The 25 Shows Fox Won’t Be Calling Attention to at Its 25th Anniversary
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The 25 Shows Fox Won't Be Calling Attention to at Its 25th Anniversary

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 Women in Prison (1987)

As its title implied, this series from Fox's first year revolved around the females of Cell Block J, including one who murdered her husband (The Shield's CCH Pounder) and a former hooker. Sounds like a provocative drama … and yet it was a zany comedy, featuring eighties sass-meister (and Bosom Buddies alum) Wendie Jo Sperber and the acerbic, shrublike Denny Dillon (Dream On). 

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Mr. President (1987)

Long before Aaron Sorkin thought about it, Johnny Carson (yes, that Johnny) sold Fox this White House-set half-hour about the First Family. George C. Scott (known for his comic chops!) played the president and Madeline Kahn was First Lady. Carson described the show to one reporter as a dramedy, and it boasted sitcom legend and unexpected-period enthusiast Ed. Weinberger as creator. Alas, the show was recalled after less than a season in office.

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Werewolf (1987)

Supernatural creatures are the mother's milk of any young network. The WB had Buffy, UPN had its Star Trek aliens, and the CW has The Vampire Diaries. No shocker, then, that one of Fox's earliest shows was this half-hour drama about a college student trying to rid himself of the hairy curse. It lasted one season, but amazingly, the show boasted a fan website until just last month. Perhaps the last remaining enthusiast finally sold out to the giant Teen Wolf-fandom online industrial complex.

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Kindred: The Embraced (1996)

Speaking of now-hip supernatural beings, Fox also once had its own vampire series that came before its time, lasting only eight weeks in the spring of 1996. Aaron Spelling produced the campy hour, in which nineties hunk C. Thomas Howell stars as a San Francisco cop who discovers the city is lousy with bloodsuckers. 

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Babes (1990)

Photo: FOX

Three years after Women in Prison vanished, Sperber found herself sentenced to another awful Fox comedy about bawdy women. In this case, they weren't in prison; no, they were all just zaftig and zany. It was like Mike & Molly, minus Mike, plus 63 percent more jokes about ice cream sundaes.

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Woops! (1992)

Photo: FOX

What if a nuclear war destroyed all but six people in the world, and those six lived together in a farm house and tried to start a new civilization? Why, hilarity would ensue, of course! Or so thought the Fox suits who bought the pitch for this post-apocalyptic "comedy" starring no one you would recognize except for Sex and the City's Evan Handler. In the final episode Fox aired — a very special Christmas edition — Stuart Pankin played a widowed Santa Claus, still bummed because Mrs. Claus and his elves didn't get to the North Pole shelter in time. Ha ha, grieving Santa and nuclear fallout!

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The Chevy Chase Show (1993)

While it's well-remembered as a flop, it bears revisiting to be reminded just why it was so bad: Chase distractedly fumbled and fumbled his way through six weeks of train-wreck TV, unfunnily resorting to the pratfalls he had perfected on SNL and heading over to the band to play extended piano solos. The head of Fox at the time told the AP that Chase was "uncomfortable and embarrassing to watch" — and that was while he was still on the air.  

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Roar (1997)

Sure, Game of Thrones is a hit for HBO now, but where were the fantasy geeks when Fox launched this short-lived summer adventure series in which a young Heath Ledger played an orphan Irish prince battling bad guys in 400 A.D., with co-star Vera Farmiga? Waiting for lots of gratuitous nudity and gore, apparently.  

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Man vs. Beast (2003)

Rupert Murdoch may have launched Fox, but there's a case to be made that longtime head of reality programming Mike Darnell is the exec who best defines the network: He's smart, shameless, and just a little bit crazy. Usually, Darnell's mind has produced monster success, from American Idol and Hell's Kitchen to Temptation Island and The Swan. But we prefer the Darnell shows that were so nuts that they seemed like they were created by pulling random words out of a drum, like this 2003 series of specials in which humans competed against wild beasts in various athletic endeavors. A world-class sprinter racing against a giraffe? Oh, we miss you, old Fox!

