The Terrible Show That Launched the Career Of....

I was going to use this for a “Weekend Flop” post, but I couldn’t find any episodes of it online; instead I’ll just embed the title sequence here because I can’t think of anything else to post at the end of the day. This is the intro for a one-season flop called Living Dolls, about four teen models who live with their modeling agent (Michael Learned), who acts as a substitute mother to them and teaches them that there’s more to life than just looking good. Oh, and one of the girls was a tough girl from the streets who had a chip on her shoulder but was secretly vulnerable. Yes, we’re talking The Facts of Life with skinny people, and while I’ve never seen the show, apparently it was really, really bad; the Wikipedia entry says that it was the only show of the season to get an “F” from People Magazine, not normally home to the toughest critics in the world. But you’ve heard of at least two of the girls, and the other two, Deborah Tucker and Alison Elliott, have done some other stuff you might have seen.


As I said, I never watched it; if you never watched it but feel like maybe you did, it’s because the production company launched this show via a backdoor pilot (or “stealth pilot” as I prefer to call it) on “Who’s the Boss?,” with Alyssa Milano dabbling in teen modeling and bringing along her previously-unknown friend, Leah Remini, who winds up moving in with Michael Learned. (Halle Berry, however, was not in the pilot. I guess they must have added her after they went to series, which probably allowed them to run 12 episodes instead of 6.) We’ve all seen backdoor spinoff pilots, like Private Practice, but my favourite kind of backdoor pilot is the one that launches a totally unrelated show with unrelated characters: they’d move in for that episode, find a way to fit in at least one character from the parent show, and launch the new show by piggybacking on the weekly budget of the established hit. It was a devious way for production companies to make pilots for virtually nothing, but it died out because a) it was a waste of an episode, and most shows can no longer afford to waste an episode; b) few actually-successful shows ever got launched that way. (One of the exceptions was The Facts of Life, which launched as a backdoor pilot on Diff’rent Strokes.)

By the way, if you want proof that even bad TV producers are auteurs, the creator of this show was Ross Brown (a Facts of Life writer, of course), who later went on to run TGIF’s Step By Step and give us scenes that were virtually identical (only with even more of an icky vibe) to that intro.

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