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Uncle Buck aired from September 1990 until March 1991 on CBS.

Television, which is always testing the limits of taste, went over the edge in this short-lived , 8:00 p.m. "family" sitcom, which was denounced by critics and rejected by viewers. Buck ( Kevin Meaney) was one of TV's more unlikely father figures-a pudgy, gruff, immature, cigar-smoking, beer-drinking slob. Nevertheless, following the deaths of his brother and sister-in-law in an accident, he had become guardian to their three children. Tia ( Dah-ve Chodan), the oldest, was a bright, but lazy, boy-crazy teenager who was forever trying to get around the household rules by donning miniskirts and black hose to get hot dates; Miles and Maizy ( Jacob Gelman, Sarah Martineck) were typical of TV's unending stream of wisecracking tots. The program gained its unfortunate reputation during the first few seconds of the opening episode when adorable little maizy came through the kitchen door and abruptly yelled at her brother,"Miles, you suck!" When Uncle Buck objected mildly, she shot back "He called me a frecklebutt and I don't have freckles on my butt. They're beauty marks." The laugh track roared, but parents , watching at home with their kids, were disgusted.

Gross-out humor permeated the show. Although Buck had moved into the children's neat suburban home, he continued to invite over his poker-playing buddies Skank and Rafer ( Dennis Cockrum, Thomas Mikal Ford), much to the disgust of the kids' fearsome grandmother, Mrs. Hogoboom ( Audrey Meadows). She found little in Buck to trust as a positive role model and threatened to have his guardianship revolked, until she came to realize that above that beer belly was a heart of gold. He did love the kids and tried to guide them along the right path-even if he could not exactly lead by example.

Adapted from the 1989 movie of the same name starring John Candy.

An Article fron The New York Times

Popular Films Are Feeding the Series Maw


Published: July 1, 1990

''Ferris Bueller,'' a new NBC situation comedy based on the theatrical movie, has a most unusual opening scene. Charlie Schlatter, the young actor cast as the teen-age hero Ferris, walks over to his closet and removes a life-size cardboard likeness of the actor Matthew Broderick, who played Ferris in the 1986 movie. ''C'mon, Matthew Broderick as me?'' he says. ''No way.'' Then he saws the cardboard figure in half, turns to the camera and says: ''This is television. This is real.''

The scene is designed to deliver a message, albeit a humorous one, to viewers who will be tuning in this fall to the TV series because they remember the film. ''People have the expectation of getting the movie on the small screen,'' says John Masius, the executive producer of the NBC show. ''We're telling them that we're going to give them something different.''

Mr. Masius has made explicit the dilemma that faces producers and network programmers who try to turn hit movies into successful weekly television series. On the plus side, television shows based on popular movies arrive with built-in marquee value. But they also generate high audience expectations that can be dashed quickly, especially in the tricky area of casting.

This fall's television season will offer more movie-inspired programs than any season in at least a decade. NBC will weigh in with comedies based on ''Ferris Bueller'' and ''Parenthood.'' ABC will present ''Baby Talk,'' a comedy based on the movie ''Look Who's Talking.'' CBS has ''Uncle Buck,'' yet another comedy. For mid-season, CBS is committed to ''Big,'' while ABC is developing series based on ''True Believer'' and ''I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.''

''The advantage is you've got great name appeal,'' says Harris L. Katleman, president of 20th Century Fox Television, who sold the weekly series based on the film ''Big'' to CBS. ''The disadvantage is that you have people saying, 'I want Tom Hanks.' ''

The track record of recent movie spinoffs is not encouraging. For every ''M*A*S*H'' or ''Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore'' that made a successful transition from the big screen to the small, many more shows based on movies became instant failures. Among the more recent flops: ''Baby Boom,'' ''Dirty Dancing'' and ''Working Girl.''

Casting is a key factor. Stars such as John Candy of ''Uncle Buck'' and Steve Martin of ''Parenthood'' will be replaced, respectively, by Kevin Meaney, a heavyset stand-up comic, and Ed Begley Jr., last seen on ''St. Elsewhere.'' Perry Simon, an NBC vice president, says, ''If you find a terrific actor to carry on the role created by the featured actor, then you're in good shape. If you don't, then you really have a problem.'' CBS is still seeking an actor to reprise the Hanks role in ''Big.''

To succeed as a weekly series, a movie must also provide characters who will wear well on the home audience and an open-ended premise that can be milked for 100 or more episodes - the number a series needs to generate profits in syndication.

''That's what television is all about - loving those people and wanting to come back to them week in and week out,'' says Stuart Bloomberg, executive vice president of ABC Entertainment. New characters are often added when films are adapted for television.

Producers and network programmers point to several factors that brought about this fall's flurry of movie spinoffs. They cite the crowded programming environment, the desire of the networks to reach young viewers and the blurring of what were once well-defined lines separating the film and television industries.

With ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox poised to introduce a total of 33 new programs this fall, the networks are looking for ways to help their shows pierce through the clutter. Executives say movie spinoffs are ''pre-sold'' and thus more likely to be sampled by viewers.

Brian Grazer, executive producer of both the movie and the television version of ''Parenthood,'' notes that NBC has scheduled the series at 8 P.M. Saturday against a new CBS comedy called ''Four-Alarm Family.'' He is confident that his show has a better chance of getting sampled by viewers.

''When you pick up the TV guide,'' says Mr. Grazer, ''which sounds more exciting? 'Parenthood' does. The movie made $100 million. It's been on cassette. It's penetrated the consciousness of millions and millions of people.''

Like most of this fall's spinoffs, ''Parenthood,'' with its plethora of characters under 30, is seen as a way to reach the younger viewers prized by television advertisers. Brandon Tartikoff, the president of NBC Entertainment, who actually committed the network to ''Parenthood'' before its theatrical release, describes the show as ''a mirror, held up to the television set, of all the people who are actually home and available on Saturday night and probably watching television. We have young parents with kids. We have their parents. And, of course, we have the young kids. I think it's a perfect match for the available audience.''

Kim LeMasters, as president of CBS Entertainment, bought ''Uncle Buck,'' a broad ''baby-sitter'' comedy, and ''Big,'' a fantasy about a 12-year-old in a 30-year-old's body, in part because children and teen-agers love the movies. ''We had a desire and need at CBS to have something that was already pre-marketed with kids,'' says Mr. LeMasters, who left CBS last year to run his own production company. Mr. LeMasters previously tried to make series targeted toward children out of ''Goonies'' and ''Gremlins,'' but he was turned away by Warner Bros., who produced the movies.

Yet the simplest explanation for this year's bumper crop of spinoffs may be that many movies increasingly resemble sitcoms.

''It used to be that TV was TV and movies were movies, and people who did movies looked disparagingly upon TV,'' says Richard Gurman, co-executive producer of the ''Uncle Buck'' series. ''But ultimately everything ends up on the box, either on cable or video. And that dictates a certain type of accessibility. I think people have both markets in mind when they make a movie. If they have both markets in mind, then it's natural that a lot of movies would have TV-like premises.''

''Uncle Buck'' is a case in point. The film is built around a free-wheeling, irreverent, larger-than-life character, played by John Candy, who is unexpectedly forced to take responsibility for his strait-laced brother's three children. It is the flip side of a common television formula that places an unusual child in an otherwise conventional home. Recall, for example, the title characters of ''Webster'' and ''Alf.''

''If you spend any time in television development,'' Mr. Gurman explains, ''you know that they are always, always, always looking for how can we do a domestic family situation a little bit differently? What is the biological versus nonbiological mix? Who inherited who? This was always a great premise for television. It's a guy who is a fish out of water and an unorthodox family head. It does fit sort of a sitcom formula.''

Both ''Uncle Buck'' and ''Ferris Bueller'' were written and directed by John Hughes. ''John Hughes has TV rhythms and a great teen-age sensibility, and he's very funny,'' says Mr. Masius. ''There has been great interest at the networks in having John Hughes do a TV series.'' Mr. Hughes, however, declined to work on either adaptation.

In contrast, Mr. Grazer and Ron Howard, the executive producers of ''Parenthood,'' and Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, the co-executive producers and writers, will stay on as executive producers of the NBC series. Mr. Ganz and Mr. Mandel formerly wrote for ''Laverne & Shirley.''

''I have had the most success using television writers to write movies and getting television actors and hiring them into movies,'' says Mr. Grazer. ''I don't look down on television at all.''

Larry Gelbart, the producer and writer responsible for ''M*A*S*H,'' the most successful television series ever based on a movie, has also moved back and forth between television and films. Mr. Gelbart said he is not surprised that a growing number of films now resemble television.

''A great many people who make movie decisions these days are people with television backgrounds,'' he says. ''They view films very much as pilots, much more than the older generation did.''

But Mr. Gelbart says he believes that ''M*A*S*H'' was successful, not because it resembled television but for exactly the opposite reason: It was unlike ''the endless three-camera thing that we see on television. It was the opportunity to never ever have to say, 'Hello, honey, I'm home.' To never ever have to see a coffee table with a lot of wonderful neighbors around it. We just knew that we were going to be able to be about something bigger than can somebody borrow the car to go to the prom.''

This season's spinoffs, in contrast, are likely to have a certain familiarity about them, especially after the producers and the networks get through tinkering with the movie premises. In ABC's ''Baby Talk,'' for example, the father substitute, a cab driver played in the film by John Travolta, becomes a handyman, played by George Clooney. This gives him a reason to hang around the house - and pursue a romance - with the single mother, played by Kirstie Alley in the movie and Connie Sellecca in the series. Ms. Sellecca's character also gets a time-honored foil, another single mom who lives next door.