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Mr. Personality (2003)

Photo: FOX

Darnell is good friends with Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss, but that didn't stop him from ripping off his buddy's best idea. In this creepy dating show, a woman tried to find true love from a group of masked men. (Because if there's one thing that Fox taught us early with Married … with Children, it's that you shouldn’t judge people by their looks.) And just to cover all of his "how do we lure in the curious viewer?" bases, Darnell got Monica Lewinsky to host. The first episode was a hit, but viewers didn't like what they saw when the curtain was pulled back and ratings for subsequent episodes dropped quickly.

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American Juniors (2003) 

The overwhelming success and longevity of American Idol has almost erased this failed kiddie spinoff from memory. Almost. After all, we can't completely forget the sight of very small children having their dreams dashed at Hollywood Week. Or watching innocent cuties forced to dance with Ryan Seacrest to bad eighties songs. It actually drew decent ratings, but even Fox execs knew it was harming the image of the mother ship and pulled the plug on a planned second season. But even though it's gone, at least we still have America's Kids Got Singing.

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The Littlest Groom (2004)

The Darnell factory also produced this Bachelor clone featuring a wee single guy and his wee suitors. Everyone involved insisted they were simply trying to show that small folks need love, too, and that this was nothing more than a well-intentioned documentary with a game show element. But this was not the predecessor to cable's Little People, Big World. It was really just, "Ha! Look at that little dude trying to get some action!" Ick. 

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Who's Your Daddy? (2005)

The concept of this twisted game show had an adult who had been put up for adoption trying to pick out his or her biological dad from a group of 25 men. Outrage was understandably provoked, and Fox canceled the show after one episode, burning off the remaining five filmed hours on its now-defunct Fox Reality sister network.

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Karen's Song (1987)

Long before Cougar Town, and long before the term "cougar" existed, sixties sweetheart Patty Duke played a 40-year-old woman who starts dating a 28-year-old man, much to the chagrin of her daughter, a college-age Teri Hatcher. Lainie Kazan was the acerbic best friend–yenta, the type of role that was apparently in her contract. Only nine episodes of the show's thirteen-episode order ever aired, which isn't too much of a surprise: The pilot was so bad, it was directed by Alan Smithee. 

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Second Chance/Boys Will Be Boys (1987/1988)

At least half of the Friends showed up on Fox before they hit the big time. As noted, Jennifer Aniston was on The Edge, while Matt LeBlanc appears later in our list (don't change that channel!). But a very baby-faced Matthew Perry gets the honor for starring in the weirdest before-they-were famous effort, here playing the younger version of a man named Charles (Kiel Martin) who dies in a 2011 hovercraft accident. (Speaking of which, where are those goddamned hovercrafts we were promised!) Anyway, St. Peter decides dead Charles isn't right for heaven or hell, so he's sent back to Earth to live with his teenage self. Crazy! So crazy, in fact, that viewers rejected the show, and after just a couple months, Fox pulled it from the air, dropped the whole old-young Charles thing, and with little explanation turned the show into a teen buddy comedy called Boys Will Be Boys. Shockingly, it didn't last either. 

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Booker (1989)

After spending a year as a "special guest star" on 21 Jump Street, Richard Grieco's Dennis Booker graduated to his own spinoff (launched via a November 1989 episode of Jump Street). His cop character was now working solo, fighting bad guys wherever they popped up, though not in schools. Alas, nobody cared: The show was dumped after one season. Worse, nobody even invited him to be part of the 21 Jump Street film.

