Short-Lived and Easily Forgotten 1980s TV Series
Easily Forgotten 1980s TV Series
This is a brief look at 28 short-lived and easily forgotten television series from the 1980s with brief plot, cast list, photos, trivia and more.
Some of these shows actually had potential and why they never found their core audience is a bit of a mystery. Others, after watching an episode or two, it makes a viewer wonder how these shows ever made it into production to begin with, but be they good or bad, they are all short lived TV series from the 1980s'.
How many do you remember?
Tim Conway in Ace Crawford: Private Eye
- Tim Conway's short-lived (5 episodes) series that aired on CBS from March 15, 1982 to April 12, 1983.
- Tim was Ace Crawford a private detective who was an "ace" when it came to the business of "detecting", or it appears. But, in reality, he had no skills at all with all of his successes brought about by dumb luck and fortuitous accidents. Assisting Ace on his adventures was bumbling Toomey (Joe Regalbuto), an accountant by trade who idolizes Ace. His favorite hangout was The Shanty, a wharf side bar owned by Inch (Billy Barty). Ace's girlfriend, Luana (Shera Danesand) and rounding out the cast is Lt. Fanning (Dick Christie), a police officer who is just awestruck by Ace's luck.
- This Sam Spade take-off did little to impress critics and some felt he was more of a Maxwell Smart kind of character.
- Even Conway admitted that the show probably needed canned laughter to help audiences know when to laugh.
Desi Arnaz, Jr. and Chuck Wagner in Automan
- A 13 episode series that starred Desi Arnaz, Jr. as Walter Nebicher, a computer expert who worked for the police department as a programmer. But, his real dream was to be a street cop. Since his superiors felt he wasn't suited for such work, he instead developed Automan (Chuck Wagner), a computer generated crime fighter who is able to come off the computer screen and into the real world. Automan was in a sense, Walter's alter-ego.
- Every superhero has their limits and weaknesses and since Automan was computer generated, he would fade out during the day when the cities electrical usage would rise.
- The series also starred Robert Lansing, Heather McNair and Gerald McLaughlin.
- Critics compared the show to Disney's film, Tron.
- The show was produced by Glen A. Larson who never seemed to get a lot of respect from critics.
Michelle Pfeiffer in B.A.D. Cats
- Nick Donovan (Asher Brauner) and Ocee James (Steve Hanks) are former race car drivers who are hired by the LAPD, because of their superior driving skills. They are to become members of the newly formed B.A.D. Cats division which stands for Burglary Auto Detail Commercial Auto Thefts. Joining them in their fight to stop car thieves is Officer Samantha Jensen (a young Michelle Pfeiffer).
- The series ran for 10 episodes in 1980 and was a mid season series.
- Asher Brauner originated the role of "Roy DiLucca" on the soap General Hospital from 1978-79.
James McMullan in Beyond Westworld
- Beyond Westworld began it's run on CBS on March 5, 1980 and lasted until March 19, 1980.
- The Delos Corporation manufactured robots that ran amuck in the feature films West World and Future World. The plot of this small screen series had mad scientist, Simon Quaid (James Wainwwright) taking control of he robots and planing to use them in a plot to rule the world. So, in steps John Moore (Jim McMullan) Security Chief for Delos, it's his job to stop Quaid.
- This series disappeared quickly with only 5 episodes.
- Also starred the lovely Connie Selleca who did not appear in the pilot episode.
- Notable guest stars: Denny Miller, Christopher Connelly, George Takei, Rene Auberjonoi.
- Is available on DVD in 2014.
Hal Linden and Harry Morgan in Blacke's Magic
- Alexander Blacke (Hal Linden) was a magician who liked to solve crimes with the help of his con artist father, played by Harry Morgan.
- The show ran from January 5, 1986 to May 7, 1986 with a grand total of 13 episodes
- Reminiscent of the old 70s series, The Magician that starred the late Bill Bixby.
- The series was meant to be a mid-season replacement but NBC had shows that were doing so well in the ratings that finding a place for the series was difficult.
- Jim Steinmyer who created many of Doug Hennings illusions came up with the illusions for the series.
