Splitsider

 
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Serious Comedy at Aaron Sorkin's 'Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip'

In the war of the low-rated backstage-at-Saturday-Night-Live TV shows, there can be only one. And in 2006’s race to viewership mediocrity, Tina Fey’s 30 Rock, which spoofed her time as SNL’s head writer, was Christopher Lambert. And we’re all better for it.

Well, everyone was better for it, except for this guy: Aaron Sorkin. READ MORE

1

Andy Dick in a 'Get Smart' Remake? What Could Go Wrong?

When Get Smart premiered in 1965, its blend of Inspector Clouseau and James Bond redefined TV comedy. And rightfully so. Show creator Mel Brooks designed Get Smart to be different. "I was sick of looking at all those nice sensible situation comedies. They were such distortions of life…I wanted to do a crazy, unreal comic-strip kind of thing about something besides a family,” said Brooks. “No one had ever done a show about an idiot before. I decided to be the first." He succeeded.

Get Smart ran for five years and, later, spawned two movies, the Raspberry-nominated The Nude Bomb and 1989’s made-for-TV Get Smart, Again! While neither rekindled any interest in shoe phones, in 1995 the idea to revive the show bubbled, once again, to the surface. This time with Andy Dick.

Right before joining NewsRadio, Dick starred in Get Smart ‘95. Appearing alongside OG cast members Don Adams and Barbara Feldon as Maxwell and Agent 99, respectively, Dick became a symbol for everything wrong with the new series. Get Smart ’95 mixes the old and the new, hoping Andy Dick will be the adhesive to keep them all together. However, with his jokes and movements screaming over the rest of the cast, the show never matches the tone of the original nor sets a consistent one for itself. READ MORE

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The Alternate Reality of 'Coolio’s Rules,' Coolio’s Short-Lived Reality Show

Somewhere around the mid-2000s, coincidentally the same time when every TV writer was fired and all good ideas were banished from the Earth, celebrity-based reality television, or Celebreality as VH1 forced everyone to call it, invaded television and all the networks were relieved to no longer call upon such burdens as story and character to sell ad time. NBC, of course, had The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice, with Donald Trump's “You’re fired”s serving as a perfect catchphrase for the economic meltdown on the horizon. Not to be outdone, ABC launched Dancing with the Stars, MTV had The Osbournes, and, the reigning overlords of Celebreality, VH1, struck gold The Surreal Life. And surreal it all was. Celebrities acting like celebrities and trying to insist they were just like us, only crazy because of all the money.

But somewhere deep in the crevices of your grossly overpriced cable bill lay a channel called Oxygen, whose claim to fame, Bad Girls Club, features several emotionally and psychologically unstable women sharing a house. Apparently, finding out what happens when people stop being polite and start being real is Oxygen’s wheelhouse because Coolio’s Rules, the reality show that sticks rapper Coolio and four strangers who happen to be Coolio’s children in a house together, is pretty much a Celebreality version of Bad Girls Club. READ MORE

7

Talking to Justin Halpern About the Rough Time He Had Turning 'Shit My Dad Says' From a Twitter Account to a TV Show

Two weeks ago, Brilliantly Canceled took us all the way back to that time two years ago when a twitter-based sitcom, $h*! My Dad Says, hit television. A few days later, the show’s creator, Justin Halpern (whose new show Surviving Jack premieres next season on Fox), reached out to me, and after assuring me that he didn’t want to kill me, provided some insight on the history of the show, multi-camera sitcoms, how to tell if your project is going south, and why it was canceled.

How did Shit My Dad Says go from twitter to TV? 

When the twitter feed got popular I got a lot of incoming calls, but nobody was all that interested in turning it in to a TV show. I wasn't really thinking about it either. I was more interested in turning it into a book of short essays about growing up with my dad, and so I wrote a book proposal and when I finished the proposal my agent sent it around to publishing houses, and it was bought by Harper Collins. When that happened, the proposal got circulated around Hollywood as well, and then I started getting calls. I had been working for the last few years as a magazine writer and had sold a couple feature screenplays, but I had zero TV experience. My feature writing partner and I came up with a pitch, characters, and sold it to Warner Brothers, who sold it to CBS. There's a bunch of really boring shit that happened in between, but that's the gist.

