Early Warning Signs: 4 TV Flops That Were Recycled into Hits

1. Sons and Daughters (2006)

Lasting just one month, Sons and Daughters was doomed from the start. It was partially improvised, it dealt with a large, extended family, and its sense of humor was frequently weird. Plus, NBC was the master of the clever comedy and it was run against American Idol. ABC had yet to be able to compete.


2. Brother’s Keeper (1998)

Brother’s Keeper was a terrible show set in San Francisco, though not the only one. ABC brought it in as a replacement for the startlingly decent Teen Angel. The main element of the show is that strait-laced William Ragsdale has to keep his douchebag brother out of trouble, but most of the show focused on reaction shots from the chubby, lovable Justin Cooper.


3. The Ben Stiller Show (1991)

Looking back now, it’s impossible to imagine that MTV was genuinely cool. They still played music videos, the original programming was terrific, and it was a tastemaker that united some unlikely groups of young people. For one glorious year, that repertoire included The Ben Stiller Show. Sadly, this version of the show has never been released on home video, but the edgy upstart network Fox was eager to turn it into…

4. The Ben Stiller Show (1992)

Yes, it’s a different version. This time, young Ben Stiller (who?) brought along the enjoyably sour Jeanine Garofalo, perennial man-behind-the-curtain Bob Odenkirk, and a not-yet-hated Andy Dick. The show was cancelled after 11 episodes and as a joke they put it up for Emmy consideration. They won, causing HBO to take an interest in two of the show’s writers…

Lenny Kravitz – “Again”

When: 15 December 2001
Where: My Dad’s car
Who: My Dad
Weather: Cold

I don’t remember where we were going, but we were headed east. The song came on, and it reminded me of the girl I ever had a crush on.

Mind you, that crush was still going on after more than two years, and seemingly impossible to stop, but there was a light at the end of the tunnel. For all it’s pomp and seeming prestige, Wilson Middle School was a disaster area. Serious ass-kicking and vandalism were rampant. A janitor repeatedly picked on me. Worst of all, I kept being confused for a guy named Tyler, who apparently looked just like me and was in constant danger of being expelled. No matter how many times I showed my ID to the security guards, they refused to believe I wasn’t him and was sent to the Principal’s, who understandingly cleared me. Then I’d catch the eye of the guard and the beautiful cycle began again. Tyler and I met exactly once, and neither of us thought we looked anything alike.*

Why was this good news? My best friend Bryce was getting the hell out next semester, and if he could do it so could I. I knew people who went to High Point academy up on the hill, but my Mom was shooting for Barnhart in Arcadia, which I’d never heard of. Then someone told me that that inescapable redhead went there, and I made it my mission to get in.

So what can we say about 2001? The music definitely says something about when I heard it: a bland, unconfident period followed by the utmost terror. They say if you don’t like what people are saying about you, change the subject. Well, if you don’t like what you hear on the radio, change the station. 2002 Awaits!

*Tyler was blond and blue-eyed but otherwise looked like me, I think, but it’s hard to remember when you’ve only seen them once.

Let me call my good friend Lenny Kravitz. He's only half-urban!

Next: Background Music picks up again December 1; in the meantime I’ll post some other stories on a slightly less frequent basis.

Usher – “U Got It Bad”

When: December 2001
Where: Parking lot, Smiser Scout Center
Who: My mom
Weather: Cool, clear

What a phenomenally depressing song! What few deciduous trees we had were losing their leaves, it was the big three-month anniversary of 9/11, less sunlight, colder, and this song to go along with it all! My connection to this song was never close, I’d been listening to KIIS-FM for a year and a half and I was starting to get tired of hearing the same songs over and over every hour.

Next: Lenny Kravitz and the things we fight for.

J. Lo – “I’m Real (Murder remix feat. Ja Rule)”

When: November 2001
Where: Somewhere in Monterey Park
Who: My Bubby
Weather: Cool, overcast

This was at the peak of Jennifer Lopez’s career. She started as a dancer on In Living Color, and now she was singing, and acting, and nobody really cared but she was getting by on her ass. So like Icarus, she flew too close to the sun by thinking she could refer to “[her] niggers” in a song, because she’s Puerto Rican, right?

The movie Gigli saved us a lot of trouble.

Next: Toni Braxton before Greendale