10 fascinating flops from the 1984 television schedule

We bet you do not remember George Clooney in 'E/R.' No, a totally different one.

Image: The Everett Collection

Thanks to George Orwell, the year 1984 will always be associated with dystopia. But in reality, the year did give birth to the Apple Macintosh, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Air Jordans. On televisions, beloved shows like MoonlightingWho's the Boss?Murder, She WroteKate & Allie and Night Court made their debut that year.

Of course, not all new shows were hits. Some were outright duds. But these flops perhaps do not deserve their reputation. They gave us hit pop songs, rising Hollywood stars and interesting premises. Let's take a deep dive into those unsuccessful series of 1984. Did you watch any of them?

1. Automan


Clearly, some television executive saw Tron with his kid and thought, "Let's make a show around those awesome glowing costumes." Certainly, some action series have been built upon flimsier premises, especially in the 1980s. Here, Desi Arnaz, Jr. played a computer programming cop who builds a holographic man, "Automan," who springs forth from the digital world to fight crime at night. A dozen episodes aired before the plug was pulled on poor Automan.

Image: The Everett Collection

2. Dreams


John Stamos has rock chops, but shortly before he was drumming with the Beach Boys, the dashing actor was playing frontman for the fictional pop band Dreams in Dreams. Jami Gertz's hairspray budget equaled the money spent on songwriting. Two of the tracks penned for the series, the theme song "Kiss Me Red" and "Alone," became notable cuts for some big acts. Both Cheap Trick and ELO covered the former, while Heart took "Alone" to No. 1 in 1987.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. The Duck Factory


A 22-year-old Jim Carrey scored his first lead role in this MTM Enterprises production, about a cartoonist on The Dippy Duck Show. The mid-season replacement scored a sweet time slot after Cheers in the spring, but was dead by summer.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. E/R


No, not that ER. Though, believe it or not, this E/R also featured George Clooney and took place in a Chicago hospital. However, this E/R had a comedic approach to surgery. Elliott Gould was the star, alongside Mary McDonnell, who — yep — also appeared on NBC's hit drama ER years later. With its concept, comparisons to M*A*S*H were inevitable, especially considering it was slotted after AfterMASH on CBS. The A-Team put the show on a gurney, sadly.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. Finder of Lost Loves


As with Dreams, the most notable thing about this schmaltzy detective romance was its music. The titular theme song, penned by veteran pop powerhouses Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, became an Adult Contemporary hit for Dionne Warwick. This Aaron Spelling production featured his typical formula of weekly guest stars, making it a sort of mish-mash of The Love Boat and Columbo.

Image: The Everett Collection

6. Glitter


Indeed, not everything Aaron Spelling touched turned to gold. Again, weekly guest stars drifted in and out of this light drama set in the world of magazine publishing. After a mere three episodes, the series was yanked from the schedule, though the remain episodes were eventually burned off by ABC, including some airings in late night. Laugh-In fans take note — this was one of Arte Johnson's last recurring roles on the small screen. That's him up top in the middle with the glasses.

Image: The Everett Collection

7. Hot Pursuit


In everything but name, Hot Pursuit was essentially a reboot of The Fugitive, with added neon, pleats and sex appeal. Kerrie Keane starred as Kate Wyler, a woman framed for murdering her boss. Her hubby springs her from the joint, and the two go on the run as — you guessed it — fugitives. All along, the true killer was the victim's wife, played by billionaire heiress Dina Merrill, the woman who sold Mar-a-Lago to Donald Trump.

Image: The Everett Collection

8. The Master


Lee Van Cleef as a ninja master? Sure, why not. It was 1984. The veteran Western actor played the mentor to fledgling martial arts man-of-action Timothy Van Patten. In The Master, he too traveled around in a van, as if Kung Fu had joined The A-Team.

Image: The Everett Collection

9. The New Show


Saturday Night Live mastermind Lorne Michaels attempted to double his success, albeit during one of the sketch comedy show's true low points. Remember, this was just as Eddie Murphy was leaving SNL, sending the show into its dark age with Robert Downey, Jr. and Anthony Michael Hall. The New Show for all intents and purposes was simply "Friday Night Live." Steve Martin hosted the premiere, with New Edition as musical guests. Both solid bookings, for sure. Loads of talent was here — John Candy, Jeff Goldblum, Catherine O'Hara, Buck Henry, Dave Thomas — but parodies of "Billie Jean" could not help this sketch show from becoming the lowest rated series on network television.

Image: NBCUniversal

10. Three's A Crowd


Sequel fatique was in full effect already in 1984. Weeks after Three's Company ended its run, John Ritter returned as Jack Tripper in this spin-off. The big difference here was that ladies man Jack had settled down with the love of his life, Vicky, played by Mary Cadorette. A new landlord (Robert Mandan) was no Mr. Roper nor Mr. Furley.

Image: The Everett Collection



Let's move ahead a few years for more failures. These feature Dolly Parton, werewolves and more. READ MORE

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RedSamRackham 53 months ago
* I liked Automan, a great sci-fi show indeed, and wanted it to succeed! ♣
JosephFreymuth 62 months ago
ELO did not cover "Kiss Me Red." The band that covered it was ELO Part II. After Jeff Lynne disbanded the original ELO, former ELO band members formed a new but short-lived band they called ELO Part II.
jholton30062 63 months ago
"E/R" was based on a stage play that was hilarious.
Amalthea 64 months ago
My husband & I liked "The Master".
EricFuller 64 months ago
The NEW Show featured rejected SNL skits.
WILD EricFuller 53 months ago
That's funny because audiences rejected The New Show.
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