- Blacke's Magic was created by Richard Levinson, William Link and Peter S. Fischer the team that gave us Murder She Wrote.
- After Barney Miller ended, Linden didn't want to do another series as most of the things offered to him were very similar in personality to that of Miller. He took the role of Alexander Blacke because it was different, Blacke was outgoing and the story lines were exciting.
- After Morgan's series AfterMASH was cancelled he intended on doing very little acting and certainly had no desire to work on a series again, but when he was sent the script for the show, he loved it citing it was different than anything he had ever worked on before.
Shaun Cassidy in Breaking Away
- Shaun Cassidy gained teen idol status as Joe Hardy on The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, took on the role of Dave Stohler, a guy who loves bicycle racing in the series Breaking Away inspired by the 1979 feature film of the same name.
- The series may have done a little better than it did, if it hadn't been caught up in the 1980 Screen Actors Guild strike and because of it, it didn't start production until late in the fall. While ABC had publicized it heavily, audiences didn't seem to notice it once it came on the air and it was pulled from the schedule after filming only eight episodes, seven of which were shown. It ran from November 29, 1980 to January 10, 1981.
- Cassidy didn't see the film before beginning to work on the series. He didn't want to allow his take on Dave Stohler to be influenced by the way Dennis Christopher portrayed him in the film.
- The show was filmed in Athens, Georgia.
- Co stars were Tom Wiggins, Thom Bray and Jackie Earle Haley
- By this time, Cassidy had given up touring in his musical career, although he had released the album WASP, and speculated he should tour somewhat to promote it.
- Barbara Barrie, Jackie Earle Haley and John Ashton reprised their roles from the feature film.
- Cassidy was proud of the show and how it dealt with real human issues and relationships and had no gimmicks at all.
Jerry Reed and Geoffry Scott in Concrete Cowboys
- Jerry Reed and Tom Selleck (before his Magnum days) starred in the TV movie Concrete Cowboys back in 1979. It was popular enough to inspire a short lived TV series that starred Jerry Reed as J.D. Reed and Geoffry Scott (who took over Selleck's role) as Will Eubanks.
- The series was about two cowboys who, instead of riding horses on the open range, roamed across the country side in their beat up camper looking for adventure and finding it. They made most of their money gambling, but when having a run of bad luck, they would pick an occasional job, which is usually where all the fun took place.
- Critics said the series was merely an attempt to update the old Route 66 series for the 1960s. The series first aired on February 7, 1981 and lasted until March 21, 1981 with a total of six episodes airing.
- Jerry Reed, a country music legend, wrote and performed the theme song, "Breakin' Loose".
- The series has yet to be released onto DVD, but you can find the television movie that inspired the series.
Rock Hudson and Jack Scalia in The Devlin Connection
- Hollywood legend Rock Hudson starred with handsome Jack Scalia in this private detective series. That aired on NBC for thirteen episodes lasting from October 2 – December 25, 1982.
- Brian Devlin (Rock) is a retired military intelligence officer who learns that he has a 28 year old son he never knew he had in the guise of Nick Corsello, a struggling private detective, who begrudgingly accepts the help of his father when it comes to solving cases he is hired to investigate.
- The plot of the series wasn't anything spectacular, as a man finding out his is a father years after the big event happens isn't all that uncommon in the real world or in the movies. :)
- The series got off to a slow start, it was to begin production in June of 1981, but postponed because of a screen writers strike and then because of Hudson's heart surgery.
- Hudson was disappointed that the relationship between his character and his son was never developed fully.
- Hudson was actually thrilled that the show as cancelled because he said it lacked any real spark and had no comedy to it.
- Released on VHS, but has yet to see a DVD release.
Merlin Olsen in Fathers and Sons
- Former football player, Merlin Olsen, starred as Buddy Landau just an ordinary guy who loved sports and who ended up coaching his son, Lanny's baseball team. Lanny has no real talent for the sport and is only involved in it to please his dad.
- The show, a sitcom aired for only four episodes on NBC starting on April 6, 1986 to May 4, 1986 tried to find its comedy by the interactions between Buddy and the player's on his son's team.
