It may have been about a tough-minded football coach, but this ABC series was no Friday Night Lights. The big joke for much of the show’s run was that titular Coach Hayden Fox (Craig T. Nelson) couldn’t deal with the burgeoning romantic life of his daughter, Kelly, a student at the college where he worked. Another gag that got old quickly but persisted throughout Coach‘s nine-season run: the endless goofiness of Bill Fagerbakke’s Dauber Dybinski. Incredibly, Nelson won an Emmy in 1992 for his performance. These days, he’s keeping busy by appearing on Glenn Beck’s Fox News show to rant about how he isn’t paying taxes anymore. Watch a clip of the show in its heyday here.
Dharma and Greg
The limitations of this show were pretty clear from the get-go: Dharma (Jenna Elfman) and Greg (Thomas Gibson) get married on their first date. Of course, it turns out that they’re polar opposites — she’s a ditzy hippie with no inhibitions, while he’s an uptight lawyer with unlimited potential for embarrassment. For five seasons, four of which saw the show attracting over 12 million viewers (to put that in perspective, 30 Rock is lucky to get half that), the plot was pretty much one variation on that theme after another. Meanwhile, Elfman racked up three Emmy nominations for her performance as TV’s ultimate Manic Pixie Dream Wife.
This is not about Clueless the movie, which was wonderful. It’s about the film’s writer/director, Amy Heckerling, having the nerve to make a TV spin-off that didn’t star Alicia Silverstone. Poor Rachel Blanchard tried her best, but there was never a chance that she’d match up to the girl who made Cher Horowitz a household name. It’s true that the supporting cast was largely the same as it had been in the film, but they were also so old by the time the TV series went off the air that they were pretty unbelievable as high schoolers — Stacey Dash, who played Dionne, was 33.
Kenan and Kel
Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell were the breakout stars of All That, Nickelodeon’s tween version of Saturday Night Live. They were great improv comics (Thompson has since gone on to SNL), especially for such young actors, creating memorable characters like the Good Burger guys (who got their own disappointing movie in 1997) and Thompson’s Ishboo. Unfortunately, their talents weren’t best suited to the sitcom format; Kenan and Kel cast the guys as scheming high-school friends, eliminating the possibility for wackier characters and the kinds of over-the-top humor they both excelled at. Still, it ran for four seasons from 1996-2000, lived on in re-runs for years, and is now back on TeenNick as part of The ’90s Are All That.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Friends was not a good show — or, at the very least, it had no business running for ten seasons. It all seemed harmless and zeitgeisty enough at first. Who didn’t want to root for six young adults seeking love and success in the big city? Who didn’t feel like it captured something about the way our best buddies become our surrogate family in those fun, crazy, often frustrating few years after college? But then it went on for too long, exhausting its one-note characters with repetitive plot lines. Case in point: All but one season ended with a Ross-and-Rachel cliffhanger. Regardless, Friends was among the top five shows on TV for all but its first season, and the actors were each taking in a million dollars an episode by the time it wrapped. (If you still aren’t convinced that Friends nostalgia is a bad idea, it may be time to revisit “Smelly Cat.”)