Was the 1977-78 television season the worst ever?
These 13 duds support the argument.
Half of the television schedule, scrapped. By May 15, 1978, a whopping 45 of 96 shows had made the canceled list — and more cancelations were on the horizon. The casualties were reported in a syndicated news story that proclaimed, "TV's Worst Season Slowly Nearing an End." The TV listings were littered with sitcom corpses and dud dramas. Even celebrity vehicles like The Betty White Show, The Ted Knight Show and The Richard Pryor Show failed at the start.
ABC was sitting pretty with the top three shows on television — Laverne & Shirley, Happy Days and Three's Company — neatly bunched together on a blockbuster Tuesday night. With Love Boat, Fantasy Island and Soap, ABC could also claim some of the hottest new series. CHiPs and The Incredible Hulk clicked for CBS. But elsewhere, the debuts fizzled at an alarming rate.
Looking over the list of premieres from the 1977-78 season, it's a real Who's Who of "Huh?" Here are 13 unlucky busts. Did you watch any of them?
1. Mulligan's Stew
NBC quickly called a mulligan on this shank, the lowest rated new show of the season. Lawrence Pressman, perhaps best known as the boss doctor on Doogie Howser, M.D., played the patriarch of a very Eight Is Enough–ish family. Just six episodes were produced.
Image: CBS Television Distribution
Jack Webb was a TV giant, bringing pioneering realism to police and rescue procedurals like Dragnet, Adam-12 and Emergency! However, the K-9 unit would prove to be his Achilles heel. Mark Harmon, who had also featured in the backdoor pilot for an Emergency! spin-off titled "905-Wild," starred alongside a cute Labrador retriever named Sam. Six episodes were produced, the last of which contained the final screen appearance of Vivian Vance.
Image: NBCUniversal Television Distribution / markharmonfanwiki
3. San Pedro Beach Bums
Not long ago, we asked, "Do you remember the show San Pedro Beach Bums?" You answered with a resounding, "No." We can't blame you. The SoCal "bums" were an assorted handful of Sweathog-like characters — the tough guys, the ladies' man, the dweeb, etc. They were named Stuf, Dancer, Moose, Buddy and Boychick.
Top image: ABC / sitcomsonline
With Quark, Buck Henry looked to do to Star Trek and Star Wars what Get Smart did to the spy genre. (Mel Brooks would have far more success with Spaceballs.) The madcap adventures of a space garbageman, the sitcom featured sexy twins, a plant man, a disembodied head and a transgender engineer.
Image: Columbia Pictures Television
5. Sanford Arms
It's just like Sanford and Son! But without Sanford. And the son. Both Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson were nowhere to be found, as an old Army buddy of Fred Sanford takes over the property and runs a boarding house.
Image: Sony Pictures Television
6. Man From Atlantis
It's hunky Patrick Duffy! As (not technically) Aquaman. Actually, the undersea hero was closer to Namor, the Marvel legend. Marvel published seven issues of a Man from Atlantis comic, which almost matched the 13 episodes aired. Duffy did have a nice butterfly kick, though.
Image: Warner Bros. Television Distribution
7. The Oregon Trail
The educational computer game The Oregon Trail began to become a familiar school presence in 1974. What most children of the era will remember about the game is the familiar fate of "You have died of dysentery." That could explain why just six episodes of this Western aired on NBC. Or it could be because audiences had fallen out of love with Westerns.
Image: NBC / Universal Television
8. Young Dan'l Boone
Further evidence that the era of the television Western had ended was this CBS flop, which only managed to air a meager four episodes. Rugged Renaissance man and karate black belt Rick Moses played the titular pioneer.
Image: 20th Century Fox Television
9. Big Hawaii
Imagine Dallas set on a tropical island. Perhaps people were expecting more Hawaii Five-O.
Image: MGM Worldwide Television
Patrick McGoohan was famously known as the Prisoner, but he truly felt trapped in this medical drama. "A disaster ... the most miserable job I've ever done in my life ... a total frustration from start to finish," the actor later reflected.
Image: CBS Television Distribution
11. Logan's Run
The spin-off from the 1976 sci-fi film roped in D. C. Fontana and other vetern Star Trek writers, yet schedule changes lost any potential audience. The show's failure forced the Mego toy company to cancel plans for Logan's Run action figures.
Image: MGM Television
12. Operation Petticoat
Operation Petticoat was a hit comedy film in 1959 for Tony Curtis and Cary Grant, and Petticoat Junction was one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1960s. However, this was 1977, and the market was not hungry for more petticoats nor WWII humor. John Astin headlined, adding more nostalgic flair, while Tony's daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, offered a blood link to the original.
13. We've Got Each Other
Beverly Archer, who would go on to play neighbor Iola Boylen on Mama's Family, starred in this sitcom about a working couple. Other TV vets such as Tom Poston and Joan Van Ark could not compensate for plots like "Stuart tries to become a professional magician."
Image: MTM Enterprises / CBS