Friday, June 01, 2012

Some forgotten TV shows

Last night I somehow got into one of those internet things where I was trapped on for a while, looking up forgotten TV shows.  Sometimes I still wish there was some way I could see these again, but for the most part, they have never been released on DVD or even VHS.  Anyone remember any of these?

The Manhunter:  1974.  This one starred Ken Howard (later of The White Shadow).  There was also a pilot movie before the series.  He played a WWI vet who turned bounty hunter during the Great Depression.  He kept a frikkin' arsenal of 1930s-era firearms tucked away in all sorts of clever hiding places in his car.  I remember one scene in which he needed to transport a criminal but didn't have any way to secure him, so he stopped at the first hardware store he could find and bought a bear trap (bear traps being a standard in-stock item at hardware stores in Kansas during the Depression, apparently) and rigged it up with a stick and some rope in his back seat so the criminal's foot was in the partially propped-open trap.  The bad guy said, "If I move, that thing'll break me leg!"  He told the guy, "I guess you better not move, then."  When I was 10 years old, that was high comedy.  I still think it's pretty funny.  This lasted 23 episodes (plus the original movie) before it got the axe.

The White Shadow:  I don't think I need to say anything about this one.  Most people probably remember it.  I watched it regularly.

And while I'm on the subject of Ken Howard, did anyone ever see the TV movie he made about Father Damien?  I thought that was a pretty good movie, but the only time I ever saw it was when it originally aired in 1980.

Lucan:  1977, 12 episodes.  Somewhat of a ridiculous premise:  a young boy is lost in the wilderness of  Minnesota and rescued and raised by wolves.  At the age of 10, he is found and brought back to civilization by a friendly doctor.  The series begins when he is a young man, pursued by an obsessive cop who thinks Lucan committed a crime that he is really innocent of.  He doesn't have any super-powers, but under stress reverts to more animalistic behavior--basically turning into a creature of pure fight-or-flight instinct--he can run very fast, jump quite high, and when angry his eyes turn red, if I remember correctly.  And he is a fearsome fighter when cornered.  When I was 13 I loved this show.

The Master:  1984.  Okay, this show was pretty dumb, and the fighting sequences were terrible, but I really liked it.  I never could see Timothy Van Patten as anything other than Salami from White Shadow, but even back then I would watch and love anything with Lee Van Cleef in it.  He played a guy who was the only "occidental American" (in the show's words) to be trained as a ninja.  He came back to the U.S. to look for his missing daughter, and hooked up with Van Patten's character who he began to train in the ninja ways, or something, and they got into all kinds of misadventures together.  By the way, if you click on that link you can see a graphic of some old VHS release with Demi Moore's (as a teenager) picture on it.  She was never on any episode of that show.  The only reason for this that I can think of, and I'm just guessing, is maybe they used a photo of her for the Master's long-lost daughter.  I also don't understand why imdb lists Van Patten as appearing in only 6 episodes, because he was in them all.  It managed to struggle on for a mere 13 episodes before disappearing from the face of the earth.

It's Your Move:  Also from 1984, this sitcom starred a young Jason Bateman as Matthew Burton, a teenage evil genius who was constantly scheming for money and to gain power over the dimwits who surrounded him.  This show was hilarious.  It lasted only 18 episodes, and culminated in a two-parter about a rock band called The Dregs of Humanity, who always appeared on stage in heavy, macabre makeup, often obscured by special lighting and fog effects.  The catch was, the Dregs weren't real, but were essentially life-sized marionettes  manipulated by Burton and his sidekick/assistant Eli.  Unfortunately, I was never able to see the conclusion of this story and I don't know what ultimately happened with the Dregs.  I also seem to remember a minor character who may have appeared on only one episode, a young girl named Enid, who either wanted to be or thought she was a horse.  But I may be getting her confused with some other forgotten show.

Spencer:  1984 again.  Two years before Ferris Bueller was a wise-cracking teen who broke the fourth wall and directly addressed the viewer, Spencer Winger was doing it.  Spencer was played by Chad Lowe, who left the show after 7 episodes because of a contract dispute.  He was recast with some other guy and the show was renamed and went immediately and directly down the toilet.  Thirteen episodes total, but only the ones with Lowe are fit to watch.  Really funny.

Parker Lewis Can't Lose:  73 epiodes and it's not on Netflix?  WTF?!

By the way, why hasn't the full run of Benson been released on DVD?  And why isn't Forever Knight on Netflix?

The Famous Teddy Z:  1989, a sitcom starring Jon Cryer.  Married With Children ran for, what, like 65 years and this only lasted 20 episodes?

Stressed Eric:  This was a British animated sitcom from 1998 that ran for 13 episodes and which someone thought would be good for American television.  I knew that from the first minute of its broadcast in the states that it was doomed.  I watched every episode they aired here, but they showed only a few of them.  This is probably the only half-hour sitcom-like show that made me laugh so hard I thought I was going to pass out from lack of oxygen.  Good news, though:  I discovered that you can watch six of the episodes for free online at Hulu.  I haven't yet, but I will.  I only hope one of them is the one with the exploding horse.

Does anyone remember the 1990 TV series version of The Flash?  A curious thing that I remember about this show was that, although it was set in contemporary times, all the cars were old, like from the 50s.  I don't know why they did that, but it was cool.  Also, Amanda Pays.

Oh yeah, and I almost forgot TV101.  1988, 13 episodes, starred Jason Robards' son Sam.  I thought that was a cool show, too.

And of course, let us not forget the great Max Headroom.  Far too smart for its time.  Even in this watered-down format, most people just couldn't take such a dystopian cyberpunk view of the future, which deep down they knew was going to really happen, and happen soon (20 minutes into the future).  I so miss this show.  Also, Amanda Pays.


  1. Man. Memories. MST3K did a 2 part movie version of The Master. It was put iut as Master Ninja I and Master Ninja II. They are both ip on YouTube. Best part of the series was the bots si ging Master Ninja Theme Song. LOVED Parkee Lewis and TeddyZ. Fox had another show called Hermans Head I liked and another one about post apacalyptic US as a sitcom. Man it was hilarious. Netflix needs to get qith the program

  2. I remember that Flash series. Though I was not very impressed with the whole production, I did like one small detail that the writers worked into the storyline: running very fast made him hungry. Flash would go chase some bad guys, or something, and then the next scene he'd be shown eating about fifteen hamburgers. It's a small dose of realism (have you ever seen triathletes load up before a competition?) in a show about a guy with fantastical powers, but it was a nice touch.

  3. Demi Moore WAS in The Master, but just for the first episode.

  4. Herman's Head was another great one, I had forgotten it. I seem to remember the post apocalyptic one, too, but only vaguely.

    One other I forgot was Best of the West, a western sitcom.

  5. Not forgotten, except by the fools who release older TV shows on DVD. I'd jump to buy "The Master" series on DVD!