- This is the first time his acting career centered around a role connected with sports. He had wanted to keep those two aspects separate.
- Costarring Jason Late,Kelly Sanders, and Andre Gower
- In 1971, Olsen made a firm decision to become an actor, prior to that any roles he had taken were just as a "lark".
- The series has never been released onto DVD.
Scott Bakula in Gung Ho
- Scott Bakula as Hunt Stevenson in this short-lived series that first aired on ABC December 5, 1986 and lasted until June 27, 1987.
- The setting was an auto plant in Hadleyville Pennsylvania that had been reopened as part of Assan Motors, a Japanese owned company. The comedy of the show was the clash of cultures faced by the American workers and the Japanese management.
- The series co starred Gedde Watanabe (who reprises his role from the movie), Stephen Lee and Clint Howard.
- Based on the feature film of the same name.
Richard Tyson and John Ashton in Hardball
- Veteran copy Charlie "C.B." Battles (John Ashton) gets a brand new partner, young and brash Joe "Kaz" Kaczierowski (Richard Tyson). Of course, Kaz is a rebel, he plays be his own rules. This causes friction between Charlie and Kaz as each has their own way of enforcing the law.
- It lasted for 18 episodes and aired from September 21, 1989 to June 29, 1990.
- Before the series was cancelled, there was an attempt to revamp it and make it more issue oriented.
- The two actors were never tested together before being cast in their roles.
- Brandon Tartikoff, then President of Entertainment at NBC. personally sent Tyson the script for the series which was unusual but NBC was banking on Tyson becoming a TV superstar much like Don Johnson had.
- Has yet to be released onto DVD.
Robert Blake in Helltown
- Robert Blake was Father Noah "Hardstep" Rivers a priest at St. Dominic's parish is a tough east LA neighborhood.
- The NBC series ran for 15 episodes starting on September 4, 1985 to December 25, 1985.
- The character was often thought of as Baretta (Blake's famous cop role from the 70's) in a priest's collar.
- The show was up against ABC's Dynasty.
- Blake began working on the concept for Helltown when he was working on Blood Feud in 1983.
- Blake took the idea for the series to ABC because he had done Baretta for them. They weren't interested, much to his disappointment.
- Also starred Whitman Mayo, Natalie Core, Jeff Cory and Tony Longo.
Sam Jones and Jacko in The Highwayman
- The Highwayman was an adventure series that first aired on NBC beginning March 4, 1988 and lasted until May 6, 1988. Sam Jones (Flash Gordon fame) was the Highwayman, a US Marshal in this futuristic series that critics said was a cross between Mad Max and Knight Rider.
- Partnered with Jones was Jetto, played by an Aussie actor, Jacko, whose main claim to fame here in the US was a series of commercials for Energizer batteries, you remember those, right, he would stick the battery on his shoulder and dare you to knock it off.
- Co starred Tim Russ and Jane Badler.
- Produced by Glen A. Larson who said it was to be a cross between Gunsmoke and The Road Warrior. He wanted it to be dark and spooky with action and adventure.
Adam West and Ernie Hudson in The Last Precinct
- This series lasted from April 11, 1986 to May 30, 1986 and was viewed by some as merely a way for TV to cash in on the popularity of the Police Academy movies of the big screen.
- The 56th Precinct, known as The Last Precinct was a dumping ground of sorts for various LAPD police officers who really didn't seem cut out for a career in law enforcement.
- The officers on this series: Price Pascall (Jonathan Perpich) a handsome police officer who was about the only officer that had any kind of real detective skills. Also, there was Officer William Raider (Rick Duncommun) an over weight and bumbling motor cycle cop, Mel Brubaker (Randi Brooks) who used to be a man, King (Pete Willcox) an Elvis impersonator, over the hill cops, Butch (Keenan Wynn) and Sundance (Hank Rolike) and heading up the Last Precinct was Adam West as Capt. Robert Wright.
- It aired opposite Dallas.
- West said that it was really a modernization of the Keystone Kops with lots of slapstick comedy a sort of "upside down Hillstreet Blues."
- This was Adam's first series in 20 years.
