The Paley Center for Media, which has locations in both New York and LA, dedicates itself to the preservation of television and radio history. Inside their vast archives of more than 150,000 television shows, commercials, and radio programs, there are thousands of important and funny programs waiting to be rediscovered by comedy nerds like you and me. Each week, this column will highlight a new gem waiting for you at the Paley Library to quietly laugh at. (Seriously, it’s a library, so keep it down.)
A note: The original version of this article inaccurately and unintentionally inflated Mitch Hurwtiz's role in the creation The John Larroquette Show. Hurwitz took over the show after the second season. The pilot examined below was written and created by Don Reo and the article has been updated to reflect as much.
In the modern television landscape, shows like Louie, HBO's various comedies, and Adult Swim's often strange programming offer audiences windows into all sorts of strange worlds. Not all that long ago however, viewers didn't have quite so many choices in programming, and so there were much fewer opportunities for subversion to make its way through the cracks. Today, we examine the pilot of The John Larroquette Show, one such show that snuck through and, for a few seasons, made television a little darker.
The show, which was initially named Crossroads after the bus depot that the main character John Hemmingway has become the manager, was John Larroquette's chance to breakout after his role on the long-running Night Court. Behind the scenes, the show featured a very talented crew of writers, headed by television veteran Don Reo, creator of Blossom and My Wife and Kids. The writers' room featured Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz, Jim Valleley, Golden Girls alum and future Arrested Development writer, and John Levinstein, future AD producer. The first thing that strikes you about the first episode of this show is how dark it is. This is a prime-time sitcom in 1993. This is the era of Seinfeld, Home Improvement, Cheers, and on the darker side, maybe Rosanne. This show opens with a grizzled looking Larroquette standing at the podium at an AA meeting, admitting that he's only been sober for 36 hours and that he really needs this new job to work this time. And this is just one of the many heavy topics discussed in this episode. READ MORE