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TV Shows That Failed Despite Having a Super Bowl Lead-In

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When a TV network believes in a new show and wants to get it in front of as many eyeballs as possible, they air it directly after the Super Bowl. However, not all series benefit from this advantageous position. Some are so bad, even a Super Bowl lead-in can't prevent a mid-season cancellation. Here are six shows that premiered after the big game but flopped.

1. 'Brothers and Sisters' (NBC, 12 Episodes: January 21, 1979-April 6, 1979)

Synopsis: Set at "Crandall College," Brothers and Sisters followed three cut-ups causing trouble in their fraternity. In the pilot, Zipper (one of the bros) bets his entire tuition that he can lure sorority babe Suzi Cooper into his bedroom by midnight (classic Zipper). Footage is tough to come by, but there's a short promo above.

Why the Network Thought It Would Work: Even today, studios insist on flogging Animal House's horse corpse, so it's no surprise that the networks gave it a try when the flesh was still fresh. In 1979, three separate fraternity-themed shows made it onto TV: ABC's Delta House, CBS's Co-Ed Fever, and NBC's Brothers and Sisters. All three premiered within weeks of each other, but Brothers and Sisters had the coveted time slot immediately after Super Bowl XIII.

Why It Flopped: Besides the fact that it was terrible? Market over-saturation didn't help, even though the competition wasn't exactly strong. Rival show Co-Ed Fever lasted only one episode, despite the fact that it featured a motorcycle-driving octogenarian house mother.

2. 'MacGruder and Loud' (ABC, 14 Episodes: January 20, 1985-April 30, 1985)

Synopsis: Malcolm MacGruder and Jenny Loud are tough, fast-talking L.A. cops, and the only thing they love more than arresting bad guys is kissing each other (that's because they're married). Marriage is against LAPD policy, so MacGruder and Loud have to sneak around under the suspicious Sergeant's nose. In the pilot, we see the two cops get hitched in Vegas, a scene that hints at the realistic and snappy dialogue viewers would come to expect from M&L:

MacGruder: "Can you hurry it up? She's pregnant."

Loud: "I'm not pregnant! Well, not yet..." [Looks lovingly into MacGruder's eyes]

Priest: "I now pronounce you man and wife." [Saxophone blares]

A side note: There is so much saxophone in this show. I don't know if they got a good deal on a studio musician or something, but the music whines throughout every episode.

Why the Network Thought It Would Work: It was an Aaron Spelling show, and he had a track record of producing huge hits like The Mod Squad and Charlie's Angels. It also sounded like a combination Cagney and Lacey and MacGyver, so they probably hoped viewers would get confused.

Why It Flopped: America just wasn't ready for a TV show that tackled the pressing moral and legislative issues of married police officers. The saxophone didn't help, either.

3. 'The Last Precinct' (NBC, 8 Episodes: January 26, 1986-May 30, 1986)

Synopsis: Can't get enough Police Academy? Well, what about Police Academy 2? Still want more? Then stuff your mind-hole with The Last Precinct, a comedy about misfits from a (you guessed it) police academy.

Why the Network Thought It Would Work: Police Academy worked! Police Academy 2 kind of worked? Why don't we barf this out into the world before they make a third and see if it sticks.

Why It Flopped: America was a little Policy Academy'd out by the time this Adam West-led sitcom hit the air. Even with the help of a lead-in from the most-watched Super Bowl ever featuring one of the most beloved teams of all time (the '85 Bears), The Last Precinct was doomed from the start.

4. 'Grand Slam' (CBS, 6 Episodes: January 28, 1990 – March 14, 1990)

Synopsis: Grand Slam was about Hardball and Gomez, two San Diego bounty hunters. That's all I got. It's like the show was scrubbed from the earth. The above clip, which is in Hungarian, is pretty much the only evidence of Grand Slam's existence.

Why the Network Thought It Would Work: Perhaps they considered Grand Slam a natural extension of Miami Vice, which was cancelled the previous year.

