Television Fast Forward: Sequels and Remakes of Cancelled Series - 1955-1992 by Lee Goldberg
This book was originally published in 1992, so if you missed it back then, which I did, now is your chance to check out a comprehensive look at all the television revivals, reboots, remakes, or movies based on television shows up to the year 1992.
While I was a huge television junkie at one time, I never gave much thought to how many shows were brought back after long absences, made into major motion pictures or were given a complete reboot. I was totally surprised by how many there were, and it seems this trend will continue for a long time to come.
There is a short synopsis of the plot, a cast listing, and commentary in regards to each show discussed, which is interesting, plus I had a lot of fun skipping down memory lane remembering these classic shows and the actors made famous by them.
Many will notice that this book is an updated version, and yes, there is new information in the appendix which covers the remakes and revivals from 1992- 2015. This addition to the original book is just a list, with the dates included, but does not give any specific details, which is my only complaint about this book.
It's obvious the author lovingly researched and spent a great deal of time on the older material, so, it would be nice to see that same attention to detail added for the post 1992 material as well.
The beginning of this trend, for all intents and purposes started with “Rescue from Gilligan's Island” and went on to break into feature films with “Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and many old shows were brought back to life, by showcasing them in made for TV movie specials such as Columbo, and Perry Mason, eventually leading to revivals like The New Adam -12 which is basically the same show, but with different actors.
Revivals such as Arrested Development – picked up by Netflix, reboots like Hawaii 5-O, and big screen adaptations such a Sex and the City are just a few examples of the more recent material.
I spent my Sunday afternoon combing through this book, which can be used like a reference book, or read all at one time. My husband and I enjoyed looking back and had a few good laughs along the way, plus we found some shows we were not familiar with and hope to look them up sometime.
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The Best TV Shows That Never Were by Lee Goldberg is a 2015 Adventures in Television publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book was originally published in the 1990's , but has been released in digital format with some tweaks here and there.
Even the very casual TV viewer is aware of what a TV pilot is- but just to give you some more details – A TV pilot is basically the first episode of a proposed series. It is a stand alone in most cases, but can be a disguised within a popular long running series to give it an extra boost or lead in.
The point of this exercise is to test the reception of the viewing public to see if the show is worth continuing. Pilots can be expensive to produce and if the show doesn't generate enough interest from the networks or from advertisers it will never see the light of day.
This book organizes those pilots that never got a chance to entertain us, into groups – such as a 'concept' or 'high concept' shows.
What is a concept show?
Think “The Flying Nun” or may “Quantum Leap” , just to give you an example. Often these shows appeal to a select audience.
Some of the pilots filmed or pitched up until the early nineties- the time frame the book is mainly covering, were laugh out loud funny at times- “Mr. and Mrs. Dracula- (2 pilots), and at others times, I thought some of these pilots would have been successful if they had been given half a chance, such as “The World Beyond” from 1977 which reminded me of “The Ghost Whisperer” , which aired for five seasons- so go figure.
My favorite part of the book showcases the many pilots based on movies. The movie turned TV show, more often than not was a huge flop, with a few notable exceptions, such as M*A*S*H, which was a smash hit on both the big and small screen. Despite the very low success rate, it didn't stop anyone from continuing to make pilots based on films.
According the author, networks have always been suckers for the myth of the “pre-sold” idea, concepts that have a built-in audience and a minimum of risk. Nothing satisfies the desire for “pre-sold” ideas better than a movie.
Some worth noting are:
“The Bates Motel” - NBC – 1987- an anthology series.
Interestingly enough, in 2014 a new series aired on A&E, entitled “The Bates Motel” but is a prequel to Psycho.
“The Goodbye Girl” ( Goodbye Doesn't Mean Forever) – based on the 1977 movie- “The Goodbye Girl” - The pilot starred seventies perennials Karen Valentine and Michael Lembeck. ( 2 pilots- Jo Beth Williams starring in the second)
Then we have the pilots made for “The Name” such as “The Mary Tyler Moore”Show, as an example. These shows are built up around a well known, popular actor or actress at the time. There were some popular names the networks thought of capitalizing on- one notable example was “The Oprah Winfrey show” ( aka Natalie) This pilot was supposed to be sitcom based on Oprah's own life. Oprah herself called it horrible and chose to focus on her movie career.
The last part of the book provides a wonderful introduction to “Television Fast Forward” another book about television I enjoyed by this author, which is all about television remakes, reboots, and revivals.
