Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! I’ve opted to preempt our bi-montly coverage of The Jack Benny Program, which will resume in February with my thoughts on the best episodes from the 1944-’45 season, to celebrate the passing of this year and the launching of the next. I thought it would be nifty to feature an artifact that represents something from where we’ve been (in 2017), along with something to symbolize where we’re going (in 2018).
This past year may have flown by, but it was jam-packed! While Musical Theatre Mondays became dedicated to sharing rarities on a monthly basis (including treats like the 1972 TV production of Of Thee I Sing), Sitcom Tuesdays alone highlighted Married… With Children, Murphy Brown, Seinfeld, Dream On, The Larry Sanders Show, Newhart, and Wings. Wildcard Wednesdays, meanwhile, continued to offer its customary Pre-Code, Jack Benny, and (late in the year) Xena delights, alongside commentary on other short-lived sitcoms like My World And Welcome To It, The Powers That Be, and Stark Raving Mad.
What can you expect next year? Well, for starters: Frasier, The John Larroquette Show, Mad About You, Ellen, and Friends — and that’s just the first eight months! During this time, Wildcard Wednesdays will continue to cycle through our favorite topics, but we’ll still feature many more short-lived comedies, such as Out Of Practice, Back To You, and The Ellen Show. And for Musical Theatre Monday fans, trust me: you do NOT want to miss the magic I have in store for us right out of the gate in mid-January!
So, I’m celebrating 2017 — our past — with a copy of the Revised Shooting Draft for “Artie’s Gone,” a second season episode of The Larry Sanders Show that was highlighted here as one of its year’s finest offerings. I considered featuring these scans in their own separate Wildcard post back in August, but when I decided to cover FOX’s one-year-wonder Action, this script got bumped. Now, before we leave the year, here’s your chance to read along with one of the classic HBO comedy’s best installments.
Also, as an appetizer before the feast coming in 2018, I’m sharing a full copy of an unsold pilot called Gloria Vane, which was drafted in 1992, produced in 1993, and projected for possible pick-up during the 1994-’95 TV season. Set in 1938, the half-hour comedy was about a temperamental movie star during the Golden Age of Hollywood. It’s an important work — or will soon be an important work — because it was written by Joe Keenan, the future Frasier scribe whose work we’ll be lauding here very soon.
Keenan, a novelist and musical theatre scribe, was discovered by legendary sitcom vet David Lloyd and given his big break by Cheers’ Glen and Les Charles. The pilot he wrote for them was directed by the master himself, James Burrows, and starred many familiar Frasier faces like JoBeth Williams (one of Frasier Crane’s temporary paramours) as the eponymous heroine, Edward Hibbert (Gil Chesteron) as a flamboyant director, and Harriet Sansom Harris (Bebe Glazer) as Gloria’s attendant. Others in the cast included Jerry Adler as a studio exec, Nina Foch as Gloria’s mom, Mark Blum as Gloria’s ex-husband, Emily Proctor as Gloria’s recently arrived niece, Lisa Banes as Gloria’s rival, and Carole Cook as a gossip columnist.
Having seen the pilot, I think Gloria Vane is a high-concept, expensive half-satire with too many characters and a protagonist who probably isn’t likable enough to have anchored a network comedy. However, with well-defined (albeit larger-than-life) characters, a beguiling world, and boffo laughs — that are delivered regularly enough to be impressive and remind us of the brilliance we’ll soon see on Frasier (where Keenan was staffed once this pilot was not ordered to series) — it’s a great, fun watch that fulfills its one obligation: to entertain. So, in preparation for our upcoming look at the author’s best TV work, here’s his first… Gloria Vane. (This video was uploaded by Keenan himself. If it ever gets taken down, subscribed readers can kindly comment below for access to a digital copy.)
Come back next Wednesday for another Wildcard post! And tune in on Tuesday for the start of our series on the best of Frasier!