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THE TELEPHEMERA YEARS: 2000 – PART 3

Written By:

Alan Boon
This is How the World Ends, 2000

Ah, telephemera… those shows whose stay with us was tantalisingly brief, snatched away before their time, and sometimes with good cause. They hit the schedules alongside established shows, hoping for a long run, but it’s not always to be, and for every Street Hawk there’s two Manimals. But here at STARBURST we celebrate their existence and mourn their departure, drilling down into the new season’s entertainment with equal opportunities square eyes… these are The Telephemera Years!

2000-01

Although it had failed to find an adequate replacement for Seinfeld since that show was laid to rest in 1998, NBC’s Must-See Thursdays still dominated the non-factual portion of US TV audiences in the 2000-01 season, as both ER and Friends entered their seventh seasons with nice Dr Greene being diagnosed with terminal cancer, and Monica and Chandler getting married. Everybody still loved Raymond over on CBS, which otherwise had to rely on the power of Survivor to gain a decent ratings share.

The world prepared to say goodbye to Walker, Texas Ranger, Diagnosis: Murder, Xena: Warrior Princess, and Star Trek: Voyager, but genre fans could still comfort themselves with weekly doses of Buffy, Angel, Touched by an Angel, Futurama, The X-Files, and Roswell, and there was the promise of Dark Angel, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Andromeda, and Sheena all making their debuts. All those shows live on in the memory of those that saw them but what about those that didn’t even get the chance to make an impact? This is the story of 2000’s unsold pilots…

Star Patrol! (Fox): In the wake of Galaxy Quest’s excellent spoof of the original Star Trek series, one of the stars of Star Trek: The Next Generation decided that if anyone was going to send up the adventures of a crew of misfits boldly going it would be him. With a pilot ordered by Fox, Jonathan Frakes – who’d shot to fame as Commander Riker on the 1987 sequel to the original series – signed up as the director of Star Patrol!, handing his officer’s uniform over to Captain Vance Omega, played by Charles Rocket.

Rocket had come through the Rhode Island underground scene, where he was a contemporary to David Lynch and Gus van Sant, earning his first big break on Saturday Night Live in 1980, although he was fired a year later for dropping an F bomb live on air. His career recovered to the point where he was a reliable guest foil in both film and TV, fittingly making an appearance on Star Trek: Voyager in 1999, and Omega would be his first lead role.

The rest of the Space Rangers, Omega’s crew abroad the UAP Icarus, included Paget Brewster, Sara Ramirez, and Pat Kilbane, with Eric Jungmann (who played a teenage – and human! – Salem in an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch) cast as Omega’s son, Stevie. The plot of the pilot episode saw Brewster’s Lieutenant Striker set up to take the fall for a drug smuggling operation by Jason Alexander’s Commander Pommerance but ends with Pommerance – who is now just a brain in a jar – kidnapping Stevie Omega, with the rest of the crew forced to give chase.

Star Patrol!, 2000

Of course, they never did catch him because the series was never taken to pilot, despite some decent special effects (by the SFX team behind Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and some nice bones thrown to Trekkers in the script by the Keyes brothers. Star Trek fans would get their affectionate parody in 2017 with the embarkation of The Orville but if you want to see how it might have been done, Star Patrol! is on YouTube.

Super Nerds (Comedy Central): Ah, Super Nerds, the show that could have been The Big Bang Theory if only it hadn’t been utterly unfunny… Patton Oswalt, two years into his first regular role (on King of Queens), is Leslie, who works at The Dungeon Planet comic shop and wiles away the hours with his best friend Gayle, played by Brian Posehn. No subject is off limits for the two to banter about – as long as it pertains to comic books, sci-fi movies, and cosplayers – but their day is interrupted by the arrival of Sarah Silverman’s Gwen.

After a misunderstanding caused by Gayle trying to win an award for sleaziest man of the year, Gwen settles into the scene as another of their tribe, only one with lady parts and an attractive face. Turns out she has had an enormous crush on Leslie since they were at high school together and he once stood up for her. Leslie, of course, cannot form proper sentences around attractive women and therein lies the conflict. The cast is rounded out by comedy landlord Mr Vaskin, whose unseen brother Yorgei means Gayle can say “no, you’re gay!” a lot.

Super Nerds, 2000

Very much a product of its time, the warmth in the central premise of Super Nerds is sometimes lost in some edgy humour that pokes fun at fat people and the nerds themselves but there’s a authenticity behind it, which is no surprise given that Oswalt and Posehn – two self-confessed super nerds who have gone on to write actual Marvel comic books – were the creators responsible for the concept.