Similarly, the producers of ''Uncle Buck'' have given the children a grandmother, played by the veteran actress Audrey Meadows. The idea is to give older viewers a character with whom they can identify - in other words, to make the show even more like dozens of other TV sitcoms.


Losses far outnumber wins in the track record of movies being translated into TV series.

The successes:
''The Odd Couple'' (1970-75, ABC)
''M*A*S*H'' (1972-83, CBS)
''Alice'' (1976-85, CBS)
''Fame'' (1982-83, NBC; 1983-87, first-run syndication)
''In the Heat of the Night'' (1987 to present, NBC)

Some failures:
''Semi-Tough'' (1980, ABC)
''Breaking Away'' (1980-81, ABC)
''Foul Play'' (1981, ABC)
''Walking Tall'' (1981, NBC)
''Private Benjamin'' (1981-83, CBS)
''Nine to Five'' (1982-83, ABC)
''The Four Seasons'' (1984, CBS)
''Stir Crazy'' (1985-86, ABC)
''Fast Times'' (1986, CBS)
''Starman'' (1986-87, ABC)
''Gung Ho'' (1986-87, ABC)
''Baby Boom'' (1988, NBC)
''Dirty Dancing'' (1988-89, CBS)
''The Dirty Dozen'' (1988, Fox)
''Working Girl'' (1990, NBC)

A Review from USA TODAY


CBS, in the blue-collar grind

CBS, whose prime-time ratings have become one long sob story, is turning to slob stories in hopes that blue-collar yuks will mean big bucks.

It worked for Roseanne and stand-up clowns Kevin Meany ( Uncle Buck) and Lenny Clarke ( Lenny) certainly aren't pretty faces. But that's about all these commoners have in common.

Buck is mean-spirited twaddle, Married...With Children without confidance in its crassness, while Lenny's hard-hat hero brings a refreshingly relaxed, feel-good aura to his cranky, messy family life.

Buck derived from the John Candy movie, is shrill swill with a smirking lead who's unfortunately his own best audience. The show alread is infamous for letting a tiny tot peep lines like "you suck" and "frecklebutt." Later, she's accused of calling her grotesque principal-Mr. Crappier, no less-"a sack."

You can barely hear these snide retorts through her adorable lisp. And she's not the only bad seed in this rotten apple.

There's a promiscuuous teen and a nondescript middle child, three orphans left in Buck's charge-bad news to Grandma ( Audrey Meadows as a hennaed foghorn), who bellows insults to rude, crude but deep-down sweet Buck.

The sentimentality is especially jarring. After one of the kids notes how their parents "bought it...their number came up, " the scene ends with a hug after Buck is quoted compairing their loss to caterpillerrs who don't go away just because they've turned into butterflies.

this is like pouring syrup over a cow pie.

Lenny is much more palatable , keeping the kids in the background to focus on the star's blustery but benign struggle to fend for his family. Clarke tends to over-shout his lines, but he's got great support in Lee Garlington as his wife, whose loving sarcasm has a rumpled , sleepy quality that deflates his bombast.

It's always pouring rain, and hard times for this Boston grunt who works two jobs while trying to do his best for his kids, wife, aging parents and (ugh) sleazeball brother.

When he takes a minute to cradle and coo to his infant baby, Lenny takes heart. Lenny isn't dynamic enough to be a threat to The Wonder Years, its competition when it moves to Wednesdays, but it sure beats Uncle Buck.

A Review from Entertainment Weekly

Uncle Buck

C By Ken Tucker

Turning the 1989 John Hughes comedy Uncle Buck into a situation comedy makes sense, since the movie was conceived with sitcom simplicity: A slobbo of an uncle cares for his absent brother's children two smart-aleck girls and a boy. John Candy in the movie was allowed to be a bit more dissolute than Kevin Meaney is in the TV show (Candy was free to curse and drink). Meaney's version of the character is softer; while he can still be witheringly sarcastic, he's basically a nice guy.

Meaney is a stand-up comic by trade, one who used to specialize in the persona of a fussy, nattering boor he wore little bow ties around his thick neck to symbolize his restrained rage. As Uncle Buck, Meaney has loosened up. He wears a Chicago Cubs baseball cap twisted around backward, and makes peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches while bopping to Jerry Lee Lewis' ''Great Balls of Fire.''

If Uncle Buck were a truly irresponsible jerk, of course, this show wouldn't be funny it would be a portrayal of child abuse with a laugh track. So great care is taken to show that Buck loves those children, protecting them from villains ranging from the malevolent school vice principal (Lu Leonard) to the kids' grim grandmother (Audrey Meadows, of Honeymooners legend). The show is mainly worth watching for the way Meaney skillfully balances his naughty-but-nice personality. C

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Date: Fri April 22, 2016 � Filesize: 56.6kb, 279.8kbDimensions: 1225 x 1600 �
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