Posts Tagged ‘mystery science theater’

TV Shows That Moved to Other Networks

May 29, 2010

We’ve all had beloved television shows get canceled. Sometimes, you get so angry that you claim that you’ll never watch network television again. You still watch the big networks, of course, but it feels good to have that one moment of gumption when you feel as though you can make a stand against the mass media system.

But there is hope. Some shows killed (mercifully or mercilessly, depending on your point of view) by their original network have been picked up by other networks. Although this is incredibly rare, many viewers still like to believe that this is a viable possibility when they realize that their favorite show is about to be executed. A successful move is equally rare, since most of these refugee shows barely survive a season before being canceled for good.

This list will focus on shows that have lateral moves- in other words, to comparable or better networks. So shows like Law and Order: Criminal Intent (NBC → USA), Southland (NBC → TNT), and Futurama (FOX → Comedy Central- NEW EPISODES IN JUNE!!!) do not count. Neither do shows on WB/UPN that went to CW after the merger.

Candid Camera

A network switch is not a new phenomenon. Several older shows got shuffled around back when there were only three channels and even UHF stations weren’t available. Allen Funt’s “original” reality show Candid Camera might be the first notable example.

Starting as a radio program in the late 40s, the show started its television life on ABC in 1948 and was moved to NBC to syndication to hiatus before landing on CBS for its longest consecutive run (1960-1967).

The show featured the now played out concept of regular citizens (and some celebrities) doing foolish things while being captured on hidden camera before having their shame being broadcast to the entire nation. It has inspired the likes of Punk’d, Boiling Points, and To Catch a Predator.

Candid Camera never really went away. After its run on CBS, it kept coming back every now and then throughout the decades with new episodes on syndication (the last version was on PAX from 2001-2004) and anniversary specials on CBS.

Leave it to Beaver

CBS: 1957-1958
ABC: 1958-1963

Leave It To Beaver’s legacy comes down to the unfortunate-but-hilarious choice of its protagonist’s nickname. The iconic show centered around The Cleavers- your typical, average, suburban nuclear family with a precocious child, his wiser older brother and two parents.

Even in 2010 America Beaver has its purpose. It can be held up as representative of the happy-go-lucky post-War period that never really existed but we like to pretend it did. The Cleavers can be (and are regularly) considered the epitome of the “idealized suburban television family” and the series as the “idealized suburban television family” sitcom. It can be used ironically to condemn Normal Rockwellian simplicity. Or it can be an example of America’s oppression of minorities.

Afters its first season, the show moved from CBS to ABC where it remained for five more seasons. With the exception of the family relocating to a bigger house on a different street, the move didn’t affect the show’s content. Unlike many shows that survived into the 1960s, Beaver never gave into that color fad and performed its entire run in Black and White.

My Three Sons

ABC: 1960-1965
CBS: 1965-1972

Though My Three Sons was another family sitcom, unlike Beaver, this one was about a widower (Fred MacMurray) dealing with his three sons. Widowers were very popular on television at this time (see: The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Andy Griffith Show); widows were not, which is odd since you’d expect a lot of husbands to have been dead from the wars.

MTS moved to CBS after ABC wouldn’t produce the program in color. Besides filming in color, the ABC years introduced the boys’ grandfather, had the eldest son Mike Douglas move away (never to be heard of or seen again) and adopting the youngest son’s friend Ernie as a replacement to keep the title proper. The characters also moved from the midwest to sunny California in late 60s and several of the children had children of their own.

Get Smart

NBC: 1965-1969
CBS: 1969-1970

The classic Mel Brooks and Buck Henry spy parody (starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon) lasted for four years on NBC but moved to CBS for only one season before being canceled. Allegedly, even Don Adams was finding the show trite and repetitive, boycotting season five’s Ice Station Siegfried for this reason. At NBC, the show was nominated for several Emmys and even won Outstanding Comedy Series in 1968 and 1969 and Outstanding Lead Comedy Actor (Don Adams) from 1967-1969. At CBS, it was nominated for nothing.

