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The Not-So-Deadly Sins of Syndication

Bob Chipman | 7 Jul 2014 12:00
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shes the sheriff


Don't ever let anyone tell you that a culture can't slide backwards from societal-evolution. TV of the late-60s and 70s reflected the social progress of those eras in terms of what was considered "normal" enough to show on TV: Sitcom moms got jobs, young women happily chose careers over marriage and/or kids, Maude had an abortion and wasn't even remotely "punished" for it.

But lionizing corporate greed and reviving Red Scare anti-communist paranoia weren't the only ways we decided to take a big step backwards in the 80s, and so we got this bizarre time-unstuck series premised entirely on the notion of a woman becoming a sheriff being innately strange and humorous.

Suzanne Somers had the lead role of the not-too-bright (because of course she wasn't) widow of a local sheriff who stepped into his role after he died unexpectedly. Much of the humor was supposed to come from her clashes with a sexist colleague who doesn't think she should have job, a setup which would have more teeth if the series didn't seem to tacitly agree with him.

out of this world


Oh, ye gods, this show...

Out of This World had one of the all-time misleading openings to a TV series: A sci-fi comedy, its opening credits featured spaceships, alien worlds, futuristic cities and otherworldly aliens chilling out watching holograms about one of them (presumably) having spent time on Earth wherein he met, fell in love with and married a human woman before being unfortunately recalled to his homeworld to fight in a war.

But that was pretty-much all we got of that kind of material in this series, which was actually about the teenaged exploits of said human/alien couple's hybrid daughter, who looks human but has various telekinetic, reality-warping and energy-based powers apparently inherited from her father; whom she can communicate with via a crystalline cube (he speaks with the voice of an uncredited Burt Reynolds, who was smack-dab in the middle of his first "I'll do literally anything" career phase).

Of some note to film/TV aficionados, the show was notable for featuring the great Doug McClure in one of his more prominent late career roles as an Adam West-inspired former TV actor turned local politician.

charles in charge

Similar to the scenario with She's the Sheriff, another thing 80s TV found "hilarious" was men holding ostensibly female-skewing jobs like babysitting. On networks there was the popular Who's The Boss?, a gender-flipped spin on the time-worn "single-dad/hot-housekeeper" setup, and syndication (well, syndication after a single failed season on a regular network) gave us this "gem" about a college guy working as house/child-sitter for a well-to-do New Jersey family in exchange for room and board in their house.

As mentioned, the show originally debuted on NBC as a ratings failure, mainly imagined as a star-vehicle for not only Scott Baio but also Willie Aames; as they had starred as buddies in the 1982 telekinetic-teenager sex comedy Zapped. Effectively the entire cast quit other than Baio and Aames for the syndication run, so a new family was introduced as having bought the house and opting to keep Charles as a tenant under the original arrangement... because that sounds like a thing that would happen.

Charles in Charge (which featured a recurring plot device wherein being hit on the head would briefly transform Charles' personality into that of an "evil" counterpart named "Chaz," to give you an idea of the tone at play here) isn't exactly as bad as other offerings on this list, but it's still pretty bad. It was also pretty popular in its day, though much of that may have been owed to Baio's status as an enduring teenybopper sex-symbol. This was probably the high point of his career, though fellow castmember Nicole Eggert went on to stardom on another syndicated smash, Baywatch. Willie Aames had a slightly different career trajectory, all but vanishing from the TV/film scene before re-emerging in the 1990s as Bibleman.

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