Suzanne Pleshette as Maggie Briggs
- Maggie Briggs (Suzanne Pleshette) works for the financially troubled The New York Examiner. In order to try to turn things around by adding a new feature to their paper, Modern Living. Maggie who is used to writing hard hitting pieces is aghast that she is now being asked to write the soft stuff...about puppy dogs and nuns. But she is assured she will still be asked to write the hard pieces, it will just be about different topics than she is used to writing about.
- John Getz plays Geoff Bennett, her editor. He is a playboy and a handsome one at that. Maggie tries to not notice. Her mentor is Walter Holden (Kenneth McMillian). Her best friend is model Connie Piscipol (Shera Danese, Peter Falk's real life wife).
- Was also known as Suzanne Pleshette is Maggie Briggs.
- Pleshette co created the show.
- Pleshette wanted both Kenneth McMillian and Shera Danese to work with her in a series, she just didn't have any idea what that series would be.
Simon MacCorkindale in Manimal
- The show lasted for eight episodes beginning on September 30, 1983 and ending on December 31, 1983.
- Handsome Simon MacCorkindale was Jonathan Chase, a professor at New York University who taught animal behavioral sciences. This fit well with the special power that Chase had, the ability to transform into any animal at will. Chase used his special ability to fight crime and only a few people knew about his talent, Ty Earle (Michael D. Roberts) a friend with whom Chase served in Vietnam and pretty police detective, Brooke McKenzie (Melody Anderson), who often teamed up with Chase to solve crimes.
- Notable guest stars: Richard Lynch, Ursula Andress and Keenan Wynn.
- Sadly, Simon would pass away, October 14, 2010 at age 58 from colorectal cancer.
- Released onto DVD in 2015.
Dean Paul Martin and Courteney Cox in The Misfits of Science
- This 1985 show was a mixture of fantasy and science fiction. The show's plot was that a group of "misfits" who ended up getting together because they all shared one thing in common, they had super powers.
- Dean Paul Martin (that's right Dean Martin's son) was Dr. Billy Hayes, the only member of the group who had no super powers to speak of. He was a research scientist who specialized in studying those who were considered to be human anomalies. He was the leader of the group.
- Mark Thomas Miller as Johnny Johnny B" Bukowski a rock musician who had been electrocuted on stage, but instead of being killed he ended up having the ability to charge full of electricity. He can hurl lightning bolts and run super fast. He always wore sunglasses which hid his eyes, which, when he was fully charged with electric, they would glow.
- Courteney Cox was Gloria Dinallo, a teenage girl who has the power of telekinesis whose mother was locked away in a mental hospital. Gloria had a major crush on Johnny.
- Kevin Peter Hall was Dr. Elvin "El" Lincoln was a towering giant who had the ability to shrink to small sizes.
- In the pilot episode only was Mickey Jones as Arnold "Ice Man" Beifneiter who had the power to freeze anything he touched. His character was missing from the weekly series.
- Executive producer and writer James D. Parriott didn't expect anyone to take these characters seriously as they weren't meant to be, they were written for fun for laughs as the humor was very campy and tongue in cheek.
- This was a really fun series that was cancelled due to low ratings, because it was going up against Dallas.
Lee Horsley and William Conrad in Nero Wolfe
- In 1981, we got to watch this TV adaption of Rex Stout's novel's about reclusive private detective Nero Wolfe. It was actually a pretty decent series, or so I thought. It updated the settings to modern day New York and it took some of it's material from Stouts books.
- William Conrad was reclusive and eccentric Nero Wolfe who preferred a life of seclusion to being out and about solving crimes, and that was where his right hand man, Archie Goodwin (Lee Horsely) came into the picture.
- This was Lee Horsely's first television role.
- Orson Welles was first asked to do the role.
- It took producers $30,000 to outfit one room full of orchids so they weren't seen often in the series.
- It took so long for Rex Stout's character, Nero Wolf to come to TV was because the author vowed to never allow his character be brought to life on film after two horrible Nero Wolf movies had been made years before. He hated them both with a passion. Stout passed away in 1975.
- The series first aired on January 16, 1981 and lasted until August 25, 1981.
