One little-known adage in the world of TV sitcoms is "when the networks hand you lemons, there's always first-run syndication." Occasionally, when a series fails to land a place on the network schedule, there is someone on the production staff who believes in the project enough (or who has a well-placed relative at a UHF station) that it finds a home in first-run syndication. Here are six examples.
1. She's the Sheriff
She's the Sheriff (1987-89) was a major slice of humble pie for Suzanne Somers. After spending several years on magazine covers and posters as a result of her success on Three's Company, she found herself almost blacklisted after a salary dispute. Not only was she shown the door, the Three's Company legal team also invoked a "cease and desist" order that essentially prevented Somers from accepting any roles that even remotely resembled Chrissy Snow. The major networks were reluctant to get involved in a potentially sticky situation, and the series offers that had been flooding her manager's office were quietly rescinded. Desperate for work, Somers signed on for She's the Sheriff, in which her character inherits Lakes County, Nevada's most important law enforcement position after the death of her husband.
2. Small Wonder
Small Wonder always seems to rate tops on "bottom" lists, but the show had a four-year run (1985-89), so someone must have been watching it. Tiffany Brissette was suitably mechanical in her portrayal of Vicki, the Voice Input Child Identicant built by her robotics engineer father. Much of the humor was based on the fact that Vicki was incapable of emotion and interpreted most commands literally (a schtick Get Smart's Hymie the Robot had already done to death). Tiffany Brissette eventually left the business and took up distance running. She has successfully placed in many marathons over the years, and is now in nursing school.
3. Out of This World
4. Madame's Place
5. Mama's Family
Mama's Family started out on NBC but was canceled in 1984 after one season. Lorimar Telepictures saw some potential in the series, however, and the show returned in syndicated form from 1986 through 1990. Rue McClanahan and Betty White were regulars during the NBC season but were unavailable for the syndicated version thanks to some other show they got involved with called The Golden Girls. Mama's Family was actually inspired by this classic skit on The Carol Burnett Show; it was supposed to be a one-off, but was so well-received that it turned into a recurring bit: