Premise: Forced into hiding by an in-agency threat, Agents Doggett and Reyes decide their jobs would be better handled off the radar – WAY off. Reyes convinces her friend Carrie Bradshaw to take over the X-Files by night, maintaining her sex columnist day job as both a cover and a way to get into the minds (and beds) of New York City’s alien hybrids, shape shifters, and worm people. Little does Carrie know that she’s being watched; that high school boyfriend of hers who ended up in a mental institution? He’s got a secret identity of his own. He knows all there is to know about the X-Files, and he’s not about to let them go without a fight. He’s Fox Mulder.
Tagline: “If you thought chasing UFOs was tough before, you haven’t done it in Manolos.”
Reception: Critics and viewers seemed to agree that the show was best left to a brief and deliriously campy run; one such reviewer summed it up thusly: “The first four extraterrestrial-related puns were delicious, airy fun. The next eight were increasingly torturous.”
Trivia: The series’ two-episode run is the first two-episode series in history to be syndicated; the episodes play frequently on TBS, though the editing of the interspecies sex scenes bring the series down to a total of 11 incoherent minutes.
“Law and Order: Friends of the Court”
Premise: Out-of-work actor Joey Tribbiani is en route to an audition in a sheriff’s deputy costume when he mistakenly walks into the county courthouse and is unwittingly hired as the new bailiff. Despite a number of comical misunderstandings, Tribbiani becomes well suited to the job, developing close relationships with judges and attorneys alike. Later, Tribbiani, intending to play a practical joke, uses his connections to land his friends (“Friends”) on jury duty for an upcoming trial, for which he has comically neglected to read the briefing report. The trial — a complex and deeply twisted case of a grotesquely violent serial killer — was intended to shape the entire series’ story arc.
Tagline: “Laughing this hard should be a FELONY!”
Reception: Viewers found the juxtaposition between the Friends’ playful flashbacks — funny, shared memories that served to inform decisions made in deliberation — and the grisly witness flashbacks to discoveries of the defendant’s suspected 62 victims to be unsettling and, at times, inappropriate. Reviews were mixed to negative, with critics noting that laughs were “bittersweet” and “never quite frequent enough to forget this is a show that is, at its core, about serial murder.”
Trivia: The show’s opening theme showed the Friends cast dancing in the pouring rain on the courthouse steps. It was meant to be a play on the legal term “arraignment,” but nobody really seemed to get it.
“911 Can Be Used To Report Both Fires AND Medical Emergencies, After All”
Premise: Facing budget cuts, the newly laid-off staff of County General Hospital (“E.R.”) moves to New York City in search of work, where they are somewhat inexplicably forced to create a makeshift hospital within the Harlem Firehouse (“Rescue Me”). Much of the show’s conflict centered around the difficulties inherent in using one small building as both a firehouse and a makeshift hospital, and the much sexier difficulties inherent in having constant intercourse in a high-intensity work environment where so many lives are at stake and the outfits take almost forever to get off.
Tagline: “Is this an emergency? You bet your f%#*ing ass#$*% it is.”
[Note: producers hoped to draw a younger audience with the tagline’s edgy language; though the line briefly became a meme, viewers 18-25 failed to watch.]
Reception: Critics called the show “unbelievable,” noting that the show “waste[d] an absurd number of scenes depicting the doctors crafting surgical tools and machinery out of items lying around the firehouse.” Critics and viewers alike also lambasted the show’s over-long, weirdly literal title — a title that producers reportedly intended for use as a placeholder, but upon which they were apparently unable to improve. The show’s ratings were dismal from the start, and, despite intensive marketing aimed towards popularizing a shorter, acronym version of the title (“911 CBUTRBFAMEAA,” pronounced “see-butte-herb-fame-ahh” in television spots), they continued to plummet. “911…” was canceled after just seven episodes.
Trivia: Fans of the show found a heroine in the beloved and beleaguered in-house 911 operator, Trudy Banks, played by Alexis Bledel wearing geriatric make-up — a transformation that reportedly took six hours to apply each day on set.
“The SBU Crew”
Premise: Cast members from TV shows “The O.C.,” “Boy Meets World,” “Freaks and Geeks,” “That’s So Raven,” “Skins,” “Lizzie McGuire,” and, perhaps most famously, “Pepper Ann,” become acquainted (and entwined) as junior transfer students at the fictional Sensual Birches University.
Tagline: “Meet the new kid in school … 27 times over.”
Reception: Critics called the large cast “confusing,” cast members’ widely ranging ages “visually jarring” and the pseudo-collegiate dialogue (“Yo bro-ski, whaddaya say we show these doofuses the way a keg stand is REALLY dunzo?” and “Oh yeezy? Why don’t you Skrill-AX?” are two examples) “overwrought, embarrassing, and frequently offensive.” Nevertheless, viewers tuned in to “The SBU Crew” in record-breaking numbers. Still, the show floundered after two desperately pathetic seasons. Cast member James Franco’s repeated installments of a performance art piece he titled “I Am Not On Set” — in which he convinced other cast members to skip days on set — played a major role in cancellation, creating undue complications for the show’s writing staff. The entire student body was killed off by a “simultaneous mono outbreak” in a tedious yet unexpectedly moving five-hour finale.
Trivia: Copies of I Am Not On Set: The Still Images (a photograph book including images of Franco and Adam Brody wearing humorous false facial hair and Franco and Danielle Fishel in a nude, tearful embrace) are available in select Urban Outfitters stores.
Katie Heaney loves all the TV, and is only just now watching Buffy, if you can believe that. Her nonfiction book (Grand Central Publishing) comes out in 2014!