Comedy Central passed on a series and the show gathered dust until it was put online in 2011 and it’s still there on YouTube if you want to see what could have been. In an alternative world, it was the story of Leslie and Gwen – rather than Leonard and Penny – that might have had a ten-season run, although quite whether the world would have been ready for the Young Gayle spin-off is another story…

Hey Neighbor! (Fox): It’s not every show that leads with an announcement that just six actors will play the eighteen featured characters but Hey Neighbor! was a different prospect right from its inception. Created by Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, and Kerri Kenney-Silver, who had made a splash in 1993 with their MTV sketch show The State before sending up European variety shows with Viva Variety for Comedy Central, Hey Neighbor! was a sitcom that was a parody of a sitcom, full of the tropes of the medium but given a bizarre and knowing twist.

Michael Ian Black and Julia Campbell play Doug and Tammy – not their real names – who are entered into the witness relocation programme after witnessing a Mafia murder. Moved to the small town of Elwood, the pair start their new lives a whole world away from their previous existence as big city cultural types. Doug used to be an art critic but now he works in a copy shop, while Tammy at least gets to teach English at the local high school, but only because the principal has a thing for her and fires her predecessor to give her the job.

The cast of The State

Lennon and Kenney-Silver play the couple’s neighbours, a brash and offensive couple who are constantly invading their home without permission, and even when they seek respite at a local Greek restaurant the evening ends in chaos, violence, and possible death by fire. The actors (Jack Plotnick completes the sextet) do, indeed, play multiple roles, with Black even popping up as a pregnant high school student, but sometimes the intended parody was too broad and fell into, well, just being a sitcom.

Fox declined the take the show to series and Lennon, Grant, and Kenney-Silver began work on the police mockumentary that would become Reno 911, with Grant and Lennon scoring a massive crossover hit when they scripted Night at the Museum from Milan Trenc’s novel. There’s nothing so much as a set photo floating around the internet, and the pilot itself seems to have entered the witness relocation programme; someone check the Elwood branch of Blockbuster!

This Is How the World Ends (MTV): Gregg Araki exploded onto the arthouse cinema scene with his debut flick, Three Bewildered People in the Night, a love story about a video artist, her lover, and her gay friend made on a budget of just $5,000. He quickly became an integral part of what was dubbed the New Queer Cinema movement, with his Teenage Apocalypse trilogy of Totally Fucked Up, the Doom Generation, and Nowhere threatening to break him into the mainstream.

It was this that led to This is How the World Ends, an ambitious project for MTV that was given a budget of $1.5 million, way beyond anything Araki had worked with before. Despite the budget being cut in half before production began, Araki set to work on the pilot, which told the story of three teenagers trying to survive a dreamy yet stereotypical version of the American high school.

This is How the World Ends, 2000

Casper Van Dyke (Alan Simpson, with just two episodes of Freak and Geeks under his belt) is chasing the most popular girl in school but he also has a weird homoerotic thing with Miles (Tac Fitzgerald), who just happens to be sleeping with Casper’s mother. Meanwhile, Molly Brenner’s Sluggo finds her first love with Magenta, a goth witch, and Twin Peaks’s Michael Anderson pops up to remind you that this is a million miles away from Dawson’s Creek.

Despite MTV obviously wanting to position themselves as the hippest chancel around, Araki’s vision seems to have been too much for the network, who passed on what was sure to have been a controversial portrayal of queer, sexually active teenagers. You can decide for yourself on YouTube and it’s a must-see for fans of Araki’s oeuvre and for those who wish that their high school experience had been a little more trippy.

Next time on The Telephemera Years: What the kids were watching in 2000 (at least when they weren’t on their Heelys)…

Check out our other Telephemera articles:

The Telephemera Years: 1966 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1968 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1969 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1971 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1973 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1975 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1977 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1980 (part 12, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1982 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1984 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1986 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1987 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1990 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1992 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1995 (part 12, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 1997 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 2000 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 2003 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 2005 (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

The Telephemera Years: 2008 (part 1, 23, 4)

Titans of Telephemera: Irwin Allen

Titans of Telephemera: Stephen J Cannell (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

Titans of Telephemera: Hanna-Barbera (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Titans of Telephemera: Kenneth Johnson

Titans of Telephemera: Glen A Larson (part 1, 2, 3, 4)

Titans of Telephemera: Quinn Martin (part 1, 2)

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