1990s

704 Hauser (1994) – Reverse Bunkerism…

In 1994, Norman Lear created 704 Hauser – yet another spin-off of All in the Family. The show featured a Black family, the Cumberbatches, who now reside in Archie Bunker’s former home although they’re quite the opposite of the Bunker clan. To tie into the original series, Archie’s grandson, Joey, makes an appearance in the pilot as a visitor who wants to see the old family home.

In some sort of spin-off inception, the show starred John Amos of Good Times fame. Good Times, also developed by Norman Lear, was a spin-off of Maude, which was a spin-off of All in the Family.

Amos played Ernie, a working class liberal whose opinions find him continuously sparring with his family:

  • His wife Rose, catering entrepreneur and devout Christian.
  • Thurgood Marshall aka Goodie, his son the conservative Republican
  • Cherlyn, Goodie’s liberal Jewish girlfriend, although his parents would prefer he date a Black woman, or, as Ernie put it, “a beautiful Nubian sister.”

As you can probably guess, the show tackles topics like religion, politics, racism, and blackness – comments/arguments about which can still be heard today, right now, probably happening on twitter as we speak. They’re an intelligent group of folks but not without their flaws.

The show ended up running for only five episodes before CBS cut it loose leaving one episode unaired. Perhaps the audience wasn’t ready but I honestly did have some laughs and even saw some some glimpses of current hit Black-ish and even more so in The Carmichael Show.

You can check out all five episodes on YouTube. Here’s the first:

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The Royal Family (1991) – The Last of a Legend

Fourteen years after the end of Sanford and Son in 1977 Redd Foxx returned for his fourth and final sitcom – 1991’s The Royal Family.

The CBS series, created by Eddie Murphy, starred Foxx as Al Royal, a recently retired mail carrier living in Atlanta who’s ready to settle into his golden years with his wife Victoria – played by Della Reese. However, just as Al retires, his daughter and 3 grandkids (including Larenz Tate and a wee Naya Rivera) come down from Philadelphia to stay while she goes through her divorce. Those empty nests never stay empty, do they?

As you may recall, Foxx and Reese had just worked together two years prior in another Eddie Murphy production: Harlem Nights. It’s not surprising Murphy would want to put these two together again as their snappy chemistry translated very well to prime time TV.

Having just watched the pilot episode I gotta say the barbs they throw at each other are still funny; I could watch them spar all night. But for all the jabs there’s an apparent love and attraction, which they’d happily act out on if it weren’t for constant interruptions. Overall the show was entertaining and apparently it got high ratings early on.

I found the first 2 episodes. The pilot includes a moment in which Al has to have “the talk” with his grandson, Curtis, when Curtis is caught and brought home by a local cop after taking Al’s truck for a spin.

Sadly, Foxx suffered a heart attack while working on the show and passed away. The powers that be then brought in Jackée prior to going on a break. They decided to continue on with the show but when it came back it didn’t do so well and CBS pulled it after its 13th episode leaving 2 unaired. A very sad ending to what started out as a good series.

Profit (1996) – House of Acquisitions

Picture this: A power hungry, psychopathic executive with a tortured past strives to climb up the corporate ladder by any means necessary. Doesn’t matter gets in the way – they are going down.

In a nutshell that’s what FOX’s 1996 drama Profit and it’s titular character, Jim Profit (Adrian Pasdar), are all about.

With popular shows these days like Empire and House of Cards that revolve around ruthless, manipulative, backstabbing liars you love to hate or hate to love this show would fit right in. (Profit even narrates the show himself). But apparently 1996 wasn’t ready – despite positive reviews FOX cancelled it after airing just 4 episodes due to low ratings. Total 8 were shot.

After reading how good it was I had to check it out for myself.
What a good decision that was.

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Woops! (1992) – The Last People on Earth

Picture this: An accidental nuclear holocaust wipes out everyone except for 6 lucky individuals. They all manage to find their way to a random farm where they decide to live together and recreate society. And, you guessed it, hilarity ensues.

Such is Woops! – the 1992 FOX sitcom, although apparently hilarity did not ensue enough as the show only managed air 10 of its 13 episodes before being canned. Not the greatest comedy but I must admit, I did have some laughs during the 5 episodes I watched.

The group is basically made of various societal stereotypes:
The Everyman who’s just trying to make the best of things.
The Uptight Rich Guy who thinks he’s better than everyone.
The Black Doctor who laments being the only black person left.
The Feminist Woman whose liberalism actually proves offensive at times.
The Formerly Homeless Guy who’s just happy to be there.
The Pretty Ditz who the men fawn over.

With such a group it isn’t long before there’s conflict over class, race, gender, etc. They deal with attempts at re-population, capitalism (using twisty ties as money), dictatorship, drug abuse (via hallucinogenic berries), the occasional giant monster and even an appearance by a tragic Santa Claus.

Anyway, here’s the first episode.
I was close to writing it off until Dr. Fred showed up.

It’s a bit Gilligan’s Island-esque in its silliness (just look at the title) and there are some cringe worthy moments. But for what it was I wouldn’t call it the worst show ever. But I’m also a big fan of Small Wonder. So.   ^__^;

Hull High (1990) – Ahead of its time

After looking through prime time schedules of TV’s past searching for shows that didn’t quite make the cut, this little gem caught my eye. I had never heard of it, so I was already off to a good start.

Picture this: A high school. But not just any high school. A cool, modern high school where the ups and downs of teenage lives unfold… wait for it… THROUGH SONG. And! Not only do the kids sing -THEY RAP. Because it’s the 90’s and everyone raps! Even when they shouldn’t.

What a formula for success. Or so they had hoped for 1990’s Hull High.

Let’s look a little closer, shall we?
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Mann & Machine (1992) – Déjà vu in the making

Picture this:
A Dick Wolf crime drama (of course) set in the not too distant future. Hot shot Detective Mann has been partnered with an android much to his dismay. You know, one of those “I don’t need no stinkin’ machine” types. One day said machine is destroyed (hooray!) and the detective is in need of a new partner, preferably human.

In cartwheels (yes, that’s right) the interestingly named Eve – Mann’s new partner. But there’s something strange about her; she seems a little off. It’s not long before we learn she, too, is a robot. She’s a special one though. An upgrade! An advancement in artificial intelligence with the ability to learn emotions therefore making her… almost human.

Boom! There you have it. Mann & Machine from 1992. NBC let this run 9 episodes before it hit the chopping block.

Sounds like a solid concept. So solid it showed up again 21 years later in the 2013 FOX series Almost Human (which I quite liked), but that didn’t last long either. Only 13 episodes and it was gone. How long before we give this story another go?

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