Wednesday, April 03, 2013
One of those great network stories
This is not the first time this basic premise has been tried. I wonder if the ABC pilot gets the same note as the CBS version.
Right around this time in 1979 CBS premiered a new sitcom called THE BAD NEWS BEARS. It was an adaptation of the terrific movie of the same name. (If you haven’t seen it, check it out. Walter Matthau, Tatum O’Neal, and a young very weird Jackie Earle Haley) In the TV version Jack Warden played the Matthau part.
Here’s that premise: a little league team of rag tag junior high misfits is coached by an alcoholic former minor leaguer down on his luck. Hilarity and dropped fly balls ensue.
The series debuted and did well enough to get renewed for the Fall of 1980. It was on Saturday nights. Most of the shows were filmed on Westside little league fields.
Research was conducted based on the audience and the time slot, and once the show was picked up CBS gave the producers one note.
Cut out any baseball.
The (then) Saturday night audience was largely women and women didn't like baseball.
The producers reminded them this was a show about baseball. The Bad News Bears were a little league BASEBALL team. CBS said, “make it more about the relationship between Jack Warden and the kids.” And they said, “Yeah, but he’s their BASEBALL coach.” They countered with, “Well, then do more with the romance between Warden and Catherine Hicks, who played the junior high principal. So it should be a romantic comedy even though the premise is about baseball and kids and now neither were emphasized? "We don't care as long as there's no baseball."
Try that for a writing exercise future-showrunners.
BAD NEWS BEARS had their season debut in September, and for whatever reason, tanked in the ratings and was soon cancelled. Remember, when it debuted in the spring it got good enough numbers to be renewed. So what was the difference? Could it perhaps, just maybe, by some slim chance be… BASEBALL?
Good luck with the ABC pilot.