The only thing this book is lacking in, is a few up to date examples of pilots that were unsold, or were passed on, as most of the examples here are from several decades ago and the modern television buff may wish to see a few mentions from the Millennial generation. I think the book would appeal to a wider audience if some newer material was added.
One small critque would be to add more up to date commentary because the material here is older, and is presented in a way that could be considered bland by some, so without a present day voice behind it, it seems truly dated and could do with a bit of freshening up.
Other than that, it's very interesting to see how far television as come over the years.
When this book was first published, the networks were feeling the pinch from the cable industry. Today, the competition is far greater with Netflix and You Tube to contend with, as well as changing viewing habits. But, the pilot is still a very valuable tool and Amazon Prime members have been given free access to the first episode of several series in order to entice them to purchase more episodes.
Overall, this was an interesting look into the television industry from the fifties through the early nineties, and the author is obviously a student of the business, is a big TV fan, and has a lot of insider experience, information, and insights.
This book would make a solid reference guide for the hardcore television buff, and for those who enjoy nostalgia or trivia.
I believe I have a better understanding now of how the networks think, why some pilots are sold, and others are not. Television is evolving rapidly and the way we watch is changing so quickly, I think it would be interesting to explore how networks decide what stays and what goes now, or if passed over pilots ever make it as original programming on cable networks like FX or TNT. How does Netflix and Amazon handle original programming and pilots? Lots of new territory to explore out there, but before we can understand the present or future we must first visit the past. This book would be good place to start.
Recommended to those who enjoy pop culture, list style books, television nostalgia, history, and trivia.
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Unsold Television Pilots: 1955-1989 by Lee Goldberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Unsold Television Pilots: 1955-1989 by Lee Goldberg is a 2015 Adventures in Television publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Richard Dreyfuss as Yossarian, in catch 22? Michelle Phillips and Tanya Roberts as undercover cops? ( Ladies in Blue- 1980) Hulk Hogan as a private detective? ( Goldie and the Bears)
Oh my goodness, this book was great. I never could have envisioned a list style book with such rare information! There really is a lot to digest here, so it's even more impressive how detailed and organized the book is.
Beginning with the year 1955- The list is broken down into several parts. For example: ABC/ Comedy or ABC/Drama and so on.
Whenever possible, the author list for each pilot - the production company, the writers, directors, and producers , as well as the cast of characters and the actors/actresses who portrayed them, and a brief synopsis.
It was fun to see how television changed from the 1950's - 1989. I could see trends, changes in social mores, and how many ideas were hashed and re-hashed with remakes and revivals- such as “The New Leave it to Beaver”, which had several incarnations before it actually stuck around for a few seasons.
Although, presented in a list style formation, it is still like watching history unfold and as a pop culture enthusiast, I found this fascinating.
While, many would like to see a newer version on this list with pilots listed from 1990- to present day, myself included, I thought the decades explored here were very interesting and insightful, plus I learned a lot about television in the 50's and 60's which was before my time.
You will never find another compilation of television facts this comprehensive, nor will you find this information anywhere else all listed in one place.
For those who are unaware, this book was a huge hit when it was originally published and was the basis of several television specials, and was featured on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson.
This book can be a little bit of a time suck, if you aren't careful. Once I picked it up, an hour passed by before I knew it.
Having said that, I would recommend reading it a little at a time, and it's not absolutely necessary to comb through it from cover to cover either, as it makes a great reference guide, and is perfect for the television zealot.
It is obvious the author is a television aficionado, having started to work on this list while he was still a child! So, it goes without saying this list was compiled with painstaking research, and took years to organize and complete. I am thrilled to see it now available in digital format, so I can carry it with me anywhere I go and impress the most fanatical of TV worshipers with my rare and unique knowledge.
Overall, I found this book very interesting and entertaining. It made for some interesting conversations with my family, and prompted a few “where are they now” internet searches. Again, I recommend this one to any student of television, to trivia and list lovers, to those who enjoy performance arts books, pop culture or nostalgia.
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New York Times Bestselling author Lee Goldberg is a two-time Edgar Award and two-time Shamus Award nominee whose many TV writing and/or producing credits include "Martial Law," "SeaQuest," "Diagnosis Murder," "Hunter," "Spenser: For Hire," "Nero Wolfe," "Missing." "Monk" and "The Glades." He's also the author of the Fox & O'Hare series with Janet Evanovich (The Heist, The Chase, The Job), "The Walk," "Watch Me Die," "King City," the "Dead Man" series, as well as the "Diagnosis Murder" and "Monk" series of original mystery novels.