Sunday, February 21, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: Harry and the Hendersons Hides Out in Primetime

Here's another entry in the very long list of movies turned into TV shows: Harry and the Hendersons began its life as a feature film starring John Lithgow and Melinda Dillon as the "Hendersons" of the title, who accidentally run over a Sasquatch while trekking through forest. Taking the creature home, they soon find themselves endeared with the lovable giant (played by Kevin Peter Hall), who they name Harry, and hilarity ensues as they try to keep him secret. It was low-risk, low-reward entertainment, making $50 million against a $16 mil budget. Here's the trailer:

As you can see, it has a very sitcom-like premise, so it shouldn't come as a big surprise when the film's success started the wheels turning at Universal Studios to turn the movie into a TV show, and in fall of '91, Bigfoot came to primetime with Harry and the Hendersons: The Series. The interesting thing here is that, rather than sell the show to a network, Uni pre-sold three seasons of Harry to local stations in a fairly far-ranging syndication deal. The show had Hall reprising the hirsute hero, but brought in Bruce Davison for the Lithgow role. Watch the intro:

While the film ends with Harry returning to the wild, the series ignored that last bit, and the premise -- family tries to keep strange creature's existence secret -- was basically Alf redux. Davison is a better actor than this show deserved, but man, did he try to elevate the material. Hall (who had also previously played the title character in Predator -- also in 1987 -- as well as appearing in previous Nostalgia Theater pick Misfits of Science) passed away during the first season due to complications from AIDS, with his role picked up by Dawan Scott for the remainder of the run.

That run, by the way, didn't last past the seventy-two episodes that Universal had guaranteed itself. Critics savaged the series for its banality, and the ratings weren't exactly spectacular either. Harry and the Hendersons wrapped up in spring of '93, though it hard largely been forgotten by audiences well before then. Today, many people don't even realize the show exists (of course it's not like the original movie is some beloved artifact either), and it's neither syndicated nor available on home video. While the movie is still readily available, the TV adaption has become as much of an urban legend as Bigfoot himself.

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: WildC.A.T.s -- More Craptastic Saturday Morning Superheroes

Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: DuckTales! Woo-ooh!

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: RoboCop: The Series -- The Future of Law Enforcement Gets Syndicated

Four Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Night Man -- Marvel's Short-Lived Media Star

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