Sunday, December 28, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: The Hogan Family Edition

The Hogan Family enjoyed a six season run from 1986 to 1991, but it's rarely (if ever) seen today, with neither reruns nor DVD to mark its existence. This is a shame, as I have a lot of fond memories of the show, but if it's retained any sort of cultural cache today, it's probably mostly because of the presence of a pre-Arrested Development Jason Bateman in its cast. Of course, just as interesting as its disappearance from the radar is that it existed at all, given some of the tortured drama that occurred behind-the-scenes during its production.

I'll try to boil this down: When it began in midseason on NBC in spring of 1986, The Hogan Family was actually titled Valerie, named for star Valerie Harper, who'd had successful runs on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off, Rhoda. Centering on the harried, workaday life of at-home mom Valerie Hogan, the series benefited from strong writing and a quality ensemble, but only did okay ratings-wise. That changed in the second year, when some primo placement behind then-hit ALF (which is where I discovered it) turned it into a genuine smash. Here's the intro for the first two seasons:

Of course, success brings drama with it, and when Harper (whose husband was a producer) wanted a bigger piece of potential syndication profits,  a lengthy stand-off ensued between her and the producers, resulting in the unprecedented, never before, never since move of firing a star from the series that bore her name (worth pointing out that series was actually developed with the title Close to Home, which they probably should have stuck with, in hindsight). Anyway, with Valerie still doing well, the last thing they were going to do was to let a little thing like the title star's absence kibosh the thing. Thus was born Valerie's Family: The Hogans.

The in-show backstory here is that Valerie dies horribly in a car accident between the second and third seasons, thus explaining Harper's absence. To fill the void, dad Michael's (Josh Taylor) sister Sandy (Sandy Duncan) moves in, taking Harper's role as both series star and co-head-of-family. You have to give the creatives points for sheer chutzpah in not only dreaming up this maneuver, but also for the fact that it worked! Even without its original star, Valerie's Family continued to be a ratings player for NBC. For its fourth year, to further distance it from Harper, the title changed yet again, this time becoming The Hogan Family, which it would retain for the remainder of its run:

(You sick of that song yet?)

Now the focus became more ensemble-driven, with added attention on Bateman's David Hogan, the breakout Teen Beat heartthrob in the cast, and his misadventures. The Hogan Family continued on NBC for its fourth and fifth seasons, and then jumped to CBS for one last season, which closed its run in summer of '91. With 110 episodes under its belt, The Hogan Family found a plentiful afterlife in syndication, which is where I devoured most of the run. But after that initial syndie cycle ended in the late '90s, it seems like it just kind of fell off the map, which is unfortunate. I'm still hopeful that we'll see the series released on DVD or streaming or something.

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Secret Lives of Waldo Kitty

Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: When Chicago Enters the Summer Zone...

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: T.J. Hooker

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