NBC Tried to Save The Torkelsons By Making It a Brand-New Show
Today, we look at how NBC tried to save The Torkelsons by making it a brand-new show.
This is “Gonna Make a Change,” a feature where I spotlight shows that underwent major revamps during their runs to avoid cancellation. Note that I mean MAJOR revamps, not, like, M*A*S*H getting more serious as it went on or Cheers becoming more of an ensemble comedy once Shelley Long left.
April is a month of Gonna Make A Change!
One of the interesting things about watching television shows is seeing when guest performers stand out. Often, if you’ll watch older shows and see a notable performance, when you check the name, you’ll see that that actor was then booked for their own show soon after the guest spot. Oliva Burnette had a couple of those types of performances on Quantum Leap, including a memorable turn as Sam Beckett’s younger sister, Katie, who freaks out when Sam (who has leaped into his own younger self) plays her “his favorite John Lennon song” a year or so before it was written, thus, in her mind, proving that his stories about their older brother dying in Vietnam are true (Sam is forced to recant his story for the sake of his sister’s sanity)
A year after that episode aired, Burnette was the star of her own teen sitcom, The Torkelsons (thanks to my pal, Ray, for suggesting this one!).
Original Concept: Roughly based on creator Lynn Montgomery’s life growing up, The Torkelsons was about a single mother (Connie Ray) raising her five children (Burnette playing Dorothy Jane, the oldest of the five) in a small town in Oklahoma, where she is forced to take in a tenant (played by the great William Schallert) to make ends meet.
Each episode would open with Dorothy Jane pouring out her feelings to “The Man in the Moon”…
While created by Montgomery, the shoe was developed by Michael Jacobs, and it is very much a Michael Jacobs show. Imagine Jacobs’ Boy Meets World, only starring a 14-year-old girl (a particularly articulate 14-year-old girl at that). Future Boy Meets World Season 1 cast member, Lee Norris (the nerdy Minkus on Boy Meets World) plays Dorothy Jane’s nerdy little brother (Montgomery named the show after a nerdy kid she grew up with who seemed to be the inspiration for Norris’ character). NBC clearly liked the show, but it wasn’t a ratings hit.
Revamped Concept: In Season 2, the slightly odd name of the show was dropped, renaming it Almost Home. Millicent Torkelson loses her home, and is forced to move to Seattle with her three children (Dorothy Jane stayed on the show, as did her two youngest siblings, but the 2nd and 3rd oldest kids vanished like Chuck Cunningham) to become a live-in nanny for a busisnessman played by Perry King, who has two spoiled teen children (played by Jason Marsden and Brittany Murphy. A young Alyson Hannigan played the possible girlfriend of Marsden’s character). The show then became about the culture clash between the rural Torkelsons and their new forced-upon urban quasi-family members.
It’s still a Jacobs sitcom, though, so there’s a decent quality level.
Did it get the show more than one last season?: Nope, Season 2 didn’t even finish airing all of its episodes before it was canceled (two remaining episodes were burned off in June), but all of the episodes aired in syndication (how you syndicate a show with 33 episodes, in which the show changed formats midway through, is beyond me, but it happened). Don’t feel too bad, though, as the next TV season, Jacobs debuted Boy Meets World, so it worked out for him.
Okay, that’s it for this installment of “Gonna Make a Change,” please send in suggestions for other good revamps to my e-mail address of email@example.com!
4 thoughts on “NBC Tried to Save The Torkelsons By Making It a Brand-New Show”
only thing The Torkelsons On NBC after The Golden Girls.
Ha, you’re right, total brain fart there, I’ll fix it! Thanks for the head’s up!
I remember giving it a try, but the “Man in the Moon” thing was so awkward and stupid, I just couldn’t keep it going. And I’ve lived about 90% of my life in Oklahoma, and the portrayal of Oklahomans was (as it generally is) cringe. Not that we don’t have a lot to be embarrassed about….
The “Man in the Moon” stuff definitely was hard to work into the episodes.