Did you also submit a script? If so, how similar was the script to the show? One of the questions that always stuck in my mind was, how could they turn 140-characters into season of television? Was adapting the show difficult? 

My writing partner and I wrote a very early draft of the script that was not similar to the pilot that was shot. It was more similar to one of the stories in the book, so it was much easier to adapt. The media really took to the narrative of "OMFG twitter to TV show fuckthatshowihateit." And I totally get it. I would have thought the same. And actually, that's what it ended up being. But the original script was an adaptation of a story in the book. But the book is a slower burn and pretty dark, and that doesn't mix well with a multi-cam primetime TV show. And probably, that script wasn't that great either. It was the first TV script I'd written, so I bet it sucked too, but just in a different way. Who knows, I will never re-read that fucker for reasons of self-preservation. READ MORE

6

The Pile of $h*! That Was '$h*! My Dad Says'

Sometimes TV shows drag their unfunny, uninteresting, yet highly rated feet across our living rooms for years. “Who let this happen?” we cry in vain. Other times, the powers that be get things right. That’s where Brilliantly Canceled comes in, looking at the shows that didn’t make it past their first season and saved us all a ton of grief.

Writers adapt all types of stories to the screen. Whether they be based on works of fiction, like novels, comics, or plays; myths, handed down from generation to generation; or even real stories that happened to real people. All of them, however, communicate the subtle and not-so-subtle moments of everyday life, explaining the human condition in ways that can be as effective as they are entertaining.

Adaptation can be a tricky $#@!er, though, especially when some of the most important aspects of our lives, whether they be love, art, and/or family, come from 140-character perspectives. As every Twitter draft folder shows, such a short slice of life requires some finessing. READ MORE

2

No, Sir, I Don't Like It: The Misfire That Was 'Ren and Stimpy's Adult Party Cartoon'

Sometimes TV shows drag their funny, interesting, and highly-rated feet across our living rooms for years. “Thank god this happened!” we cry in glee. Other times, the powers that be cancel those shows and then resurrect them to diminishing returns. That’s where “Brilliantly Canceled” comes in, looking at the shows that had a healthy, original run only to come back in a new, inferior form.

When The Ren & Stimpy Show first aired in 1991, it was a revelation, a revolting, occasionally terrifying revelation. Being one of the few shows on children’s television to reflect the actual humor of a child, Ren & Stimpy acted as a softened Garbage Pail Kids, complete with boundless toilet humor and excessive violence. Surprisingly, Ren & Stimpy was to be one of the Nickelodeon’s flagship shows and was included in both the network’s new Nicktoon and Snick initiatives, not only covering the network’s two key demographics, teens and pre-teens, but also grabbing some adults.

The show, in spite of itself, worked. Ren & Stimpy squeaked by censors time and time again, managing to keep a main character that talked to the ghosts of his own farts and be really, really funny. That’s not to say the production wasn’t troubled. Much like the show’s spiritual stepbrother, MTV’s Beavis and Butt-head, Ren & Stimpy remained a target for censors and parent groups. The show’s creator, John Kricfalusi, had to work under close scrutiny, balancing network concerns and his own intense interest in naturalistic poo-poo jokes. READ MORE

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Getting Trapped in Nostalgia in 'That 80s Show'

As the spiritual spin-off of That 70s Show, Mark Brazil, Terry Turner, and Linda Wallem’s nostalgia goldmine, That 80s Show wants nothing more than to recreate the success of its predecessor. Set in a new decade with a fresh batch of cultural stereotypes, 80s Show finds Brazil, Turner, and Wallem once again digging up overt and digestible references that can ring with older and younger audiences. And at a cursory glance, it’s hard to see their failings. Like, say, if you watch the show without dialogue and simply listen to the pretty excellent soundtrack, you’d probably be inclined to agree and say, “Yeah, that looks enough like That 70s Show to warrant 22 of the precious minutes I have on this planet.”

