Hey, remember that time some people thought a sitcom about Hitler was a good idea? Turns out that not only did they get to keep their jobs, but they were promoted to Head of Everything and spent the rest of their lives humping television into the ground. Here are just a few of the ugly bastard progeny that the unholy union of sitcom writers and head trauma victims produced over the years:
6 Mr. Smith (1983)
That's the poster for Mr. Smith, an NBC sitcom where a talking orangutan becomes a political adviser! Can you imagine anything wackier? If you can, you're fired! This network doesn't need some goddamn revolutionary jamming up the gears of this finely oiled cliche machine.
Is that ... Kelsey Grammer?
The star of Mr. Smith was an orangutan named Cha Cha who was captured and taken to a government research center in Washington, D.C., where he drank an experimental mixture intended to increase human intelligence. This mixture gave Cha Cha an IQ of 256 and the ability to speak. Naturally, they immediately made him a political adviser. Get it? A monkey could do a politician's job!
You'd think that a talking orangutan would be one of the biggest scientist discoveries of all time, even in a sitcom world based around a joke your grandma would tell at Thanksgiving dinner (and get her booed away from the table for her trouble). But no, the entire premise is truly about the wacky shenanigans of a superintelligent primate in the world of politics.
"I tried to present my cure for cancer, but the Senate filibustered it."
But they couldn't even be bothered to keep to basic satire: Cha Cha had a brother named Bobo who also escaped during the accident, so the show would often neglect its own barely existent plot to focus instead on the superintelligent Cha Cha keeping his still-primitive sibling out of trouble. Other wacky antics included various guest stars almost finding out that Mr. Smith was a talking monkey, and what happens when a talking monkey falls in love with a regular monkey. So they went into the show with two subjects -- "monkeys" and "politics" -- and it turns out that all they could handle was "monkeys."
But they didn't even do that very well: Mr. Smith was canceled after 13 episodes and replaced by the far superior oddly-intelligent-primate-tries-to-live-with-a-wacky-family sitcom Harry and the Hendersons.
5 The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer (1998)
The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer was a sitcom that took place during the Civil War, and that's actually pretty cool. We're all for using a novel setting to explore complex social norms (or whatever it is that sitcom writers tell undergrad English students to get laid these days). The story revolved around a black servant named Desmond Pfeiffer who was kidnapped from England, forced into slavery and freed from slavery, and then accidentally ended up working for Abraham Lincoln.
We're sure this will be treated with all the tact and sensitivity a touchy subject like this requires.
Wait, this sitcom is about a black British manservant who mysteriously gets sold into bondage, is rescued from slavery and then is made to work in Lincoln's White House as they fight against slavery during the Civil War? How does one even arrive at a premise that stupidly complicated? That's four more twists than the worst M. Night Shyamalan movie. If the writers were trying to comment on politics, setting a show in the White House during the Civil War is a good enough vehicle. If they wanted to comment on racism, casting a slave as the protagonist is a bold move. We can't imagine what demographic the captured/recaptured/freed/re-employed ex-English black butler character was meant to appeal to, but there can't be that many survivors of Benson's sex dungeon.
With such a convoluted premise, ratings were bound to sink. Not helping matters were the confusing priorities of the show: Instead of dealing with race and history, as one would reasonably expect of a show about slavery and the Civil War, Desmond Pfeiffer was content to mock modern-day headlines in the basest possible fashion. They recast Abraham Lincoln, arguably the most revered president in history, as a one-note buffoonish sex addict in order to parody then-president Bill Clinton. It was not a job they did with subtlety, with lines like "You're no better than a horny hillbilly from Arkansas." One of the episodes was entitled "A.O.L.: Abe On-Line," where Lincoln became addicted to telegraph sex. Timely! In another, Lincoln hides behind enemy lines by dressing in drag. What the what?! Men dressed as women? We sure hope '90s couches came with sea belts, or else the viewers would be blown completely away!
"I-I-I-I beg you pardon?! How frightfully absurd!"
Tragically, that turned out to be just a little bit too much Vitamin Zany for the public to take on an empty stomach, and The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer was canceled after only four episodes.