My Favorite Obscurities: The 1980s

Television Obscurities celebrated its 12th birthday earlier this year (on June 11th, to be exact). That’s not a milestone anniversary so I didn’t mark the occasion but in recognition of one dozen years online I decided to start examining my personal favorite TV obscurities. Once a month I’ll be writing about my 12 favorite obscurities from each decade starting with the 1940s in June and ending with the 2000s in December. Many of these shows I’ve written about over the past 12 years but not all of them. This month I’m tackling the 1980s. So here, in chronological order, are my favorite obscurities from the 1980s:

Goodtime Girls (ABC)
January 22nd, 1980 – August 29th, 1980

I’ve read a lot about World War II over the years and I’ve always been particularly fascinated by the role women played in the war effort. That might explain why this sitcom has been on my radar for a long time. I’ve yet to see any episodes–there were only 11–and to be honest part of me worries it featured a little too much slapstick. Maybe that’s why I haven’t actively sought it out.

United States (NBC)
March 11th, 1980 – April 29th, 1980

Larry Gelbart served as executive producer for this short-lived sitcom, which aired without a laugh track. Beau Bridges and Helen Shaver starred as a married couple trying their best to navigate life’s many problems. The title referred to those rare occasions when the two felt they were truly united in their relationship. NBC aired just six episodes before cancelling the series, leaving an additional seven episodes unaired. All 13 episodes would later air on A&E in 1986 and in 2002 select episodes aired on Trio.

The Brady Brides (NBC)
February 6th, 1981 – April 17th, 1981

No, The Brady Brides isn’t really one of my favorite obscurities. I honestly couldn’t come up a dozen obscurities from the 1980s–that decade is a bit of a wasteland for me personally–so I had to branch out to include shows that somehow influenced me and my interest in obscure television. I can recall seeing a few episodes of The Brady Brides on Fox Family Channel back in the late 1990s and thinking how wonderful it was that a short-lived sitcom was being rerun. That was around the time I was working on a very early version of what eventually became Television Obscurities so I guess you could say The Brady Brides had a small role in the formation of the website.

Lewis & Clark (NBC)
October 29th, 1981 – July 30th, 1982

The premiere of this NBC sitcom was delayed due to the 1981 Writers Guild of America strike and it didn’t last long once it did get on the air. NBC pulled it in January 1982 after just eight episodes but later burned off the remaining five installments during the summer of 1982. Gabe Kaplan and Guich Koock starred. I’ve never seen any episodes but I’m a big fan of Welcome Back, Kotter, which of course starred Kaplan. He also created both shows. The concept seems very weird. Kaplan’s character moves his family from New York to Texas so he can fulfill his dream of owning a cafe that caters to the country music crowd.

AfterMASH (CBS)
September 26th, 1983 – December 4th, 1984; May 31st, 1985

Some might argue that as a spin-off of the wildly popular M*A*S*H, it’s wrong to call AfterMASH an obscurity. I agree but only up to a point. The sitcom was heavily promoted before it premiered and was very successful during its first season, ranking 15th for the 1983-1984 season. Things went horribly awry during the 1984-1985 season, when CBS decided to schedule the series opposite NBC’s A-Team. I haven’t seen every episode yet but I will eventually. I think it was a series that could have been great but just didn’t quite work. If only it had been a drama.

For Love and Honor (NBC)
September 23rd, 1983 – December 27th, 1983

This was a toss-up. There were two new military soap operas on the air in the fall of 1983: For Love and Honor on NBC and Emerald Point N.A.S. on CBS. I’ve long been intrigued by both shows despite not having seen a single episode of either one. They were both failures but For Love and Honor was the bigger flop. It chronicled the lives of paratroopers stationed at an Army fort in Texas and was yanked off the air after just 12 episodes. Emerald Point N.A.S. managed to survive the entire season. For Love and Honor was doomed from the start. It was scheduled opposite Falcon Crest and after Manimal.

The Four Seasons (CBS)
January 29th, 1984 – July 29th, 1984

If not for the involvement of Alan Alda, who developed this sitcom as a follow-up to his 1981 film of the same name, I can honestly say I doubt I would have considered writing an article about it. I’m glad I did because I liked the one or two episodes I watched and hopefully will get the chance to see all 13 at some point, including the special hour-long premiere that featured Alda in a guest role. It probably never had much of a chance of succeeding because it was so different from the movie.

My article on The Four Seasons can be found here.

Hot Pursuit (NBC)
September 22nd, 1984 – December 28th, 1984

Kerrie Keane and Eric Pierpoint starred in this drama series that was a variation of The Fugitive with a married couple on the run after the wife is framed for murder, desperately trying to find proof of her innocence. There was even a one-eyed assassin chasing the two, not to mention the police. It initially aired on Saturdays during the 1984-1985 season and then shifted to Fridays for a few weeks. A total of 12 episodes were aired. I haven’t seen any.

