June 5, 2024

If I ran the network, part 3

Recently I kicked off a new feature, "If I Ran the Network," a series of TV concepts that would never have made it to the small screen without network executives screwing them up. If you have similar ideas, please share them in the comments section; if I get enough, I'll use them to put together a complete prime-time lineup for the fictional HBC Network!

The idea for The Phil Collins Show was born from the success of The Tracey Ullman Show, which ran on Fox for four seasons from 1987 to 1990, and is now primarily known for having introduced The Simpsons. The Ullman show was a brilliant concept, combining sketch comedy, musical acts, and cartoon shorts, such as the Simpsons feature. In order to make this kind of concept work, you need one of two things: Dean Martin, or an exceptionally talented host. While Deano wasn't available, the fantastically talented Tracey Ullman was, and the show became the biggest success to date on the fledgling Fox network.

Phil Collins seemed like a good choice to host this kind of variety show. He was at the tail end of the greatest years of his career; his group, Genesis, was a bland shadow of its former self, having transitioned from progressive rock to pop, and Collins was sounding more and more like a white Lionel Richie*; it seemed to me that it would have been a good time to transition into television.  

*No offense to Richie here; I use that example specifically because Phil Collins once said, in a Playboy interview, that he didn't want to wind up sounding "like a white Lionel Richie." Of course, I only read the interview.

The show's format would have been similar to that of Ullman's, a half-hour program which would include Phil singing his latest hit, a performance by a musical or comedy guest (the show would probably be shot in London, meaning many of the guests would have been British), a sketch involving said guest star (with Phil playing a fictionalized version of himself, not unlike the premise of The Jack Benny Program), and a duet featuring Phil and his guest. Its casual attitude would have been reminiscent of The Dean Martin Show, and while I don't suggest that it would have been as successful, I think it could have built a solid audience.

One of the things which I would have hoped would attract viewers would have been the idea of guests that one didn't usually see on television, performing comedy routines that they might or might not have been totally suited for. Imagine, for example, Phil and Pete Townshend doing a version of the Dead Parrot Sketch from Monty Python. My favorite episode idea, though, was this one:

Frankly, I think Collins could have extended his career by years with this show. It's not as if he couldn't have pulled it off; he was a child actor, so he shouldn't have had any problems with the comedy, and he certainly had enough hits to carry the show. And with the half-hour format, the series could easily have been done in-between various tours, whether solo or with Genesis. Network executives probably would have been worried about all the foreign accents on the show, though, not to mention that Phil hardly looked like the star of his own variety series. You can't talk me out of the idea, though.

A network does not live by drama alone, and with the heavy shows I introduced in the first two segments of this feature, I think it was important to introduce something lighter, while remaining creative. I wonder what's next on the schedule? TV   


  1. As promised, sequels or follow-ups to Hogan’s Heroes.
    Not sure if this would make a good series, movie or mini-series. It would certainly work in streaming serial format which is currently all the rage.
    I remember one blog post Mitchell, in which you, or maybe it was someone else, envisioned the post-war Hogan as becoming a General. I gotta disagree with that. Hogan was too much of a rebel to stay in the military, let alone become a General. In the episode “The Pizza Parlor”, a submarine Captain says, “You know, Hogan, if you weren't one of *their* prisoners, you'd be one of ours.” Hogan clearly did not like the military brass and in one episode commented what a wonderful word ‘civilian’ was.
    No, I think it would have been far more likely that Hogan would have left the military behind him. That doesn’t mean however, he would not answer a call to return for a special mission or two…
    Okay, picture this.
    It’s 1950, Hogan is now running his own private detective agency in Cleveland. He is approached by the government for a special mission. To rescue “Nimrod” from behind the Iron Curtain.
    Nimrod is a shadowy figure, a double agent mentioned in the episode “The Missing Klink”. His identity was a mystery to the Heroes, although it was someone they all knew. After the war, “Nimrod” was trapped in East Germany. Hunted by the Russians and former Nazis alike. “Nimrod” is none other than the former German General Albert Burkhalter. In fact, much of which the Heroes got away with makes sense if Burkhalter was Nimrod. Including his conspicuous absence in “D-Day at Stalag 13”, which could serve as a final episode.
    To rescue Nimrod, Hogan must regather his former heroes. Lebeau, now running his own restaurant in Paris.
    Newkirk, doing time in Her Majesty’s nick for selling dodgy items and impersonating a Lord.
    Carter has returned to running a drug store in Muncie, Indiana.
    Kinchloe, now the owner of his own electronics business in Michigan.
    Still in the RAF, to nobody’s surprise, is Colonel Crittendon (now HIM I would make a General).
    He also must contact two former adversaries.
    In West Berlin Schultz has rebuilt his toy company.
    Working as his chauffeur and bookkeeper is Wilhelm Klink.
    In East Berlin, also looking for Nimrod is the former Gestapo officer Hochstetter, now working for the East Germans.
    What follows is a “Mission Impossible” type rescue operation and your imagination.

