh Kurp wishes Last Man Standing had been on this list, too

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