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Weekend Discussion Thread: Failed TV Series You Wish They’d Riff

Alert reader Natalie writes:

Several experiments have involved either a failed two-hour backdoor pilot movie, or two episodes of a failed series clumsily edited together. What other known series failures would you like to see riffed?
Mine would be the 1987 attempt at Bates Motel, the one that tried to position the iconic motel at the center of a horror dramedy episodic anthology. (Good premise, actually; dead wrong IP to pair with it.) Anthony Perkins was attached to that project for a while, but he wisely backed out once he realized its true nature.
With the new television season upon us here in the States, we could also open this up to the fresh crop of new series. Mine is going to be the first attempt at the MacGyver remake. Whatever your feelings on Mac Remake 2.0, there’s probably lots to riff with Mac Remake Beta, the original pilot that CBS wisely threw back.

I know it’s cliche, but c’mon! Cop Rock! Too easy? Maybe. What’s your pick?

126 Replies to “Weekend Discussion Thread: Failed TV Series You Wish They’d Riff”

  1. The Bolem says:

    Maybe it’s just that the new Power Rangers trailer reopened some mid-’90s mental scars, but ‘Superhuman Samurai Cyber Squad’ springs to mind. The first MMPR cash-in not also produced by Saban, it featured the middle Lawrence brother leading the fight against Kilokahn, voiced by Tim Curry. Used B-footage from Gridman, which was sort of Ultraman meets Tron.

    More obscure, ‘Van-Pires’: perhaps the first live-action/CG hybrid TV show. A meteor turns 4 friends into turbo-teens, and random cars into gas-sucking monsters (including a rip-off of Sweet Tooth from Twisted metal), battling for control of Van He’ll Sing’s junkyard. 3D animation so bad, today it might not even be watchable with riffing.

    Of course, those did last a full season, so for something a bit earlier that didn’t make it past a 5-ep miniseries, ‘Power Masters’, Lionel’s attempt to jump on the mid-’80s toy-franchise-cartoon train just as the bubble burst. Vehicles defy description:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnDL4zQDylM

    Okay, I actually just want to see that last one preserved somehow, since I can’t find any fan copies. I wish I’d watched the whole miniseries, almost as much as Battlefield Earth wishes it was Power Masters.

       2 likes

  2. Kenneth Morgan says:

    EricJ: Nahhh, I can’t see M&tB doing jokes about specific 60’s-Trek episodes, it’s just not their thing…

    I can see them doing that. I think RT should’ve celebrated the TOS 50th Anniversary by doing a double feature of “Spock’s Brain” and “The Way to Eden”. And the Trekkers would most likely have given them a pass.
    On the other hand, if they’d tried to riff on “City on the Edge of Forever”, they’d be stoned to death. (Still, be honest; can’t you just see Edith Keller getting hit by that truck, followed by Mike saying, “Why don’t they look?”)

    This reminds me of something: as beloved as Elisabeth Sladen still is, and as touchy as Whovians can be, do you think RT or the revival could get away with riffing on the failed “K-9 and Company” pilot?

       11 likes

  3. Aaron says:

    The Bolem:
    Maybe it’s just that the new Power Rangers trailer reopened some mid-’90s mental scars, but ‘Superhuman Samurai Cyber Squad’ springs to mind. The first MMPR cash-in not also produced by Saban, it featured the middle Lawrence brother leading the fight against Kilokahn, voiced by Tim Curry. Used B-footage from Gridman, which was sort of Ultraman meets Tron.

    Beat me to suggesting a Power Rangers knockoff. The best argument for riffing Superhuman Samurai? The giant Ultraman-type hero that Matthew Lawrence turned into was named…Servo.

    Practically writes itself now, doesn’t it? I’m imagining a host segment where Tom decides he’s the Servo from the “movie” and has to merge with a human host, and of course the only human around is Mike (or Joel or Jonah or whoever)…

       3 likes

  4. MSTie says:

    RedZoneTuba:
    Star Trek (the original series)

    OK, it’s hard to believe now since it has spawned an entire entertainment subgenre, but the original was, by ratings/longevity measures, a failure.