V: The Series (NBC)
October 26th, 1984 – March 22nd, 1985

This one’s a popular obscurity, there’s no doubt about that, even if it wasn’t very good. It was too much of a soap opera. It was also an expensive flop for NBC. I’m a big fan of the V franchise. The original 1983 miniseries is my favorite. V: The Final Battle was a decent follow-up but the ending was terrible. V: The Series probably never should have happened. Despite reportedly costing a million dollars an episode, the special effects were awful. I’ve watched the series all the way through twice, I believe, and I’m sure I’ll watch it again one day. It’s fun if you don’t think about it too much.

Otherworld (CBS)
January 26th, 1985 – March 16th, 1985

I wish the rumor that five unaired episodes of Otherworld exist was true. I really do. That would mean five more adventures with the Sterling family on Thel, a parallel Earth, as they try to find their way home. But it’s not. There were only eight episodes (two of which were originally the pilot telefilm that was for some reason split in half). It’s also too bad that creator Roderick Taylor was forced by CBS to tone down his original concept (he wanted the family to “to confront their worst fears and fight for their lives” each week) to make the series more family friendly. What could have been…

My article on Otherworld can be found here.

Fast Times (CBS)
March 5th, 1986 – April 23rd, 1986

This is another obscurity that isn’t really a personal favorite. TV Land aired at least one episode in the late 1990s or early 2000s as part of an Ultimate TV Fan programming block. I was on vacation with my family and rather than actual go out and enjoy wherever it was we were staying, I opted to stay in the hotel/motel/resort/whatever so I could watch it. That’s how committed I was to short-lived TV shows. I think I’ve seen two episodes of Fast Times and don’t recall either being very good. I have to confess I’m not a huge fan of the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

TV 101 (CBS)
November 29th, 1988 – March 25th, 1989

I don’t know why but something about this sitcom has always fascinated me. Maybe it’s because it was about a high school television news class and I took a production class in high school (no news, though, just random video projects). A total of 17 episodes were produced but only 13 aired. Low ratings doomed the show, which aired in thee different time slots, but controversy surrounding a three-part story involving abortion probably didn’t help.

Hit the comments with your thoughts on these shows and any favorite TV obscurities you may have from the 1980s. Check back next month for my 12 favorite obscurities from the 1990s.


13 Comments

  • Hal says:

    I remember watching FAST TIMES; it aired Wednesday nights before a Robby Benson vehicle called TOUGH COOKIES. You’re right, it wasn’t very good, because like DELTA HOUSE, the frankness of the movie couldn’t be translated to the small screen.

    I did really like a short-lived CBS series that same season called FOLEY SQUARE, which starred Margaret Colin (who later got another shot at series stardom with a much less impressive vehicle, LEG WORK). FOLEY SQUARE was set in a DA’s office, and had Hector Elizondo (as Jesse Steinberg!), Cathy Silvers (daughter of Phil) and Michael Lembeck (son of Harvey) in the supporting cast. Also Jon Lovitz. I thought it had potential, but CBS didn’t really have any sitcom-compatible spots for it to grow. Creator Diane English hit it big with MURPHY BROWN not long after. Unfortunately, Margaret Colin never really did, but she’s been working steadily ever since.

  • John C. Bunnell says:

    I remember watching Hot Pursuit when it aired, and thought it was reasonably well done for what it was. (It should be noted that while I’m old enough to have seen Hot Pursuit on original airing, I totally missed The Fugitive in both its original and big-screen incarnations.)

    And I too want those five imaginary extra episodes of Otherworld….

  • Bob says:

    I’ve seen the following when they originally aired:

    THE BRADY BRIDES – corny but watched anyway.
    LEWIS & CLARK – only watched the premiere because of Gabe.
    AFTERMASH – watched only the first season because nothing else was on.
    V: THE SERIES – loved the show and didn’t miss an episode.
    HOT PURSUIT – loved this show too and never missed an episode.

  • michael shonk says:

    My 12 favorite obscurities…

    GOOD TIME HARRY (NBC, 1980) Comedy about a womanizing sportswriter played by Ted Bessell and created by one of TV’s best comedy writers Steve Gordon (ARTHUR).

    MURPHY’S LAW (ABC, 1988-89) Light mystery with George Segal as a hapless insurance investigator, based on Warren Murphy’s book series “Trace” that was based on Murphy’s other book series “Digger.”
    Here is part of one episode…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vD-0dRYCGiA

    OPEN ALL NIGHT (ABC 1981-82) Sitcom set in 24-hour convenience store.
    Episode “Chicken Suit” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqtX4rjmizc

    DAYS AND NIGHTS OF MOLLY DODD (NBC, 1987-88 ; LIFETIME 1988-91) More sadly forgotten than obscure, this was a brilliant dramady from Jay Tarses. It starred Blair Brown as a young woman trying to make it through life in New York. Here is a clip with Brown and David Strathairn: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxPyTi5Grms

    DETECTIVE IN THE HOUSE (CBS, 1985) Judd Hirsch plays a successful engineer who decides to be a PI with the help of retired PI played by Jack Elam.