But you’d be wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. READ MORE

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NBC's 'Bates Motel' (Or, 'Extreme Makeover: Hitchcock Edition')

Sometimes TV shows drag their unfunny, uninteresting, yet highly rated feet across our living rooms for years. “Who let this happen?” we cry in vain. Other times, the powers that be get things right. That’s where “Brilliantly Canceled” comes in, looking at the shows that didn’t make it past their first season and saved us all a ton of grief.

25 years before A&E’s Bates Motel, there was NBC’s Bates Motel. However, instead of following the origins of Norman Bates, this made-for-TV movie tracks the grand re-opening of the infamous hostel. Filled to the brim with such Psycho staples as camp, interior design, and commentary on the death of smalltown America, the show never stood a chance.

Bates Motel appropriately suffers from a serious identity crisis, with director Richard Rothstein unsure if he wanted to parody or honor the series. More slapstick than slasher, the pilot is a jumble of misfired jokes, scares, and twists. Shooting most of the comedy in closeup and most of the drama in wide shots, Rothstein really lets us soak up how bizarre this thing really is. READ MORE

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The Gross Mess That Was the 'Garbage Pail Kids' Cartoon

Sometimes TV shows drag their unfunny, uninteresting, yet highly rated feet across our living rooms for years. “Who let this happen?” we cry in vain. Other times, the powers that be get things right. That’s where “Brilliantly Canceled” comes in, looking at the shows that didn’t make it past their first season and saved us all a ton of grief.

It’s not every day that Brilliantly Canceled gets a number of reasonable theories as to why a show failed. Usually, we’re left to complaining about unfulfilled expectations and audience confusion. In the case of the Garbage Pail Kids cartoon series, which CBS canceled several days before its initial 10-episode run was to air, however, the causes of cancellation are pretty clear (a dwindling fad, parent protests, uninterested/scared advertisers). But for a show like Garbage Pail Kids, it’s probably better to ask, “What were they expecting?” anyway.

In CBS’s defense, they took director Bob Hathcock at his word. Promising an “unorthodox, wild, and whacky” version of the controversial trading card series, Hathcock took the reigns of a project that seemed destined to fail. Earlier that year, a Garbage Pail Kids movie, which played like a nightmarish version of The Muppets Take Manhattan, was a box office disaster, with critics calling it, “a stunningly inept and totally reprehensible film.” It’s no surprise that reviews like this and public disinterest would give CBS cold feet. READ MORE

2

Even Clarissa Couldn't Explain 'Clarissa Now'

Sometimes TV shows drag their unfunny, uninteresting, yet highly rated feet across our living rooms for years. “Who let this happen?” we cry in vain. Other times, the powers that be get things right. That’s where “Brilliantly Canceled” comes in, looking at the shows that didn’t make it past their first season and saved us all a ton of grief.

Growing up is hard for anyone. But for a children's show, growing up means death. A series may be for ages 2-5 or 7-12, but what happens when the core viewers move out of that range? Should the show age with its audience? Should it look for a younger one? What about the show’s stars? Can they still relate to their followers? Instruct them? Guide them?

The early-90s were an amazing time for children’s television behemoth Nickelodeon. After inking a massive marketing deal, the station opened up shop in Orlando, Florida to produce its own game shows and animated series, as well a new lineup of pre-teen programming for Snick, their Saturday night teen-centric block. The station was growing with the audience and managed to keep them for a few more years. But when that audience comes to depend on TV to teach, this growing relationship gets more complicated. Just ask Clarissa Darling. READ MORE

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'The Farm': Why 'The Office's Backdoor Pilot Didn't Work

Sometimes TV shows drag their unfunny feet across our living rooms for years. “Who let this happen?” we cry in vain. Other times, the powers that be get things right. That’s where “Brilliantly Canceled” comes in and looks at the shows that didn’t make it past their first episode and saved us all a ton of grief.