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Top of the Heap/Vinnie & Bobby (1991/1992)

And speaking of Friends, Matt LeBlanc co-starred in Married ... with Children spinoff Top of the Heap, which began as an episode during the latter show's fifth season. Plot: Young Vinnie Verducci (LeBlanc) and his dad (Joe Bologna) try to become one of the one percent. Fun fact: Soon-to-be Kevin Smith muse Joey Lauren Adams played a stalker-ish neighborhood gal in love with LeBlanc's character. Top had a short, seven-episode run in April and May 1991 before being dumped. But Fox execs obviously liked LeBlanc, since they recruited him to reprise his Vinnie role a year later in Vinnie & Bobby, in which he was now a construction working living with roommate Bobby (Robert Torti). The show was burned off in the summer of 1992; two years later, he was cast in Friends

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Harsh Realm (1999)

The least successful of Chris Carter's four Fox dramas, this nine-episode flop featured Scott Bairstow as a soldier sent to do battle ... in a virtual reality simulation game. His mission: Kill the evil general who rules the alt-world, played by Lost's Terry O'Quinn. Wait, now that we think about it … maybe the alt-world was limbo! IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW!

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 Night Visions (2001)

After their success with The X-Files, Fox suits tried to cash in on viewers' love for the supernatural by greenlighting an anthology series packed with tales of the bizarre (but none of that Scully-Mulder 'shipper stuff). Henry Rollins got to play the Rod Serling host role, but Fox lost faith in the idea almost immediately after it ordered the show: It was burned off in the summer, with only ten of its thirteen episodes airing on the network.

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Celebrity Boxing (2002)

You think Dancing with the Stars is campy? At least the only injuries are dip-inflicted. On this one, the bruises came from has-been actors and media figures beating on each other in the ring (Tonya Harding vs. Paula Jones! Todd Bridges vs. Vanilla Ice!). Well, frankly, very few punches were legitimately landed. But no doubt there were some contusions to self-esteem.

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Profit (1996)

These next five shows fall into the category of out-there shows which were actually pretty good — and some might even argue, great. First up: This drama featuring Adrian Pasdar as a smooth sociopathic corporate climber who sleeps in a cardboard box (his dad made him do so as a child). It sounds weird. It was weird. But it was also actually really, really good — a sort of Breaking Bad without the drugs. Its lead-in was Melrose Place, and those who stuck around were not exactly looking for complicated psychological drama.

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The Edge (1992)

In Living Color, Mad TV, and The Ben Stiller Show get all the love when folks talk about Fox's history of rebel sketch comedy shows. But one of our favorites remains an utterly insane half-hour featuring one-time MTV sensation Julie Brown (the blonde one, not the Downtown one), a pre-Seinfeld Wayne Knight, a young Paul Feig, and somebody named "Jennifer Aniston." It lived just long enough to provoke the wrath of producer Aaron Spelling for its vicious parody of Beverly Hills, 90210.

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The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993)

Carlton Cuse will likely be best remembered for Lost, but some of us will always have a soft spot for his 1993 sci-fi–western, which saw Bruce Campbell playing the titular Harvard lawyer turned bounty hunter. It mixed Western romanticism with futuristic technology and a heavy dose of humor. Fox had high hopes for the show, which was developed by a young network exec named Bob Greenblatt (the same man who now runs NBC). But like this year's Terra Nova, after a strong start it quickly faded, and died after just one season.

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House of Buggin' (1995)

Until we got lost in the rabbit hole that comes from searching for "Fox" on YouTube, we'd honestly forgotten about this John Leguizamo sketch comedy series. Debuting right after In Living Color had left the air, the show boasted a largely Latino cast (a young Luis Guzman) and was written and produced by many of the same folks who'd go on to create the network's much more enduring late-night franchise MadTV.  It lasted ten episodes, but the Chicano Militant Minute, and Leguizamo's oh-so-nineties opening credits dancing, will endure forever. 

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The PJs (1999)

Fox gave Eddie Murphy a lot of money to produce and voice the starring role in this stop-action animated show, one of the network's many attempts to expand its Sunday animation franchise over the years. It was set in an urban housing project, with Murphy playing the grumpy superintendent. Not everyone appreciated the depictions of poor people: Spike Lee and some black political groups thought it presented negative stereotypes. Only 42 episodes were produced, with the final season airing on the WB Network.

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