As any self-respecting geek would know, there have been some pretty wild ideas for science fiction TV shows. It must have taken a certain warped genius to come up with Doctor Who, Quantum Leap, Lost or The 4400. Of course, those were hits. But some weird ideas didn't catch on so well. Take K-9000 (1990), about a cop who is telepathically linked to a talking, bionic police dog. Or L.A.X. 2194 (1994), a sitcom starring the not-yet-famous Matthew Perry and Ryan Stiles as baggage handlers at Los Angeles Airport, 200 years into the future. Strangely, neither of those made it beyond a pilot episode. The following shows didn't last so long, either. But when you read about them, you can't help thinking "What a wild idea!" (or perhaps "How did they expect anyone to watch that one?")
1. My Living Doll (1964-1965)
How's this for an idea? Build a shapely female robot and give her to a lady-killing military psychiatrist so he can teach her how to be (ahem) a perfect woman. Despite that foolproof concept, this sitcom about Rhoda (played by Julie Newmar, TVs first Catwoman), who lives with Bob McDonald (Robert Cummings) and avoids the lecherous advances of their neighbour, Peter Robinson (Jack Mullaney), only lasted one season. It was long enough for Bob to leave the series, so that Rhoda was placed in the care of"¦ Peter! Naturally, the best man for the job is the guy who spent all his time leering at her. Of course, the joke was on him. How could you have a relationship with a machine? (Of course, as this was a sixties sitcom, they never really covered that"¦)
2. Alternative 3 (1977)
3. The Ultimate Impostor (1979)
4. Cold Lazarus (1996)
5. Day Break (2006)
6. Gilligan's Planet (1982-1983)
Everyone knows Gilligan's Island, that 1960s sitcom about seven people stranded on a desert island. Sadly, while they seemed to know their location, none of them—not even the Skipper or the all-knowing Professor—was able to build a boat. An animated sequel, however, made a logical suggestion: they built a spaceship (out of trees, coconuts, the usual stuff) and blasted off, hoping to return home. Instead, they went off-course, crashing on an alien planet, where they would be stranded. Hoo boy. Strangely, this possibly wasn't the dumbest idea for a cartoon based on a sitcom. It might come a close second to The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang (1980), in which Richie, the Fonz and their pals get stuck in a time-machine and have adventures in different times while trying to return home to the Milwaukee of 1957. Yeesh!
Don't believe us? Here's a clip:
Mark Juddery is a writer and historian based in Australia, with books, scripts and countless articles to his credit. Learn more at markjuddery.com.