In 1989, the cast returned in the made-for-TV movie Get Smart, Again! that aired on ABC thus putting Get Smart on all three major networks. If you throw in FOX’s terrible mid-90s Get Smart sequel spinoff/reboot starring Andy Dick (as Agent 86’s and 99’s son- with Adams and Feldon returning) you get the full set.

Diff’rent Strokes

NBC: 1978-1985
ABC: 1985-1986

Before it became a symbol for ironic t-shirts, Diff’rent Strokes was one of the first shows to take on the issue of white guilt. Originally about upper crusty white man Philip Drummond adopting two black children, like so many family sitcoms it devolved into lame catchphrases, trying to pimp the stand-out character (Arnold (Gary Coleman)) and special episodes devoted to warning children against pedophile bike shop owners.

After seven seasons on NBC, the show was canceled because of low ratings. It was picked up, and had one final season, on ABC.

Nothing much more to say except Gary Coleman died today so this suddenly becomes topical.


ABC: 1978-1982
NBC: 1982-1983

Although only lasting five seasons, Taxi has long been held as one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. The series (a workplace sitcom) was about a bunch of mostly dissatisfied losers (including Judd Hirsch, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza, Danny DeVito, Andy Kaufman and Christopher Lloyd) working the late shift at a New York taxi company.

What made (and makes) Taxi stand out from other shows was that it was grittier than most sitcoms, even many airing today. The characters were losers. They had dreams but it was unlikely that they were going to succeed at them, a trope regularly used today in shows like The Office and Party Down. They had defects of a more human variety- gambling addictions, drug addiction, sexual harassment, downward spirals, being foreign- not just zany quirks meant for laughs.

The show lasted for four seasons on ABC where it won the Emmy for Best Comedy Series from 1979-1981 and was nominated (and received) many other awards. It moved to NBC (where it was paired with the first season of Cheers) for one final season before it was canceled.


KTMA: 1988-1989
Comedy Central: 1989-1996
The Sci-Fi Channel: 1997-1999

Mystery Science Theater 3000, the cult classic comedy show about a man marooned in space forced to mock terrible movies with his robot friends, is no stranger to change. By the end of its 11 year run, none of the original cast remained (though a lot of the original writing crew did). Even Kevin Murphy, the longest running cast member, only became the voice of robot Tom Servo in the show’s second season. The human host/lead changed in 1993, leading to the Joel [Hodgson] v. Mike [Nelson] debate among the show’s fans.

When Comedy Central canceled the show after a final season of seven episodes, a massive write-in campaign inspired The Sci-Fi Channel to pick it up in 1997. The show underwent a series of changes during this time, the biggest probably being Trace Beaulieu not returning. Beaulieu served as the voice of bowling-pin-billed Crow T. Robot and the main bad guy, mad scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester whose experiments at Deep 13 sent Joel and Mike into space aboard the Satellite of Love. The voice of Crow was taken over by newcomer Bill Corbett, who did a more than passable job as the gold bot. The villain role was taken over by Clayton’s mother Pearl Forrester (introduced in the Comedy Central years), evolved ape Professor Bobo and omniscient doofus Observer/Brain Guy. The show also stopped reading fan letters, a staple of the Comedy Central years and a throwback to its cable access origins.

The brass at Sci-Fi weren’t the most encouraging to the show. It took a good deal of effort to get them to move the Saturn-esque mark (signifying The Sci-Fi Channel) from the bottom right of the television screen (where it blocked the silhouette of Crow) to the bottom left. Originally, they put restrictions on the types of movies MST3K could use (limiting it to the sci-fi/horror genre) and banned the shorts, which are among MST3K’s finest moments. As the series went on, shorts returned (unfortunately, only three appeared in the entire Sci-Fi era) and more varied movies were allowed to appear (such as the classic episode The Girl in Gold Boots). After three seasons, The Sci-Fi Channel changed management and MST3K was among the first on the chopping block.