    And when I think of the riffing possibilities for some of the goofier episodes…that’s gold, Jerry, GOLD!

    PS – I’m a big TOS fan, but imagining Mike & the Bots riffing on “Spock’s Brain” is just Nirvana!

    You should join us over at Hipsoda’s Caption Crack. Every Sunday morning we have a “Star Trek Sunday Brunch” where we riff screengrabs from an episode of the original Star Trek.

       2 likes

  5. PrezGAR says:

    If you want a Power Rangers knockoff, the worst one there is would be Tattooed Teenaged Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills. Unlike Power Rangers itself or Superhuma Samurai Syber Squad, it was all American footage, with a really low budget. It was a made for USA series before that really mean something good.

       2 likes

  6. underwoc says:

    This reminds me of something: as beloved as Elisabeth Sladen still is, and as touchy as Whovians can be, do you think RT or the revival could get away with riffing on the failed “K-9 and Company” pilot?

    I think Lis would’ve been happy to write her own riffs for it actually. A lot of the older DW cast members are less than proud of their work – particularly the later Peter Davidson gang. The commentary track for Time Flight in particular is harsh…

    Which reminds me of another series that the riffers could have a field day on – Blake’s 7. Old BBC production values on a Star Trek rip-off with Paul Darrow giving performances that make Shatner look subtle and nuanced…

       3 likes

  7. Mibbitmaker says:

    How about The Jay Leno Show?

    Nah, that was already riffed to perfection by David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, and, of course, Conan O’Brien.

       1 likes

  8. Cam says:

    The Fantastic Journey (1977) : lasted for ten episodes and was abruptly canceled.

    The short lived series has never been released commercially in any format.

    One could cobble together an absolute masterpiece movie of pure riff-cake.

    (includes Roddy McDowall pretty much right before his pivot to a project known as Laserblast)

       6 likes

  9. Kenneth Morgan says:

    Cam:
    The Fantastic Journey (1977) : lasted for ten episodes and was abruptly canceled.

    The short lived series has never been released commercially in any format.

    One could cobble together an absolutemasterpiece movie of pure riff-cake.

    (includes Roddy McDowall pretty much right before his pivot to a project known as Laserblast)

    I haven’t seen that show in years. The only thing I clearly remember is one character having a gadget that, in retrospect, looked a lot like a sonic screwdriver.

       2 likes

  10. Ro-man says:

    EricJ: Nahhh, I can’t see M&tB doing jokes about specific 60’s-Trek episodes, it’s just not their thing…

    No, me neither. I think that would be really out of character and DEFINITELY not funny, lowbrow & unsophisticated & …

    Oh, waitasec, EricJ… was that sarcasm? ;-)

       5 likes

  11. Sitting Duck says:

    underwoc: I think Lis would’ve been happy to write her own riffs for it actually.A lot of the older DW cast members are less than proud of their work – particularly the later Peter Davidson gang.The commentary track for Time Flight in particular is harsh

    To be fair, Time Flight is an especially weak serial.

       1 likes

  12. Atorgo says:

    Kenneth Morgan: I haven’t seen that show in years.The only thing I clearly remember is one character having a gadget that, in retrospect, looked a lot like a sonic screwdriver.

    Co-starring Ike Eisenmann, who starred in Return From Witch Mountain! A bad sequel which could stand with a bit of riffing.
    Here’s the opening credits to Fantastic Journey. Full episodes seem to be up as well.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqKEENAGSBo

       1 likes

  13. GornCaptain says:

    Cam:
    The Fantastic Journey (1977) : lasted for ten episodes and was abruptly canceled.

    The short lived series has never been released commercially in any format.

    One could cobble together an absolutemasterpiece movie of pure riff-cake.

    (includes Roddy McDowall pretty much right before his pivot to a project known as Laserblast)

    I think I did see at least one movie cobbled together from episodes of this on a local station in the late 80’s. As with Gemini Man, Sci Fi actually dug this up and ran the whole series in it’s early years.