Cloris Leachman and Harvey Korman in The Nutt House
- The Nutt House was a comedy series from the mind of Mel Brooks and Alan Spencer.
- It began its run on NBC September 20, 1989 and lasted until October 25, 1989. A once elegant hotel, the Nutt House, has fallen on hard times, of course staffed by a bunch of "loonies" probably didn't do much to help it's reputation.
- Harvey Korman was the hotel manager, Reginald T. Turkington, Cloris Leachman was the head housekeeper and she also played the wife of the hotel's owner. Mark Blankenfield was the nearly blind elevator operator. Also starred Brian McNamara, Molly Hagen and Gregory Itzin.
- The humor was silly, absurd and ridiculous. Brooks comedy philosophy is to "be savage to those in authority but be kind to those underneath it, that suffer from it."
- For the most part it received good reviews, but just couldn't find its audience.
Judson Scott in The Phoenix
- The Phoenix its run on ABC on March 19, 1982 and ended on April 16, 1982.
- Blond haired, blue eyed Judson Scott was Bennu of the Golden Light, an ancient extraterrestrial who was awakened from his sleeping place in Peru. Bennu is an enlightened being who was socially responsible, kind, non violent and environmentally aware. He had special abilities like telekinesis, the power to levitate and to do astral projection, etc. His strength and powers were given to him or made stronger by his special Phoenix amulet he wore which got its powers from the sun. His main purpose was to find his mate, Mira, who came from the planet Eldebran, some 40,000 years earlier. Without her, he had no clue as to what his mission on earth was to be about. Richard Lynch played Justin Preminger a man who wishes to capture Bennu.
- Nine episodes were planned, but only four were ever filmed, those and the 90 minute pilot movie. I think this series was just a little bit too ahead of it's time. It does have a bit of a cult following and I think it had the potential to be a decent series if it would have been given more of a chance.
- Producer Mark Carliner described the series, "Season a pot of Robert A. Heinlein's "A Stranger in a Strange Land", with a pinch of Gore Vidal's "Kalki", fold in a cup of Eric Van Danniken's "Chariots of the Gods" and you've got it.
Josh Brolin and Michael Woods in Private Eye
- This 1987 series was set in Hollywood during the 1950s; Jack Cleary (Michael Woods) is a good cop who ends up having to give up his job as a cop because of a frame up by those in the force who were really the bad guys. Now, to make ends meet he works as a private detective. Working with him is Johnny Betts (Josh Brolin) a young man who worked with Cleary's deceased brother, who happened to be a private detective but was killed while working on a case.
- Bill Sadler plays Lieutenant Charlie Fontana, Cleary's only friend left on the force and who helps him with his cases whenever possible. Lisa Jane Persky as Dottie, the ever faithful secretary.
- The pilot for the series cost 6.5 million dollars to film. Having to use cars, clothes and sets that fit the 1950's feel of the series.
- The budget for the additional 11 episodes was set at $18 million dollars.
- The series lasted from September 13, 1987 until January 8, 1988 with 12 episodes.
Sam Waterston in Q.E.D.
- Sam Waterston stared as Quentin E. Deverille a brilliant American professor who finds himself laughed out of a job at Harvard because he dared speculate that it was possible to transmit picture and sound through the air. He then takes off for England, which might be more receptive to his brilliance and then finds himself fighting crime using all the cool, advanced gadgets that he invents.
- Set in 1912 England, our hero is helped in his adventures by his trusty butler/chauffeur, Phipps (George Innes) and Jenny (Caroline Langrishe) his beautiful and very resourceful secretary. Of course, every brilliant hero has to have an arch villain as an enemy and in this case, it's Dr. Stefan Kilkiss (Julian Glover).
- The series first aired March 23, 1982 and lasted for an entire 6 episodes, ending on April 27. 1982.
- Created by John Hawkesworth who created such classics as Upstairs Downstairs and The Duchess of Duke Street.
Patrick Swayze in The Renegades
- Crime drama series that starred the late Patrick Swayze.
- Aired on ABC from March 4, 1983 to April, 1983.