    STONE (ABC 1980) Dennis Weaver plays a police detective who has written a best selling novel. Created by Stephen Cannell (ROCKFORD FILES) and Richard Levinson and William Link (the team that created COLUMBO).

    CASSIE & CO (NBC, 1982) Angie Dickinson (POLICE WOMAN) leaves the police force to become a PI. Check out the theme.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqWOfKKNl30

    FOUL PLAY (ABC, 1981). Based on the film with Deborah Raffin and Barry Bostwick taking over the main characters. Here is the theme:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87w0M0Gy_2g

    NEW ADVENTURES OF BEANS BAXTER (FOX –) Teen becomes a spy to help find his dad who was not a mailman like he had thought.
    Episode “There’s No Place Like Omsk”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJ92eZs0JCc

    MANCUSO FBI (NBC, 1989-90) Robert Loggia starred as a maverick FBI agent more interested in justice than rules.

    UNITED STATES (NBC, 1980) Larry Gelbart best known for MASH but a successful writer dating back to the 50s tried a dramady about marriage. A critical and audience failure I remember very disappointed as this was no MASH. But I would love to see it again and see if the series was just too far ahead of its time.

    SMALL & FRYE (CBS, 1983) Produced by Disney, Darren McGavin starred as a PI with a partner who due to a lab accident could shrink like the Ant-Man. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_P8_UA6GAY

    I can’t wait until next month when you try to limit yourself to just 12. The 90s had a explosion in syndicated TV series, some cable networks such as USA turning to original programs, and the too short lives of WB and UPN to add to all the shows from the Big 3 and a growing Fox.

  • Patrick McNamara says:

    The Otherworld lost episode rumors started shortly before the show had finished airing. But I believe it was re-aired on SciFi (now Syfy) and if any lost episodes had existed they would have been aired.

  • Albert Giesbrecht says:

    One of the actresses on Goodtime Girls, referred it to as Goodtime Whores, so you can guess to the actual content of the series. I remember watching at least one episode.

  • Andrew says:

    I am not a fan of sci-fi at all but the teenage me loved the V franchise, both mini-series and the ongoing series, although the special effects were totally corny and the stories a bit melodramatic I loved it. I was disappointed that the regular series didn’t go further.

    I did follow the recent V re-make and again disappointed it didn’t continue. It was great that they had Jane Badler back for the re-make.

  • Joe says:

    I remember watching that one episode of FAST TIMES that TV LAND aired in the early 2000s and RJ is right-it was pretty bad. I remember my brother came in the room while I was watching it, and after a few minutes I turned the channel and he said “What the hell was that other show?”

  • stevie g says:

    I actually watched The Good Time Girls when it was on. It was made by the producers of Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, so was kind of a 40s version of those sit-coms. It even featured Scott Baio once as a guest star. I too was a fan of 40s era stuff, curtesy of a couple of shows from the 70s, The Sullivans, a hit aussie drama and The original adventures of Wonder Woman.
    The Brady Girls get married was good as it featured all the original Brady cast, it went for 90 minutes, but was broken into 3 parts to be part of the Brady Brides series, which wasn’t as good.

  • Mike Johnson says:

    Whenever anyone mentions TV obscurities from the 1980’s, invariably do I remember NBC’s 1983-84 season! For the record the Peacock offered eight new shows in the fall of 1983, and only one of them made it past Christmas! This was the season of “Jennifer Slept Here”, “Mr.Smith”, “The Rousters” and of course, who doesn’t love to hate “Manimal”! Things hit bottom at NBC until “The Cosby Show” in 1984, “Golden Girls” in ’85 and when America discovered “Cheers”! I loved “The Brady Brides” and “A Very Brady Christmas” but HATED “The Bradys” in 1990 (I did like “The Brady 500” and the one where Mike ran for office but the last two episodes, “Bottoms Up” and “The Party Girls”, ought to be wiped from the earth’s surface forever)!

  • stevie g says:

    Thankfully we never got The Bradys in Australia, it does sound awful by most accounts. So A Very Brady Christmas, which was great, was the last canon Brady thing I saw. I have had a look at some Brady Brides on YouTube and looking back now, it was a real shame they stuck the lovely Marcia and Jan with those two dudes.

    • Mike Johnson says:

      You ought to have seen the guy they tried to stick Cindy with in “The Bradys”; he looked like Bela Lugosi in an Ed Wood movie!

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