While many were a bit hesitant towards the Sci-Fi episodes, a lot of the episodes hold up incredibly well and are among the series’ best offerings (like Puma Man, Werewolf, and The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, among others). The Sci-Fi era suffered a good deal from the villain aspect. While Pearl/Bobo/Observer might have been fine on their own, they couldn’t fill the shoes left by Dr. F. and his lackey TV’s Frank.

Years later, MST3K is still a very influential show. A lot of the original members (including Hodgson and Beaulieu) mock older, terrible movies with Cinematic Titanic while the Sci-Fi trio (Murphy/Nelson/Corbett) savage newer movies and shorts with the hilarious Rifftrax. If you put a cardboard cut-out of theater seats on your television while watching it’s almost like the real thing. Not that anyone would do that…

Family Matters/Step by Step ABC → CBS

Family Matters
ABC: 1989-1997
CBS: 1997-1998

Step by Step
ABC: 1991-1997
CBS: 1997-1998

When ABC finally decided to abandon its TGIF line-up (that defined the weekend for homebound losers in the early to mid 90s), for some reason CBS decided to rescue two of the series- Family Matters and Step By Step– to bolster its “CBS Block Party” Friday night line-up. Needless to say, this scheme failed and both the shows (and the Block Party format) were canceled after one season.

Family Matters started about the struggles of a black family in America and became about the crazy misadventures of unstable stalker/trespasser/borderline rapist Steve Urkel (whom we were supposed to side with despite him being a self-absorbed asshole). Although the show dropped characters before (like Aunt Rachel, future-porn star Judy Winslow and latter day Step-And-Fetch-It Waldo Geraldo Faldo), the final season had to recast the mother/wife Harriette Winslow when Jo Marie Payton (whose role as the same character on Perfect Strangers led to Family Matters’ existence) didn’t sign up for the final season. She was replaced with Judyann Elder. The final season also lost Ritchie (Aunt Rachel’s son who existed on the show without even a mention of Aunt Rachel), replacing him with inner-city adoptee 3J and Carl’s mother and matriarch of the Winslow clan, Estelle. The show ended with a two-parter featuring Urkel getting lost in outer space then returning home and marrying Laura.

Step By Step, a Brady Bunch-wannabe and one of the more forgettable entries in the TGIF lineup despite lasting nearly a decade and featuring a whole bunch of child stars who never went on to do much of anything, was bought by CBS in the same deal that got them Family Matters. During its final season on CBS, the youngest child, Brendan, disappeared and was never mentioned again.

Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher

Comedy Central: 1993-1997
ABC: 1997-2002

Unlike most shows on this list, Bill Maher’s irreverent take on politics and society actually got a promotion. The show (four political figures, celebrities and/or comedians sitting around talking about current events) started in 1993 on Comedy Central and became one of the basic cable station’s earliest hits.

The show got picked up by ABC in 1996 where it aired after Nightline. Back in the “Rah-Rah-America” days after the attacks on 9/11, Bill Maher made a faux pas by saying “We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly.” This upset a lot of people. The quote was taken out of context and Bill Maher was pariahed as an America-hating terrorist-supporter. Networks, as they are apt to do, abandoned the talent, kowtowed to the cries of special interest groups, and canceled the show.

Bill Maher and his political commentary soon after found a home on HBO with the still-airing Real Time with Bill Maher.

The Critic

ABC: 1994
FOX: 1995

Before prime-time animated shows (other than The Simpsons) were given the respect they deserved, there was The Critic from The Simpsons’ Al Jean and Mike Reiss . Though only 23 episodes were produced between the two channels, it had a relatively strong (but small) following and Jay Sherman’s call to action against terrible films (“It Stinks!”) is still recalled today.

Although regular parodies of then-current and classic films were regularly featured, the show was more intelligent satire than spoof. The core of the show came from the life of Jay Sherman, an intelligent, pretentious, loathsome, self-hating, pathetic film critic voiced by Jon Lovitz.

It lasted for a half-season on ABC, got canceled, moved to FOX where it lasted for a half-season then got canceled again. On FOX, the character designs changed a bit and Jay was given an almost-love interest in make-up artist Alice Tompkins. Also on FOX, he was responsible for a classic cartoon crossover when he went to Springfield to judge a film festival with The Simpsons (episode: A Star Is Burns).

While it can be said for a lot of short lived shows, The Critic is definitely one that came and went before its time. Arguably movies have only gotten worse since the mid-90s so there would be a lot more fodder for the writers to savage. But mostly, Jay Sherman himself might find a better audience today. Cynical, depressive, misanthropes are among the best, most acclaimed characters on television (Don Draper, Walter White, Dr. House, Andy Millman) and despite his two dimensions, Sherman could fit with that group.

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer

WB: 1997-2001
UPN: 2001-2003

The show that turned Joss Whedon into a cult hero began its life as a poorly received 1992 movie starring Kristy Swanson before becoming its own series in 1997 starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and became one of the nascent WB network’s first (and only) critically acclaimed hits. It could also be considered at least partially responsible (or blamed) for the modern humanized vampire trend.

After five seasons, the show moved to UPN for budgetary reasons in 2001. (UPN, the channel that never really had a hit, offered the producers more money.) Buffy spin-off Angel remained on the WB however.

The switch to UPN didn’t affect the show drastically. However, many of the show’s fandom (it had and still has one of television’s most vocal fanbases) disliked the direction series creator Whedon took during the UPN years, preferring the WB Era’s ending of Buffy sacrificing herself and the final shot of her tombstone with the epitaph “She Saved The World A Lot.”

While the series ended, the characters and their adventures never did as Whedon took the “Buffyverse” to a series of graphic novel considered the show’s “Season Eight.”


NBC: 2001-2008
ABC: 2009-2010

Despite lasting for seven years on NBC, Scrubs is one of those shows that the Peacock Network has been (somewhat validly) accused of never throwing enough support behind. NBC was blamed for never giving Scrubs good time slots, never promoting it enough and often relegating it to mid-season placement. Even after becoming what seems like syndication’s most popular show, NBC still kept it under the radar (arguably because the show was produced by ABC Studios, thus ABC getting most of the syndication dollars, despite it airing on NBC).

When NBC canceled Scrubs, ABC was quick to pick it up. The NBC finale was some unimpressive fairy tale-inspired affair, but because by the show knew they were picked up by ABC, they brought a lot of the “NBC” episodes with them to their new home.

At the end of its eighth season (its first season on ABC) the show had a “proper” finale with lead JD leaving Sacred Heart Hospital for the last time, having received his long-desired respect from father figure Dr. Cox and daydreaming about a happy, more adult future for him and his future children as opposed to the zany, childish fantasies that made up the bulk of his inner life.

And then ABC brought it back for yet another season. Without most of the main characters. Though Dr. Cox and Dr. Turk hanged on as regulars, and many former regulars (such as JD, soiling his well-done farewell) made occasional guest appearances, the focus was on a new set of medical students. Derisively called AfterSCRUBS (after MASH’s ill-advised sequel spinoff AfterMASH starring Radar and Colonel Potter), the new show began its life with uneasy legs. Although it seemed to have found some footing about mid-way through the ninth season (mostly because JD finally left and the new characters were allowed to operate on their own), it was canceled, ending Scrubs 9-year run with a wholly unremarkable filler episode.


NBC: 2005-2009

Medium, featuring Patricia Arquette as a psychic who helps cops solve crimes, was actually a hit for NBC during its run on the channel but when negotiations for a sixth season broke down in 2009, CBS picked it up almost immediately. CBS put it alongside Numb3rs and The Ghost Whisperer. Oddly enough, while Medium was picked up for the 2010-2011 season, its companion shows were canceled this year. Meanwhile, The Ghost Whispererer made a failed attempt to get picked up by ABC.