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Thunder Alley aired from March 1994 until July 1995 on ABC.

Gil Jones ( Edward Asner) was an older, retired stock car driver with a nearly perfect life: his own successful Detroit garage, time to hang out with the boys, and a waiting room in which to charm the ladies who came in with their bent fenders. Into this masculine idea of paradise came divorced daughter Bobbi ( played by Diane Venora and later by Robin Riker), with Gil's three grandchildren and some ideas of her own. Her children were Claudine ( Kelly Vint) , age 11; Jenny ( Lindsay Felton), age 8; and Harry ( Haley Joel Osment), age 5. The kids needed a father figure, and Gil would have to do. Moving in with her widower dad in the apartment over the garage, she tried to domesticate him. He barked, she retaliated. He was stubburn, she taught him little lessons. Of course nobody could resist those adorable kids, and they loved their grandpa, despite-or because of-the less-than-perfect role model he provided. Leland ( Jim Beaver) was Gil's mangy, droll chief mechanic.

A Review from Entertainment Weekly

TV Review

--By Ken Tucker

Maybe we could pass the hat and take up a collection for Ed Asner that would let him retire and not further spoil our memories of him on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. So great during his first incarnation as Lou Grant, Asner has spent the rest of his career doing annoying variations on that character- anyone remember Off the Rack or The Bronx Zoo? The latest version of Lou is Asner's grumpy-grandpa act in thunder alley (ABC, March 16, 8:30-9 p.m.), a drab sitcom. Asner is Gil Jones, who runs an absurdly neat auto-repair shop; his divorced daughter (Diane Venora) and three grandchildren have recently come to live with him. This leads to scenes such as the one in which Gil tries to convince the grandkids that Hoagy Carmichael's ''Star Dust'' is a great piece of music. Well, it is, of course, but where are the jokes that might have made the moment funny or touching? Not here, not anywhere. D

An Article from The New York Times

THE MEDIA BUSINESS: Television; Hollywood Isn't Smiling At an ABC Comedy Tactic

Published: April 4, 1994

"Thunder Alley," a new comedy on ABC, may not yet be the biggest hit of the television season, but it is certainly the biggest target.

The series, which stars Ed Asner and was harshly dismissed by most critics, has achieved high ratings in the four weeks it has been on the air.

But how could it not, ask the show's detractors: more than any other new show this season, "Thunder Alley" enjoys most-favored-program status. Every week, it has been sandwiched at 8:30 P.M. Wednesdays between two episodes of "Home Improvement," the top-rated entertainment show on television.

No one wonders why ABC would be generous to this new show above all others. The network is a co-owner of the series and hopes to share in the fountain of profits that can shower on successful comedies.

ABC's position as both owner and scheduler of "Thunder Alley" has led executives from Hollywood studios to complain that this is precisely the kind of behavior they expected after the Federal Government's decision last year to allow the networks to take a financial interest in prime-time shows.

While other producers of hit shows have received preferred scheduling over the years, "Thunder Alley" may be the first program with network ownership to find such an idyllic home.

The expectation that networks will favor shows they own over shows delivered from the studios is one reason two studios, Warner Brothers and Paramount, have decided to start networks of their own.

"Thunder Alley" is the product of a partnership between ABC and Wind Dancer Productions, the company also responsible for "Home Improvement." In a highly unusual deal, ABC renewed "Home Improvement" for three years in exchange for co-ownership of the next two series developed by Wind Dancer. The deal was seen as a sign of things to come in the industry.

The first of those two series is "Thunder Alley," in which Mr. Asner plays a retired stock car racer helping to raise his three grandchildren after his daughter moves back in with him. At the time the deal was made, Rick Leed, president of Wind Dancer, said there was "an understanding" that the first show developed would get a chance to run either before "Home Improvement" or after it.

More recently, Hollywood studio executives have charged that ABC guaranteed the show the time slot after "Home Improvement" as well as a spot on next year's schedule.

Mr. Leed said, "We were never given a unilateral, absolute guarantee of anything." Still, he acknowledged that the premium placement of the show was consistent with all networks' programming practices. "Successful television producers are usually favored with good position for their next show," he said.

Indeed, the Carsey-Werner Company, the producer of NBC's "Cosby Show" in the 1980's, received the time period immediately after that show for "A Different World." And Paramount, after tough negotiations with NBC to renew "Cheers," once landed the slot right after that comedy for a new Paramount show, "Wings."

"Thunder Alley," which had its debut early last month, has been among the top 15 programs on television every week. But some television executives see it as an inferior effort being propped up by a self-interested network. Let the show get into the game without bringing along its big brother for protection, these critics say, and we'll see how it stands up.

"This is exactly what everybody feared," said one senior Hollywood studio executive. "The networks have an oligarchy over prime-time time slots."

It is also why the studios need to create their own networks, said the executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the need to keep dealing with network programmers.

The studios argue that the networks have already cut the number of time slots available in prime time by filling the 10 P.M. hour with magazine programs from their news departments. Giving preferential treatment to comedies they own "leaves everybody in the business depressed about the lack of time periods," the studio executive said.

But Mr. Leed said: "I think this is all sour grapes. They just don't want to see success happen outside the studio system."

Ted Harbert, president of ABC Entertainment, also said ABC had given no guarantees to Wind Dancer for "Thunder Alley."

"This show is getting an opportunity anyone would cut his right arm off for," he said. "And this is the way Hollywood works. No one is ever gracious or enjoys someone else's success. We're not going to apologize for the luxury of having "Home Improvement" to lead into other shows."

Mr. Harbert pointed out that ABC had used "Home Improvement" to lead into several other programs this season, including "Thea," "The Critic" and "Joe's Life," a program that ABC owned outright. But he said none of these shows had held onto as much of the "Home Improvement" audience as "Thunder Alley" had, and ABC wound up shelving them.

Mr. Leeds said, "If this show was a turkey and we were keeping a bad show alive, they might have a point."

"Thunder Alley," which had a 17.7 rating its first week, declined to a 14.6 in its third week. But it rebounded last Wednesday with a 16.9. (Each rating point represents 942,000 homes.)

Still, David F. Poltrack, the senior vice president of research for CBS, said, "If you separated that show from 'Home Improvement,' it would sink like a stone."

And the studio executive described the show as "painfully bad."

For the Wind Dancer executives, who have seen other comedies like NBC's "Seinfeld" celebrated as brilliantly inventive while the much more popular "Home Improvement" is dismissed as popcorn television, this is history repeating itself.

"The reviews for 'Home Improvement' were just as bad," Mr. Leed said. "There's a lot of jealousy about Wind Dancer's success. The truth is that the people putting us down ought to think more about making quality shows that people want to watch."

To look at a crossover between Thunder Aley and Home Improvement go to

For a website dedicated to Diane Venora go to

For the Official Robin Riker Website go to

For the official Haley Joel Osment Website go to

For the official website of Lindsay Felton go to

For a Website dedicated to Lindsay Felton go to
Date: Tue June 24, 2008 Filesize: 20.8kb Dimensions: 283 x 400
Keywords: Thunder Alley: Local TV Guide


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