For YouTube Blog Filler™ there’s nothing better for the moment than that YouTube channel that is (until it gets taken down) collecting a lot of really obscure TV intros. Here are a few more recently-uploaded ones, all of them for shows so obscure that I’ve never seen them.
First, a flop show that actually got good reviews: Mama Malone, a 1984 sitcom created by playwright Terrence McNally as a vehicle for the British actress Lila Kaye. The surprising thing about the somewhat corny theme song is that it was written by a first-rank songwriting team, John Kander and Fred Ebb (Cabaret, Chicago, “New York, New York”). But first-rank songwriters have a somewhat mixed record when it comes to TV theme songs. A lot of the best ones are done by songwriters whose talents were uniquely suited to TV songwriting, rather than theatre or pop.
The only reason I have even heard of Custer is that it’s one of the shows mentioned in John Gregory Dunne’s The Studio, which I quoted a few posts back. Fox was really into Custer at this time (1967), developing not only a TV show about the young Custer, but a big epic movie about Custer’s last stand, which fell apart when the producer dropped dead on the golf course. Exactly why they thought the world loved Custer is a question lost to history.
An opening scene from the Buddy Hackett vehicle Stanley, notable as one of the last sitcoms broadcast live from New York. Produced by Your Show of Shows‘ Max Liebman (and written by his stable of writers including Neil Simon, Danny Simon, and Woody Allen). With TV’s centre of gravity moving from live to filmed shows, and from New York to California, this was live New York TV’s attempt to take on California and beat them at their own game of star-vehicle sitcoms, but it didn’t work out, despite a young Carol Burnett in the cast.
The Last Resort, an MTM production, was Gary David Goldberg’s first show as a creator, and one of about a million young-people sitcoms the three networks greenlit after the success of Animal House. It was based on Goldberg’s own experience as a waiter at a Catskills resort, and it certainly seems like a good setup for a “gang” comedy, but CBS was treating all of MTM’s shows miserably at the time, and this one didn’t survive.
After Rob Reiner left All in the Family, he created (with his longtime writing partner Phil Mishkin) and starred in this show about the American immigrant experience. The ambitious framing device is that it was told in flashback, with Reiner as an old man looking back on his time as a young man, and the plan was to follow the characters throughout the entire twentieth century as the series went on – which it didn’t. In his Archive of American Television interview, Reiner was still disappointed about the show’s cancellation.
Finally, Chuck Barris’s first syndicated game show, whose premise I still can’t quite understand even after reading a description. The celebrity panel for this episode sure is something, though: it does seem very Barris-esque to collect George Carlin, Jacqueline Susann, and TV Western B-actor Andrew Prine as the special guests.