    I would love if they got their hands on Conquest of the Earth, which is several Galactica 1980 episodes awkwardly cut together. Would make up for the lack of BSG riffs on Space Mutiny. ;)

       2 likes

  14. staytogethercheeks says:

    Great topic, and hilarious responses.
    Too many options for me to even distill, so I’m just going with what cropped up first…’The New Monkees’…I mean, good god, how much cocaine were people doing in the 80’s?

       3 likes

  15. trickymutha says:

    “Wild Palms”- after all, it had Kim Catrall. Or, “Lace”

       7 likes

  16. trickymutha says:

    staytogethercheeks:
    Great topic, and hilarious responses.
    Too many options for me to even distill, so I’m just going with what cropped up first…’The New Monkees’…I mean, good god, how much cocaine were people doing in the 80’s?

    “this is how much pure cocaine you need to enjoy this movie.”

       1 likes

  17. staytogethercheeks says:

    trickymutha:

    Bahaha, maybe coke was [er, will be] the key ingredient in reconst and flavofives.
    I’m trying to find out how much hash it’ll take for me to overdraw my memory bank.

       1 likes

  18. Angie Schultz says:

    NHCrypto: There was a series in 1982 called “The Phoenix” that lasted about a month. Judson Scott plays an alien named “Bennu of the Golden Light”. It’s ripe for riffing. And it’s got Richard Lynch!

    That sounds wonderful, in a really awful way. I long to see it.

    I also nominate The Sixth Sense with Gary Collins and Holmes and Yoyo (John Schuck is a robot).

       3 likes

  19. Joseph Klemm says:

    Green Switch:
    Seriously, though, because it didn’t last very long, I’d have to choose that Spider-Man series from the 70s.

    For that matter, I’d also suggest the Captain America made for TV films (preferably the second one) that likely served as pilots for a failed series. As a bonus, Cap is played by Reb Brown (aka Blast Hardcheese).

       5 likes

  20. Cameron Bane says:

    The Star Wars Christmas special. Gadzooks, what a steaming dino turd.

    And yes, I consider it a failed pilot, because you just KNOW the network suits were banking on it being a winner (“C’mon, boys, how can it miss?”), and already had some other holiday-themed shows in discussion.

       0 likes

  21. EricJ says:

    Cameron Bane:
    The Star Wars Christmas special. Gadzooks, what a steaming dino turd.

    Yes, just imagine, if somehow, someday, M&tB did the Star Wars Holiday Special…Oh, it’s an impossible dream, I know, but I just keep hoping and wishing someday they might be brave enough–They might even do it but not tell us about it, it’s not something they’d want to spread around, you know!

       1 likes

  22. MSTie says:

    Cameron Bane:
    The Star Wars Christmas special. Gadzooks, what a steaming dino turd.

    And yes, I consider it a failed pilot, because you just KNOW the network suits were banking on it being a winner (“C’mon, boys, how can it miss?”), and already had some other holiday-themed shows in discussion.

    You know it’s on Rifftrax, right? I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not, since the internet still sadly lacks a sarcasm font. Anyway, that Rifftrax is one of the worst/best ever.

       3 likes

  23. dakotaboy says:

    Cameron Bane:
    The Star Wars Christmas special. Gadzooks, what a steaming dino turd.

    And yes, I consider it a failed pilot, because you just KNOW the network suits were banking on it being a winner (“C’mon, boys, how can it miss?”), and already had some other holiday-themed shows in discussion.

    In fact, it was a failed pilot. The intent was to set up a spin-off series that would feature Chewbacca’s family. They gave Art Carney a recurring guest role, they even built reusable sets. It looked like a great idea – on paper. Star Wars was so hot… how could it miss?

       1 likes

  24. NHCrypto says:

    You can find episodes of “The Phoenix” on YouTube “Angie Schultz”. You won’t be disappointed!

       1 likes

  25. Johnny Drama says:

    http://variety.com/2016/scene/news/the-simpsons-600th-episode-1201890295/

    some magazine like Satellite News put The Simpsons on the cover! I missed that issue!

       0 likes

  26. Chris says:

    The atrocious new Kevin James sit-com. It is the most predictable, formulaic thing I have seen in years. He should have just retired after the ugly, humiliating Pall Blart: Mall Cop II. Eeesh.

       0 likes

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