Maniac Mansion aired September 1990 until May 1993 on The Family Channel.
Loony sitcom about an inventor, Fred ( Joe Flaherty), who had accidentally turned his brother-in-law Harry( John Hemphill), into a fly and his four year old son Turner ( George Buza), into a six-foot, 250 pound giant. Unfortunately, Fred was unable to undo his mistake, so they all lived together in sitcomland with Harry buzzing around discontentedly and his wife, Idella ( Mary Charlotte Wilcox), complaining that she couldn't hug her husband anymore without squashing him. Turner simply acted like a four year old, despite his size. Casey (Deborah Theaker) was Fred's wife and Ike and Tina ( Avi Phillips, Kathleen Robertson), their other 2 children.
Based on a computer game distributed by movie maker George Lucas' LucasFilm.
An Article from Time Magazine
My In-Law, The Housefly
Monday, Oct. 29, 1990
By RICHARD ZOGLIN
Network programmers like to think of themselves as wacky guys. Just look at the shows they put on the air. In NBC's The Fanelli Boys, four grownup brothers move back to Brooklyn to live with . . . their mother! In CBS's Evening Shade, a man is nonplussed when his wife tells him she's pregnant; he's already had a vasectomy! (Rim shot.) In Fox's Good Grief, Howie Mandel plays a nutty guy who does TV commercials for (hold on to your hats) a mortuary!
Had enough? Now try switching instead to Maniac Mansion, a family sitcom that is not so much off the wall as out of this world. Dad is a mishap-prone inventor whose botched experiments have turned his brother-in-law into a housefly and his four-year-old son into a 250-lb. clone of Benjy in The Sound and the Fury. We learn these things in the show's 10th-anniversary special -- a nostalgia trip that takes place, oddly, on the program's first episode. Weirdest of all, the series is running, virtually unnoticed, on cable's Family Channel, a new incarnation of the old Christian Broadcasting Network.
Comedy is the gasoline that keeps the networks' engines humming, but the octane level seems especially low this fall. Of the 17 new sitcoms introduced by CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox, not a single one ranks in the Nielsen Top 30. Is there a comedy glut? Or, more likely, are viewers simply recoiling against network packaging that has grown so boringly rote and predictable that all signs of life have drained out? If so, relief is at hand: increasingly offbeat shows are cropping up in out-of-the-way places on the dial. Some deserve their obscurity. Others might shrivel in the glare of too much mass-audience attention. But what they all share is an eccentric, homemade, try-anything quality.
My Talk Show, a syndicated late-night half-hour, is homemade in a literal sense. The premise is a throwback to that old Mary Hartman spinoff, Fernwood 2-Night: a housewife (Cynthia Stevenson) in the little town of Derby, Wis., has turned her living room into the set for a nightly talk show. It's a homey affair: her brother-in-law is the announcer; gray-haired Mrs. Battle, her old school nurse, is musical director; neighbors drop by to chat. So do real-life celebrities such as William Shatner and Florence Henderson.
This reductio ad absurdum of TV's talk-show mania has had funny sequences, like Jim Belushi joining in an inept neighborhood game of charades: while the women whiz through titles like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the men are stumped by Jaws. But the Hollywood-meets-the-heartland satire falls a little flat. My Talk Show is too straitlaced and good-natured; it needs a bit of the rudeness of Late Night with David Letterman. Or at least some quirkier performers. Where have you gone, Louise Lasser?
Mystery Science Theater 3000 has origins in the heartland as well: the show began life on a Minneapolis UHF station before being picked up last November by cable's Comedy Channel. Crummy old movies (Rocketship X-M, The Corpse Vanishes) are unspooled in their entirety, while three characters -- one human being and two gabby robots -- offer wisecracking commentary at the bottom of the screen.