Why It Flopped: I have no idea. Frankly, the show looks awesome, even in Hungarian. I mean, Hardball and Gomez eat those peppers and—WOWZA, THOSE ARE SPICY. They can't find any water so they have to break into a woman's house and drink out of her goldfish bowl, but—uh oh!—she has a gun. Holy moly, how are Hardball and Gomez going to get out of this jam? I'd gladly watch nine seasons of Grand Slam.

5. 'The Good Life' (NBC, 13 Episodes: January 30, 1994-April 12, 1994)

Synopsis: John Caponera played John Bowman, a man who works at a lock company in Chicago, has a family, and, um, that's pretty much it. Drew Carey also works at the lock company and occasionally stops by the Bowmans' house, so there's that. Let's see, what else? Oh yeah, they have a dog.

Why the Network Thought It Would Work: NBC found success hitching their wagon to Jerry Seinfeld, so they thought they could do it again with another stand-up comedian, John Caponera.

Why It Flopped: Watch the episode above. It's like a tired sitcom trope menagerie. They Dr. Frankenstein'd the body parts and organs of a dozen other lame mid-'90s comedies and created this hideous, evil monster.

6. 'Extreme' (NBC, 7 Episodes: January 29, 1995-April 6, 1995)

Synopsis: James Brolin operates a search and rescue team in the Rockies. Judging by the intro, there is extreme rock climbing, extreme BASE jumping, extreme rafting, extreme sex, extreme helicopters, extreme snowboarding, extreme hot tubs, and extreme guitar riffs.

Why the Network Thought It Would Work: This was 1995, the era of X-Games, Reebok Pumps, Dan Cortese, and Sonic the Hedgehog. If you weren't extreme and rockin' a tight bandana while rollerblading and listening to Collective Soul, then you were worse than dirt.

Why It Flopped: Probably wasn't extreme enough.

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10 Filling Facts About A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Though it may not be as widely known as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has been a beloved holiday tradition for many families for more than 40 years now. Even if you've seen it 100 times, there’s still probably a lot you don’t know about this Turkey Day special.

1. IT’S THE FIRST PEANUTS SPECIAL TO FEATURE AN ADULT VOICE.

We all know the trombone “wah wah wah” sound that Charlie Brown’s teacher makes when speaking in a Peanuts special. But A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which was released in 1973, made history as the first Peanuts special to feature a real, live, human adult voice. But it’s not a speaking voice—it’s heard in the song “Little Birdie.”

2. IT WASN’T JUST ANY ADULT WHO LENT HIS VOICE TO THE SPECIAL.

Being the first adult to lend his or her voice to a Peanuts special was kind of a big deal, so it makes sense that the honor wasn’t bestowed on just any old singer or voice actor. The song was performed by composer Vince Guardaldi, whose memorable compositions have become synonymous with Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang.

“Guaraldi was one of the main reasons our shows got off to such a great start,” Lee Mendelson, the Emmy-winning producer who worked on many of the Peanuts specials—including A Charlie Brown Thanksgivingwrote for The Huffington Post in 2013. “His ‘Linus and Lucy,’ introduced in A Charlie Brown Christmas, set the bar for the first 16 shows for which he created all the music. For our Thanksgiving show, he told me he wanted to sing a new song he had written for Woodstock. I agreed with much trepidation as I had never heard him sing a note. His singing of ‘Little Birdie’ became a hit."

3. DESPITE THE VOICE, THERE ARE NO ADULTS FEATURED IN THE SPECIAL.

While Peanuts specials are largely populated by children, there’s usually at least an adult or two seen or heard somewhere. That’s not the case with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving may be the only Thanksgiving special (live or animated) that does not include adults,” Mendelson wrote for HuffPo. “Our first 25 specials honored the convention of the comic strip where no adults ever appeared. (Ironically, our Mayflower special does include adults for the first time.)”

