Six Laughable TV Dramas That Should Have Been Sitcoms

There’s a fine line between brilliantly original and outright bonkers. But these TV shows are so inherently ridiculous, they should have just made the leap into comedy…

 

6. 666 Park Avenue

 

drama 666 park avenue

What It Was:

There’s no way Terry O’Quinn (Locke from Lost) could be married to former Miss America Vanessa Williams short of a deal with the devil, which is, conveniently, what the show is about. Various ultra-rich power couples make Faustian bargains to remain ultra-rich power couples, and we’re supposed to care what happens to them. And the address of the Manhattan “old money” high-rise apartment building where they all live was actually 999 Park Avenue, which made the title even more silly.

What It Could Have Been:

The title screams “CAMP,” so why not embrace it? Bring in a bunch of D-list celebrity guest stars every week, Fantasy Island­-style, and the devil fulfills their preposterous wishes in deceitful ways. Kim Kardashian plays a slutty, self-obsessed socialite who wants to be a famous reality show star, so the devil makes her Jinger Duggar. Katie Holmes is an aspiring starlet who wants her big break, only to wake up married to John Travolta. Bill O’Reilly wants to be the highest rated talk show host in America, but in exchange, he’s always wrong about everything forever. Wait, that one’s not funny at all.

 

5. Do No Harm

Six Laughable TV Dramas That Should Have Been Sitcoms

What It Was:

NBC tried to update Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by giving the remarkably young and handsome head of neurosurgery at a Manhattan hospital multiple personality disorder from exactly 8:25 p.m. to 8:25 a.m. every day, which is less a psychological issue and more like one of the rules from Gremlins. (What happens on Daylight Savings Time? What if he’s in a plane crossing time zones?) The evil half has zero ambition other than to screw with the good half, and since the good half really ought to get himself committed IMMEDIATELY, we have no reason to root for him to successfully hide his secret.

What It Could Have Been:

Ever heard of a little movie called The Nutty Professor? Or The Mask? Bring on the screwball comedy. At 8:25 p.m. every night, our mild-mannered hero gets to live out his wildest fantasies. Dial everything up to cartoonish levels, and someone like Zach Braff or Aziz Ansari could easily play a nebbish surgeon by day and swanky Lothario by night, drawing big laughs on both sides.

 

4. My Own Worst Enemy

drama my own worst enemy

What It Was:

A lot like Do Not Harm, but with Christian Slater and spies. Slater is an American James Bond, only with a computer chip-induced multiple personality disorder so he has the perfect cover as a humdrum suburban dad. When the personality-swapping computer chip goes on the fritz—a phrase that should have immediately set off alarm bells at the network that no one could take this shit seriously—the two personalities find themselves thrust into the other’s world at inopportune moments.

What It Could Have Been:

How the hell do they not try to play that wrong-personality-at-the-wrong-time stuff for big laughs? Instead, the show takes itself as seriously as Alias rather than embracing the insanity like Chuck. No one cares about the moral implications of this bullshit, or questions of free will, or anything other than the ridiculousness of a super spy at a parent-teacher meeting or Mr. Milquetoast trying to romance a Russian secret agent. Let’s just have fun with that and forget the rest.

 

3. Galactica 1980

drama galactica 1980

What It Was:

The crew of the 1970s version of Battlestar Galactica finds itself stranded on Earth in the year 1980, without Starbuck, without Apollo, and without a special effects budget. If ever there was a time to lean into the absurdity, this was it. Instead, they couldn’t have been more earnest about teaming up with a group of plucky kids to save the local youth center and protect the planet from a Cylon invasion at the same time.

What It Could Have Been:

Captain, there be whales here! Star Trek IV brought Kirk and crew to 1980s America, and because it embraced the fish-out-of-water humor, the movie remains a fan favorite. Third Rock from the Sun would prove the concept had the legs to keep running multiple seasons.

 

2. Supertrain

 

drama supertrain

What It Was:

Called “the gold standard against which all other television bombs are measured” by A.V. Club, Supertrain was the most expensive show ever made at the time and nearly bankrupted NBC when it flopped. Often compared to The Love Boat because it featured a method of conveyance and weekly celebrity guest stars in their own self-contained mini-dramas, Supertrain went its own direction by focusing on mystery and suspense rather than romance. But who cares about Tony Danza and Rue McClanahan when you’re too busy busting a gut at the 200-mph, atomic-powered train with its own swimming pool, shopping mall, and discotheque.

What It Could Have Been:

If only someone at NBC had realized how hysterically stupid the train itself was, perhaps the creative team would have switched tracks (HA!) to deliberately parodying the guest star-powered behemoths of The Love Boat and Fantasy Island rather than trying to ride their coattails.

 

1. Inconceivable

drama inconceivable

What It Was:

Strike one: When the title is a bad pun—and don’t get me wrong, I love bad puns—no one is going to take your show seriously. Strike two: by setting the action at a medical clinic that only deals with one very specific type of disorder, you’re pigeonholing your plots as well as your audience. Strike three: when diagnosing and treating that particular disorder involves sending dudes into a little room with a dirty magazine and a plastic cup, it really doesn’t matter what else your dedicated, passionate, brilliant medical team does—we’re all just giggling like 12-year-old boys.

What It Could Have Been:

Are you telling me The Mindy Project wouldn’t be funnier if it were set at a sperm bank? Or The Office? Oh, hell yeah, dibs on pitching a sequel to The Office with Michael and Dwight dealing with infertile couples at a fertility clinic.

 

 

Bonus Material!

Dracula (2013)

Sinking its fangs into primetime at the tail-end of America’s love affair with vampires, this very loosely-based-on-a-horror novel of the same name TV show about a time-traveling vampire seeking vengeance against a bunch of Bond Villain-types for murdering his wife, quickly squandered what little potential it had on a depressing setting and time period (Industrial Revolution in England? Blah!), humorless dour characters, and utterly depressing plot lines.

What the producers failed to realize was that Dracula the TV Character was actually kind of hilarious. From his abominable American accent, to his episodic insistence on walking out into sunlight and visibly bursting into flames, to his complete inability to make it through an episode without sloppily devouring some stuffy rich English person or other, good old Vlad the Impaler was about as stealthy at hiding his creature-of-the -night status as a sparkly Edward Cullen!

As a drama, Dracula sucked and was canceled after just one season. But as a sitcom, this show would have been comedy gold! Imagine, each week someone brings Dracula back to a brand new time period to tear up the town, eat a few historical figures, and not at all blend in to the society in which he lives. Then, in the final moments of the episode, just when England’s wackiest bloodsucker is about to suffer actual consequences for his cannibalism, they put him back in the ground, only to wake him up next week to do it again some other decade! It would be Freaking Fangtastic!

– Julie Kushner

Seventh Heaven

Seventh Heaven could have been more bearable if they didn’t try to be so serious about all those Christian values. Like that episode where Matt accidentally brought home a joint and Reverend Camden flipped his shit? He literally drove his son out of the house, and it was only after he overheard Matt making a confession that he realized he shouldn’t jump to conclusions. If only that’d been accompanied by a laugh track, maybe audiences would have been less horrified at the judgmental nature of the Camdens.

– Susan Velazquez

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