The Powers of Matthew Star
This series followed the struggles of Matthew Star who was just trying to be a teen like any other. The only problem is that he is an alien from outer space and has special powers. Oh, and the government is trying to track him down. Oh, and he has to dodge assassins, too, because he was an alien prince. Obviously, this series didn’t last long.
Ok, maybe Casablanca wasn’t the absolute worst TV series of the 1980s, but when you try to create a prequel to something so beloved and revered as an Oscar-winning classic, you automatically set a high bar for yourself. This show wasn’t amazing by any stretch of the imagination. It was gone after 3 episodes.
After the cancellation of the original Battlestar Galactica at the end of its season-long run, a massive letter writing campaign by fans prompted ABC to reconsider their decision. Their solution was this 1980’s spinoff that was poorly received by viewers and critics. Ten episodes later, it followed the original’s fate.
One of the Boys
Looking at the cast list, one might wonder why this wasn’t a hit: Mickey Rooney, Meg Ryan, Dana Carvey, and Nathan Lane. This should have been comedy gold, right? Perhaps the premise of a grandfather moving in with his college-aged grandson and grandson’s roommate was just a little too much.
Life With Lucy
After The Cosby Show became a comeback hit for NBC, they tried to replicate the formula again with then 75-year-old icon Lucille Ball. When it aired against The Facts of Life, however, it could never overcome the competition in the ratings. After 8 airings, ABC pulled the plug.
She's the Sheriff
This series served as Suzanne Somers’s return to TV after her part on Three’s Company. It was initially plagued by production issues; CBS passed on the pilot until it was retooled. While it lasted two full seasons, She’s the Sheriff was never a bona fide success or found favor with critics.
Though it aired in 1987, the TV show was about a cop in 1950s Hollywood. Twelve episodes were produced, however, after only airing seven the series was cancelled due to low ratings.
Listen to this synopsis and take a guess if it lasted very long. A police officer and computer programmer create an AI system to fight crime that generates a hologram capable of leaving the computer to fight crime. After a 12 episode first season, ABC shut it down.
Having a man with the ability to transform into any animal so he can help solve crimes every week sounds like a winning formula for a TV series right? If you guessed not, you were correct. After only 4 episodes, Manimal was placed on hiatus and is often listed as one of the worst sci-fi shows ever. This largely had to do with the fact that viewers felt misled by the premise of the show. He was billed as being able to turn into any animal he chose, yet for some reason, he almost always transformed into a hawk or a black panther. What's the point of having that power if you're not going to make full use of it?
B.A.D. Cats was one of Michelle Pfeiffer’s first starring roles, but the role didn’t last very long. 10 episodes were produced, but only 4 were shown before ABC yanked this series off the air due to low ratings.
Beyond Westworld picks up where the two feature films, 1973’s Westworld and 1976’s Futureworld, left off. While garnering two Emmy Award nominations (for makeup and art direction), the other production values were lacking. It was cancelled after 3 airings.
Based on Peter Yates’s 1979 coming of age film, Breaking Away the series was a prequel that followed a young Shaun Cassidy and his character's affinity for bicycle racing. While heavily promoted by ABC, the TV succumbed to low ratings after 7 aired episodes.
Originally a 1979 film starring Tom Selleck, CBS optioned the story as a TV series starring Jerry Reed and Geoffrey Scott in 1981. After 7 episodes, and not even two months on the air, the network cancelled the show due to low ratings and poor critical reception.
Ace Crawford, Private Eye
Tim Conway starred in this parody of the detective genre about a bumbling P.I. who somehow always seemed to solve crimes. The slapstick humor wasn’t for everyone, though. After airing 5 episodes, CBS ended production on the series.
Small Wonder ran for four seasons, so it found somewhat of an audience. However, the series was never a critical darling. Instead it was described as a cookie-cutter sitcom and a “one-joke” creation about a robot child, basically a modern update of “Pinocchio.”