4. LUCY IS MOSTLY M.I.A., TOO.

Though early on in the special, viewers get that staple scene of Lucy pulling a football away from Charlie Brown at the last minute, that’s all we see of Chuck’s nemesis in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. (Lucy's brother, Linus, however, is still a main character.)

5. CHARLIE BROWN AND LUCY STILL KEEP IN TOUCH.

Though they only had a single scene together, Todd Barbee, who voiced Charlie Brown, told Noblemania that he and Robin Kohn, who voiced Lucy in the Thanksgiving special, still keep in touch. “We actually went to high school together,” Barbee said. “We still live in Marin County, are Facebook friends, and occasionally see each other.”

6. CHARLIE BROWN HAD SOME TROUBLE WITH HIS SIGNATURE “AAARRRGG.”

One unique aspect of the Peanuts specials is that the bulk of the characters are voiced by real kids. In the case of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, 10-year-old newcomer Todd Barbee was tasked with giving a voice to Charlie Brown—and it wasn’t always easy.

“One time they wanted me to voice that ‘AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGG’ when Charlie Brown goes to kick the football and Lucy yanks it away,” Barbee recalled to Noblemania in 2014. “Try as I might, I just couldn’t generate [it as] long [as] they were looking for … so after something like 25 takes, we moved on. I was sweating the whole time. I think they eventually got an adult or a kid with an older voice to do that one take."

7. LINUS STILL GETS AN ENTHUSIASTIC RESPONSE.

While Barbee got a crash course in the downside of celebrity at a very early age—“seeing my name printed in TV Guide made everyone around me go bananas … everybody … just thought I was some big movie star or something,” he told Noblemania—Stephen Shea, who voiced Linus, still gets a pretty big reaction.

"I don't walk around saying 'I'm the voice of Linus,'" Shea told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. "But when people find out one way or another, they scream 'I love Linus. That is my favorite character!'"

8. THANKS TO LINUS, THE THANKSGIVING SPECIAL GOT A SPINOFF.

As is often the case in a Peanuts special, Linus gets to play the role of philosopher in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and remind his friends (and the viewers) about the history and true meaning of whatever holiday they’re celebrating. His speech about the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving eventually led to This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers, a kind of spinoff adapted from that Thanksgiving Day prayer, which sees the Peanuts gang becoming a part of history.

9. LEE MENDELSON HAD AN ISSUE WITH BIRD CANNIBALISM.

In writing for HuffPo for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’s 40th anniversary, Mendelson admitted that one particular scene in the special led to “a rare, minor dispute during the creation of the show. Mr. Schulz insisted that Woodstock join Snoopy in carving and eating a turkey. For some reason I was bothered that Woodstock would eat a turkey. I voiced my concern, which was immediately overruled.”

10. MENDELSON EVENTUALLY GOT HIS WAY ... THOUGH NOT FOR LONG.

Though Mendelson lost his original argument against seeing Woodstock eating another bird, he was eventually able to right that wrong. “Years later, when CBS cut the show from its original 25 minutes to 22 minutes, I sneakily edited out the scene of Woodstock eating,” he wrote. “But when we moved to ABC in 2001, the network (happily) elected to restore all the holiday shows to the original 25 minutes, so I finally have given up.”

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The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon Is Back
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

For many fans, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as beloved a Thanksgiving tradition as mashed potatoes and gravy (except funnier). It seems appropriate, given that the show celebrates the turkeys of the movie world. And that it made its debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 (on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis). In 1991, to celebrate its third anniversary, Comedy Central hosted a Thanksgiving Day marathon of the series—and in the more than 25 years since, that tradition has continued.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Shout! Factory will host yet another Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hosted by series creator Joel Hodgson and stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day. Taking place online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, or via the Shout! Factory TV app on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and select smart TVs, the trio will share six classic MST3K episodes that have never been screened as part of a Shout! Factory Turkey Day Marathon. Here’s hoping your favorite episode makes it (cough, Hobgoblins, cough.)

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