    1. Of all the post-Hogan-in-the-military ideas, I think this one has the most potential - bringing the gang back together for, as you said, an impossible mission. It can start out as a TV-movie/pilot, with the option to have them remain together afterward.

      How would you play this? As a comedy-turned-drama, a la "Lou Grant," as an adventure series like "M:I," or as a dramedy? I think all three have possibilities!

    2. A comedy, interrupted by moments of drama and suspense. Which, in a way, HH did very well at times. I think a series of missions after this one (maybe a limited series of movies), bringing together the Heroes from their various places for new missions.
      I envision one scene with Hogan and Schultz, in which Schultz tells Hogan he never told Klink about the "activities" Hogan was involved in. How Klink was a broken man after the war, thinking himself a failure. That's why Schultz employed him. I idea I got from the Britcom Allo! Allo! in which, after the war, the German Colonel von Strohm became the chauffeur of his former subordinate. Showing Schultz's good nature.

  2. The Mondellos (1961-65, ABC-TV)

    Beaver Cleaver's fair-weather friend, Larry Mondello (Rusty Stevens) and his family relocate from Mayfield to the mean streets of Philly in this spin-off from the beloved series. Joining Larry is his perpetually perturbed mother (Madge Blake), unseen traveling salesman father, and older sister - and future spinster - Larrinda (played by Stevens in drag, via split-screen and standing on a box).

    Typical plots feature disobedient sluggard Larry getting in trouble for being a disobedient sluggard, and unsuccessful attempts to marry off Larrinda. On the 100th episode, Jerry Mathers makes a special guest appearance--The 'Beave' visits his old pal, and is unable to climb down from the William Penn statue after Larry convinces him the charter Penn is holding is actually a Colonial-era girlie magazine.

    The show comes to an end in December 1965, when Harriet Mondello, unable to take another day with her highly dysfunctional clan, packs her bags and moves to Gotham City and her wealthy gadabout nephew, Bruce Wayne--But that's a whole 'nother story.

  3. "The Columbos". A sitcom sequel featuring the domestic life the LAPD police Lieutenant and his formally unseen wife.
    His friend is an Ed Norton type, and they hang out at Barney's Beanery, the dive eatery from the original show.

    1. That would have to be better than "Mrs. Columbo," which cast Kate Mulgrew supposedly as the wife of the titular detective, who also solved murders. The concept was so flawed that the title was quickly changed to "Kate Loves a Mystery" (among other titles). Levenson and Link "strongly" objected to it; somehow, I don't think they would have had as much trouble with "The Columbos"!

    2. Mrs. Columbo was truly awful. I've always felt the 90s episode "Rest in Peace Mrs. Columbo" was a backhanded slap by Falk and William Link at that show.
      Not sure if Levinson and Link would have approved of their character in a sitcom. But then, some of the best detectives have always had a eccentric, comic way about them. The daily life of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin have enormous (pardon the pun) possibilities.

  4. I love this idea and laughed at your comment about just reading the article. 😉 I would actually like to see Phil Collins and Patrick McGoohan in a show together, because I'm sure some sparks would fly and whatever came out of it would be interesting.

    1. That would have been fun, wouldn't it? I don't think I've ever seen Patrick McGoohan NOT interesting.

    2. From what I have read, at one point McGoohan was considered a replacement for Peter Falk as Columbo.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!