- A gang of street toughs are given a choice, work for the police as undercover agents infiltrating street gangs in an attempt to prevent gang related crimes and violence, or go to jail.
- I have to say that this TV series had one of the best theme songs ever.
- Critics charged it was a Mod Squad update.
- It also starred Tracey Scoggins ,Kurtwood Smith, Paul Mones, Randy Brooks, Robert Thaler, James Luisi, Brian Tochi and Fausto Bara.
Rex Smith in Street Hawk
- Ran on ABC for 13 episodes starting on January 4 and ending on May 16, 1985.
- Teen idol heartthrob Rex Smith starred as Jesse Mach an amateur dirt-bike racer and ex police officer who is chosen to test an all-terrain attack motorcycle. His skills as a dirt bike racer come in handy since this motorcycle can travel at speeds up to 300 miles per hour.
- During the day, Mach worked as a sort of trouble shooter for the police department, but by night he was a crime fighter known as The Street Hawk though he was considered to be nothing but a lawless vigilante not much better in ethics than those he helped to catch and send to prison.
- There were six motorcycles (some sources list 10) used on the series: some were used only for street riding, others for crashing and still others for jumping.
- Norman Tuttle (Joe Regalbuto) was the brains behind the motorcycle and the only person who knew Jesse's true identity.
- Released onto DVD in 2010.
Catherine Hicks and Tim Matheson in Tucker's Witch
- A fun premise for a TV series, Tucker's Witch began its run on CBS October 6, 1982 and lasted until August 8, 1983.
- Catherine Hicks and Tim Matheson played Amanda and Rick Tucker, a husband and wife team who run a detective agency. But, this is no run of the mile detective show, it seems that Amanda is a witch and uses her powers to help solve cases, but this isn't always a plus as her powers are sometimes, shall I say, unreliable.
- This was Tim Matheson's fifth television series.
- Title of the pilot The Good Witch of Laurel Canyon and it stared Art Hindle and Kim Cattrell. It was revamped so that it appeared more light hearted in it's humor.
David Soul in Unsub
- Short-lived series that lasted from February 3, 1989 to April 14, 1989.
- David Soul returned to prime time TV in this hour long crime drama series on NBC as Westley Grayson, an agent with the Behavioral Science Unit of the U.S. Justice Department and he along with his crew investigated crimes committed by serial killers.
- Co starred Kent McCord and Richard Kind.
- Very similar in plot to the present day popular Criminal Minds series.
- Series has never been released onto DVD, but you can find an episode or two on Prime Time Crime: The Stephen J. Cannell Collection released onto DVD in 2010.
Bo Svenson in Walking Tall
- 1981 series that was the small screens continuation of the story of legendary lawman Buford Pusser.
- Ran on NBC from January 17 – June 6, 1981 with 7 episodes filmed.
- Beaten soundly in the ratings by ABC's The Love Boat.
- Bo Svenson took over the role created on film by actor Joe Don Baker.
- Pusser, a real life sheriff in McNeal County, Tennessee gained fame as a no nonsense tough and rowdy lawman who didn't hesitate to use force to arrest criminals. He carried four foot long club to mete out justice to wrong doers.
- In real life, Pusser died in a car crash that left some thinking that it wasn't accidental, that his enemies finally had gotten rid of this thorn in their sides.
- The complete series was released onto DVD in 2006.
Jeff Conaway in Wizards and Warriors
- The late Jeff Conaway (of Taxi fame) starred in this very short lived 80's show that lasted from February 26, 1983 to May 14, 1983.
- Set during the time of King Arthur's Court, Conway played Prince Erik Greystone a knight who was the defender of the Kingdom of Camarand which was ruled by kindly King Baaldorf (Tom Hill) and his wife, Queen Lattinia (Julie Payne). Their daughter, Princess Ariel (Julia Duffy) was betrothed to handsome Prince Erik. Of course, every good guy needs a bad guy as an rival and that came in the form of Prince Dirk Blackpook (Duncan Regehr) who wanted to take over Camarand and tried every dirty trick in the book, including black magic to do so.
- The series also starred the lovely Randi Brooks, Tim Dunigan, Clive Revill and Walter Olkewicz.