It's the year's funniest prank. The hecklers jeer at love scenes, hoot at tacky special effects and pounce on every dumb line. Creator Joel Hodgson and his colleagues throw in savvy technical references ("I think we just flew through a dissolve," someone cracks during an airplane flight) along with a torrent of smart-mouthed ad libs. "How do we stand on fuel?" asks an onscreen astronaut. "I'm for it," comes the offscreen retort. In the tense few seconds before lift-off, a voice pipes up, "Did I leave the water running?" A scientist leans into a pair of earphones, trying to pick up a weak radio signal; the invented line is "I can't see a thing." Not since Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily? has anyone had so much fun with bad movies.
Joe Flaherty knows bad movies too; as Count Floyd, the seedy late-night host on the old SCTV comedy show, he used to introduce dreck like Dr. Tongue's 3-D House of Stewardesses. Playing the incompetent mad scientist in Maniac Mansion, Flaherty again shows a flair for sweet dimwittedness. Another SCTV veteran, Eugene Levy, is co-creator of this twisted update of The Addams Family, which was inspired by, of all things, a computer game.
Maniac Mansion has the old SCTV spirit, mixing the outrageous and the banal with nary a hint that anybody knows the difference. In one episode, Uncle Harry, who is still buzzing around the house, falls for a female fly, then has to console his jealous (and still life-size) wife. "We've got 20 years -- that's a history," he tells her. "That's something I could never have with a fly. Because they only live for -- what? -- two weeks max." Flaherty, meanwhile, is disarmingly oblivious to the havoc he is creating. When he concocts a serum that turns his shy guinea pig into a snarling monster, he simply lets the hellion loose outdoors with a cheery "Run free!"
For TV's oddball comedies, that could be a rallying cry.
An Article from Entertainment Weekly
Published on January 17, 1992
A SHORT VISIT TO 'MANIAC MANSION'
By Benjamin Svetkey
Martin Short is strolling through a Toronto television studio when suddenly he spots one of the electricians doing a remarkably decent impersonation of Ed Grimley, the pointy-haired, triangle-playing dufus that the actor created years ago on SCTV. Short stops and smiles. ''Oh, gimme a break!'' he tells the impersonator, slipping into some singsong Grimley-speak of his own. ''Your Ed Grimley is every bit as good as mine, I must say.'' Short isn't back in Toronto to play Grimley-he's in town to tape a guest spot on the Family Channel sitcom Maniac Mansion (airing Jan. 15 at 8:30 p.m. and Jan. 19 at 11 a.m.)-but from the looks of things here on the set you'd swear he was attending an SCTV alumni convention. The place is packed with veterans of the 1977-83 Canadian-made parody series: There are former SCTV actors, writers,directors, key grips-even Mansion's makeup artist is an old SCTVer. ''There's a real reunion feel to this show,'' says Mansion star (and former SCTV comic) Joe Flaherty. ''We had Dave Thomas here for a guest spot. Andrea Martin is doing one. And John Candy may direct an episode.'' On the show, Flaherty plays Fred Edison, an amiably inept inventor whose forays into weird science have accidentally transformed his 4-year-old son into a hulking six-footer and his brother-in-law Harry into a talking housefly. ''What we've done is take the basic sitcom structure and push it as far as it will go,'' says Flaherty. ''We just try to have as much fun with it as possible.'' Oddly enough, the idea for the show didn't originate with an SCTV alum: It came from Star Wars creator George Lucas, who originally produced Mansion as a ^ computer game (which is still available from Lucasfilm Games). The Family Channel purchased the rights to turn the game into a live-action sitcom in 1990. Maniac's debut that September didn't attract many viewers-the series is still watched in fewer than 1 million homes per week-but it did get important press attention: Time named it one of 1990's best new shows. In this current episode, Short plays Edison's childhood chum Eddie O'Donnell, a drunken actor who staggers through the family's front door booming a boozy chorus of ''Everybody Loves a Song''-then passes out cold. ''With most sitcoms,'' Short says, ''there's always somebody saying, 'Yeah, that's really fun-ny, but will they get it in Des Moines?' They underestimate the comedic hipness of the audience. Not Maniac Mansion. It doesn't water down the comedy.'' Which makes it 100-proof hilarious
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