The Devlin Connection
This 1982 series starred Rock Hudson, famed for leading male roles in the 50s and 60s, as a former military intelligence office turned director of a performing arts center. Along with his son, he solves weekly crimes. Even though the stories underwent a stylistic change, only 12 episodes were aired.
Fathers and Sons
If you can’t quite put your finger on this unmemorable NBC sitcom, it’s probably because it only lasted 4 episodes. This story of a father who was also a baseball coach for his sons brought nothing new or interesting to the genre. As a result, production ended after less than a month.
A magician who solves crimes with the help of his con-man father doesn’t sound like the recipe for a hit show, but more popular series have been built on less. Starring Hal Linden of Barney Miller fame, audiences were unmoved by the 13 episode first season.
(image via Youtube)
Gung Ho was a mediocre film in 1986, so, of course, Hollywood decided to try it as a TV series as well. The mediocrity continued. Viewers didn’t respond positively to the culture class concept of a Japanese company taking ownership of an American car plant. Nine episodes later, it was shuttered.
AfterMASH picks up at the end of the Korean War with everyone from the original M*A*S*H series returning home. While it finished in the top 10 during its first season, it was trounced by competition on NBC (The A-Team) in its second season. Subject to negative critical reviews, it was promptly canceled.
The Last Precinct
The Last Precinct had two great things going for it. Firstly, TV veteran Adam West (of Batman fame) starred as Capt. Rick Wright. Secondly, the series debuted right after the Super Bowl, the most-watched TV event every year. It wasn’t enough, however. After 8 episodes, NBC cancelled the series.
Misfits of Science
When any show is placed on the schedule to compete with mega-hit Dallas, it better be good. Misfits of Science just didn’t know what it wanted to be, however. Following superpowered humans, the Misfits included a shrinking man, telekinetic teen, and “electric” man. It was sci-fi..ish. It was comedy...ish. It was a mess.
Bear with us. The Phoenix was about an ancient alien uncovered in Peru and woken up in 1982. Oh, you’ve already tuned out? So did viewers. Preceded by a TV movie in 1981, only five episodes aired.
Set in the immediate future, The Highwayman was essentially a combination of Mad Max and Knight Rider. After an extended pilot in September 1987, nine episodes followed in the spring of ‘88. Perhaps long stretches of boring driving wasn’t the best plot point for a TV show.
This comedic workplace sitcom starred Suzanne Pleshette (of The Birds) as a feature reporter who is demoted to human-interest story writing. The series, itself, was demoted after six episodes, lasting just only a month on air.
Based on the detective character stories created by Rex Stout in the 1930s, Nero Wolfe the series tried to update the detective for modern offices. The updates were universally panned as stripping the character of his eccentricities and making him just a bland, bumbling private eye. Only 14 episodes aired.
Seinfeld wasn’t the first series to follow the daily exploits of a comedian. A.K.A. Pablo also did so in 1984. While it might have had some good things to say about a Hispanic American trying to maintain and celebrate some of his heritage while trying to be successful in predominantly white showbusiness, the show was ultimately too crass and stereotypical for viewers. It was cancelled after 6 episodes.
The Nutt House
With Mel Brooks as an executive producer, you’d think you’d have funny sitcom on your hands. However, The Nutt House relied on very broad satire that was interrupted by surreal shorts and background gags. It’s unfixed airtime (usually late at 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time) probably didn’t help things. It only lasted a month.
Hell Town premiered in the fall of 1985 and followed along with a Catholic priest who led a parish in a high-crime area of Los Angeles. But he wasn’t a normal priest. He was a “cool” one who was a former criminal himself that could connect with the community. He didn’t connect with TV audiences, though, as the series didn’t return for the second half of the ‘85/’86 season.
This 1989 “buddy cop” TV series was seen as NBC trying to copy the success of the Lethal Weapon franchise. Though it churned out a good number of episodes (18), the series of a veteran cop paired with a young hotshot didn’t nab a second season.
(image via Youtube)