After nine seasons of The Office, a spinoff seemed inevitable. The show’s overwhelming success and incredibly popular characters were too good to lose, especially for the flailing peacock. Of the show’s original cast, few characters rose higher than Rainn Wilson’s Dwight Schrute. As Michael Scott’s loyal assistant to the regional manager, Dwight was violent, sociopathic, archaic, and strangely likable.

Like Dwight, Wilson was loyal to The Office. As Steve Carell launched into the superstardom and Ed Helms joined comedy’s most successful wolf pack, besides a few lower profile roles, Rainn stayed at his desk and did his work. So after nearly a decade of hard work, it only seemed fair to give The Office’s second most popular character his own show, right?

For the better part of a year, we’d hear updates on The Farm, a spinoff series in which Dwight, his cousin Mose, and the rest of the Schrutes ran a bed and breakfast on their infamous beet farm. But the show was not meant to be; NBC passed on the pilot, which was later recut and inserted into the final season. READ MORE

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Five Great Shows That Almost Jumped the Shark

Between the firing of Dan Harmon on Community and the endless retooling (and eventual cancelation) of Up All Night, NBC has filled the current TV season with dread and frustration. But it wouldn’t be the first time a show has been in trouble. With that in mind, here are five great shows that nearly jumped the shark but managed to rebound and reclaim their former glory. READ MORE

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Watching 'Kelly's Kids', the Backdoor 'Brady Bunch' Pilot

Sometimes TV shows drag their unfunny, uninteresting, yet highly rated feet across our living rooms for years. “Who let this happen?” we cry in vain. Other times, the powers that be get things right. That’s where “Brilliantly Canceled” comes in, looking at the shows that didn’t make it past their first season and saved us all a ton of grief.

The early 70s belonged to the Bradys. Co-opting flower power parenting and Leave It to Beaver wholesomeness, Brady Bunch-creator and TV-demigod Sherwood Schwartz turned the story of a lovely lady and some guy named Mike into a ratings dynamo and six kids into the archetypal American youngsters. And, of course, freedom rang for Brady Bunch lunch boxes, breakfast cereals, and knockoffs. And it was good.

Part of the Brady's appeal was that, from the time it premiered, it was hard to imagine something more familiar than The Brady Bunch — it’s basically the TV equivalent of apple pie, baseball, and the Fourth of July. But the kids’ rosy cheeks and doe eyes wouldn’t last forever; they grew older and less adorable by the minute. So during the show's initial run, producers introduced the world to Cousin Oliver, a younger, cuter, and more mischievous Brady child. Cousin Oliver was Schwartz's most famous attempt at freshening up the show, but throughout and after the show's life, the Brady kids found themselves starring in cartoons, variety shows, and vacations in Hawaii. READ MORE

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Time Travel, Bazookas, and Robot Dinosaurs: A Look Back at the Weird, Wild Misstep of 'Steel Justice'

Steel Justice's infamous 1992 pilot is one of the most unbelievable wastes of money in television history. A gross miscalculation of popular trends, the pilot documents the bizarre things a network (or two crazed screenwriters) thinks the populous will swallow in the most embarrassing way possible. But how does one properly package the rise of Robosaurus in way that isn't overly dramatic, boring, or confusing?

A good title communicates a lot about anything made for public consumption. By putting a glass and an orange on the front, a carton of Minute Maid Orange Juice convinces shoppers there's something resembling OJ inside. In a more relevant example, a show like Two and a Half Men, a series as brash and obvious as its title, becomes the most popular show on TV. People love that which is direct and to the point. Why else would anyone watch that show? Jon Cryer? Come on. READ MORE