Sophisticated Cable Programming

As Todd VanDerWerff reminded us in his primer on ’80s sitcoms (see below), the ’80s were a treasure trove of terrible sitcoms because of the opening up of the direct-to-syndication market, which gave us Small Wonder and several failed network shows revived. And then you had the first glimmers of direct-to-cable sitcoms, most famously with It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. But even before that, TBS — back when they were WTBS, the network that, powered by Ted Turner’s satellites, everybody got in their cable package without knowing why — decided to throw its hat into the first-run ring with a very sensible premise for s sitcom, with a theme song that would explain the whole thing for you.

When I show this to people, they’re astonished that it’s not a parody, but it isn’t. Because the only difference between parody and the real thing is money; bad real shows usually have a slicker and more professional look to them. If the producers of a bad show have no money, they’re likely to come up with something that looks like this:

Someone pointed out that this is an early example, very early, of cable networks trying to create an original-programming brand that fits in with their popular reruns.TBS had a lot of ’60s sitcom reruns back when ’60s sitcom reruns were still big moneymakers in syndication, and they were doing especially well with the gimmicky fantasy shows like Bewitched. They even fired the dad from this show after the first few episodes and replaced him with, of course, why not: Dick Sargent.

And yes, the daughter on this show, Kyle Richards, is now one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Which reminds me, maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to make fun of the standards of sophistication and production values in cable programming from 25 years go.

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