It’s time for a new episode of Remember That Show?, where my buddy Adam and I look back at old shows and wonder if we’re the only ones who remember them. Now, most folks probably would have done a holiday themed show, with Christmas around the corner. Yeah, we didn’t plan that so well… Instead, this ended up being our Matthew Perry tribute episode.
If you weren’t aware, Perry – best known as Chandler Bing on NBC’s hit 90s sitcom Friends – unfortunately passed away in a hot tub back in October, at the age of 54. It was a shocking loss to the world of entertainment, as many knew of Perry’s struggles with substance abuse over the years, but it really felt like he had turned a corner a few years ago, when he released his memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing. So, it sort of seemed like he had found a balance in his life for the time being.
Adam and I immediately started talking about whether or not we should address it. I know on my solo branded stuff, I tend to shy away from death tributes, as it sort of sets a precedent. You acknowledge one, you’ve kinda gotta acknowledge them all. And Suzanne Somers had died just a few weeks prior. How could we talk about Matthew Perry, best known for “Friends…and some other stuff”, and ignore Somers, best known for Three’s Company, Step by Step, and kinda She’s The Sheriff? Well, here’s how we looked at it: Somers was important, but the main “forgotten” show on her resume was Sheriff. Meanwhile, the thing folks forget about the Friends cast is that they had a STRING of roles before becoming break out stars together. With the exception of Schwimmer, the cast all had short-lived recurring/regular roles on shows prior to being cast for what would make them household names: LeBlanc (Top of the Heap/Vinnie & Bobby), Kudrow (Bob/Mad About You), Aniston (Ferris Bueller/The Edge), Cox (Misfits of Science/Family Ties). Perry, however, started his career before all the others, as a child actor guest starring in roles from 1979 until he got his first lead role in the nascent Fox sitcom Second Chance. So, while we will probably double back to Somers at some point down the road, we really wanted to tackle Chance.
Debuting as part of Fox’s first fall schedule launch, in the 1987-1988 season, Second Chance was developed by Punky Brewster veterans Gary Menteer and David W. Duclon, and had a WILD premise, so buckle up: In the future of 2011, Charles Russell (played by Kiel Martin, of Hill Street Blues fame) crashes his hovercar and dies. He ends up at St. Peter’s office, and is found to be a “blue light”: he’s not good enough for Heaven, but not bad enough for Hell. So, he’s given a deal: He can go back in time to influence his life for the better, in an attempt to gain entry to Heaven. He finds himself back in 1987, interacting with himself as a teenager, played by Perry, who goes by “Chazz”. So, in a sort of Highway to Heaven meets Quantum Leap meets Early Edition sort of way, Charles has to right the wrongs that he committed as Chazz, while never revealing his true identity or mission. And, ya know, I kinda loved that. It was certainly wacky, and felt like the sort of show you would have found in first-run syndication at the time.
The ratings, however, weren’t so great. In a move that would become common for Early Fox, they stopped the show after the 9th episode, retooled it, and finished the season as the newly renamed Boys Will Boys. Like Dr. Beckett, Charles probably never made it home, as he was erased and never mentioned. The whole Heaven/Hell angle was removed, and the show instead focused on the high school antics of Chazz and his buddies Booch and Eugene. At this point, it basically became Diet Charles In Charge, and wouldn’t be renewed for a second season.
There are a lot of twists and turns with the production of this show, but with Perry’s lead role, you can see that he’s got “IT”. There’s something special about him, and you almost wonder why he wasn’t giving Michael J. Fox a run for his money. I mean, even Kirk Cameron was getting movie roles by that point! It’s a great glimpse of what would become familiar to the world as Chandler Bing, as we take a look back to his very first starring role. We hope you’ll take a listen, as it’s a great discussion.
So, Remember That Show? Episode 5! Available on all your favorite podcatchers RIGHT NOW! And, if you prefer your podcasts web-based, then click on over to this site!
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