Today, we look at how the series finale of One Day at a Time tried to spin off Schneider.
This is Back Door Blues, a feature about “backdoor pilots.” Backdoor pilots are episodes of regular TV series that are intended to also work as pilots for a new series. Sometimes these pilots get picked up, but a lot of times they did not get picked up. I’ll spotlight examples of both successful and failed backdoor pilots.
December is a month of Back Door Blues! Following our look at how The Facts of Life‘s series finale tried to set up a new series, we’ll look at a week’s worth of series finales serving as backdoor pilots!
CONCEPT: Schneider – Dwayne Schneider (Pat Harrington) moves to Florida to take care of his niece and nephew after his brother dies.
SERIES IT AIRED ON One Day at a Time
Something that I often think gets lost in just HOW creepily Pat Harrington played Dwayne Schneider, the superintendent in the Indianapolis building where Ann Romano moved into with her two teen daughters at the start of One Day at a Time in 1975, is that Schneider really wasn’t all that creepy. In other words, unlike some other sitcom friendships where you can’t understand why the other people hang out with certain characters, it legit made SENSE for the Romanos to trust Schneider and turn to him when they needed help. He really was just a nice guy. It was simply that Harrington’s take on the character was SO slimy that he simply FELT like a much bigger creep than he actually was. This is not to say that Schneider was some great character, as I don’t think that he was, but I think that people have this view of him as a total creep, and he really wasn’t (a little bit early on, with hitting on Bonnie Franklin’s Ann Romano, I’ll admit, but he dropped that shtick VERY quickly)
Towards the end of the series, the show ran into a major problem with Schneider, though. Barbara (Valerie Bertinelli) and Julie (Mackenzie Phillips) had both gotten married and moved into a house they shared together with their husbands and Julie’s baby, and Ann had remarried (to Barbara’s father-in-law, oddly enough, played by Howard Hesseman). Schneider had developed a father/son bond with Alex (Glenn Scarpelli), the son of Ann’s boyfriend, who moved in with the Romanos after his father died. But Alex was gone for the show’s final season. So Season 9 made Schneider POINTLESS.
The show was clearly pushing for a spinoff involving Barbara, Julie and their husbands sharing a house together, either as a 10th season of One Day at a Time, or as a new series, but Mackenzie Phillips was Mackenzie Phillips, and she tended to do Mackenzie Phillips-type things, so she was written off early in Season 9. So that idea was squelched.
Instead, after a wrap-up episode in the penultimate episode of the series (with Ann moving to London and giving up her now-famous apartment that was somehow large enough to house, like, 90 people at one point in the series), so the normal cast members all got PROPER farewells, the final episode sees Schneider head to Florida to help with his niece and nephew after the death of his estranged brother that he hadn’t seen in 15 years. He came down just to send the kids to their aunt in Oregon, but they don’t want to go. He meets a friend of his brother’s, Jackie (Candy Azzara), who is friendly with the kids at the truck stop sort of carnival spot. The kids are played by Natalie Klinger and Corey Feldman. Jackie offers Schneider a job as a maintenance man.
He says he’ll think about it, and at the end of the episode, he agrees to move to Florida and take in his niece and nephew.
DID THE PILOT GO TO SERIES? It did not.
SHOULD IT HAVE? The premise itself showed SOME thought, and Corey Feldman was obviously an interesting child actor, but no, it would have been terrible.
Okay, that’s it for this installment of Back Door Blues! I KNOW the rest of you have suggestions for other interesting backdoor pilots, so drop me a line at email@example.com (don’t suggest in the comments, as this way, it’ll be a surprise!).