Sunday, January 18, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: Ferris Bueller: The Series -- Yes, This Exists.

In 1986, director John Hughes' high school slacker comedy Ferris Bueller's Day Off , starring Matthew Broderick in his most iconic role, earned a cool $70+ mil against a $5 million budget, and rightly came to be viewed as one of the classics of the genre and the decade. And while the mercenary route to pursue in the wake of such success would have been for the key creatives to embark on a sequel ("Ferris Bueller's Second Day Off" or some such), cooler heads prevailed, and Ferris remained a one-off classic, unsullied by any imperfect follow-ups.

Er, that is except for one little thing.

In 1990, with both Hughes and Broderick most definitely out, home studio Paramount decided to sequelize the film their own way by bringing it to television with Ferris Bueller: The Series. While there are a handful of TV shows that have successful transitioned from big screen to small (M*A*S*H, for one), they usually come off as low-rent, dinner theater versions of their cinematic cousins. In that sense, Ferris Bueller was no exception, and it can't have helped win over viewers when the first scene of the first ep involved the show taking the piss out of the very flick that got the whole thing started. Observe:

That's Charlie Schlatter in the title role, and while Broderick conveyed effortless cool as the movie Ferris, Schlatter seems to be stuck at "insufferably smarmy." Also in the cast is Jennifer Aniston, still four years away from Rachel Green and independent wealth, stepping into Jennifer Grey's shoes as sister Jeannie. Needless to say, TV's Ferris Bueller was not received well. When the show premiered on NBC in August of '90, critics already had their scythes out, but it didn't help that the show as just kind of bad. So much of what made the movie unique was gone, including, perhaps most egregiously, the Chicagoland setting! Heresy!

Instead the setting was uprooted to Santa Monica. Bah. and while there was a decent amount of tune-in initially, it dropped off pretty quick (as opposed to lead-in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which premiered that same season and did alright, I understand). By December of 1990, with just thirteen episodes produced and ratings starting to crater pretty quickly, Ferris Bueller was in for a lot more days off, as the Peacock pulled the skein from the sched. That'll learn 'em to put the chainsaw to Matthew Broderick. The man's a national treasure, dammit!

As a point of trivia, Ferris was replaced in its Monday night time slot by Blossom, which beat its distance record by four-and-a-half seasons, and 101 episodes. In the twenty-five years since it ended, star Charlie Schlatter has worked pretty steadily, but I'd hazard a guess that his name is mostly known to animation fans (he was the first person to voice the Flash in the DC Animated Universe, for one thing). While there's no official DVD release of the show (nor is there any great groundswell for one), you can pretty much watch every episode on YouTube so, y'know, enjoy:

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Animated Gilligan

Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Buck Rogers -- The 25th Century By Way of the 1970s

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Second G.I. Joe

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