comedy

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:

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.

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.   ^__^;

Women In Prison (1987) – Before there was #OITNB

Picture this: An 80’s yuppie gets sent to prison after being framed for shoplifting by her cheating husband and hilarity ensues!

That’s it. That’s the entire premise of FOX’s 1987 comedy Women In Prison. I watched the first episode yesterday and as simple and predictable as it all was, I really liked it. It was silly, over the top, and to be quite honest, pretty much what I expected from a FOX sitcom – especially one from the same creators of the great Married With Children (which itself had only just debuted earlier that same year).

It’s got all the tropes.
Vicky is the total bougie, naive, Pollyanna, fish out of water type who tries to make nice with the other inmates and charm her way though everything. Sound familiar? But as annoying as she should be, I kind of love her.

The inmates are an amusing bunch: The Tough One, The Sexy One, The Old One, The Brainy One. And of course there’s the Snarky Guard and Laid-Back Warden. Power struggles, job assignments, fights, solitary confinement. All things we’ve come to expect from a prison show are there and nothing to be taken very seriously.

Following a 13 episode first season FOX didn’t pick it up for a second. How could a show about women’s prison really go anywhere anyway, right?

Honestly though, one of the greatest things about the show is the theme song. I love, love, love me a good theme song and this one is so hilariously melodramatic. Plus the opening does a good job of introducing the cast and showing what each inmate got busted for.

 

So if you’re in the mood for a giggle, the first episode is on youtube,which I’d recommend checking out (there are even some commercials and an episode of Dolly). Enjoy!