November 2, 2008

TV Review: Make or Break TVThe New Adventures of Beans Baxter

The New Adventures of Beans Baxter was a spy spoof/domestic sitcom parody/teen comedy.  It was a hyphenate before such things became trendy and popular.  Watching this episode, I realized that films like Agent Cody Banks and Spy Kids have been mining the same comedic territory as Beans Baxter with far greater financial success.  Cartoon behemoth Kim Possible is just a post-modern Beans Baxter with emphasis placed on a cool cheerleader.  Beans Baxter was ahead of its time.

Sometimes I find Make or Break TV‘s research lacking.  The show makes out like Savage Steve Holland made his name with One Crazy Summer and Better Off Dead.  His and Bill Kopp’s work was an integral part of Press Your Luck, and that came before Better Off Dead.  Also, why wasn’t Eek! the Cat mentioned?  That is by far Savage Steve Holland’s greatest success.

Another point of contention: the Canadian dollar wasn’t worth US$0.65 back in 1987.  It hovered around US$0.75 for most of the year, according to this site.  Make or Break TV has never been as bad with its research as Whatever Happened To…?, but enough with the generalizations, please.

The New Adventures of Beans Baxter looks fun.  One can see how low-budget the show is, but Beans Baxter‘s weirdness transcends its budget.  Kurtwood Smith and Elinor Donahue are inspired cast choices.  Smith in particular is great at comic menace, as eight seasons of That ’70s Show make perfectly clear.

I actually laughed when Savage Steve Holland talked about Beans Baxter‘s guest stars.  Kitten Natividad!  G. Gordon Liddy!  Dee Snider!  Who wouldn’t want to watch a show with guest stars like that?

A lot of people, as it turns out.  Fox was a new network in 1987, and Beans Baxter was only on the network due to Fox not having a lot of product.  Werewolf, Women in Prison and Duet briefly shared a Saturday with Beans Baxter, while Sunday had The Tracey Ullman Show, Married…With Children and 21 Jump Street.  Saturday was an afterthought to Fox.

The Make or Break TV announcer dismissively calls Werewolf, Women in Prison and Duet forgettable, although Werewolf had its fans and Women in Prison had a unique premise.  Sure, they weren’t Married…With Children or 21 Jump Street, but those shows were part of the Fox I miss.  I’ll give Duet to MoBTV, but at least Duet lasted more than the one season.

As an aside, there aren’t any shows I know of featuring women werewolves in prison.  Don’t tell me that show wouldn’t be exciting.  Hell, it would be more realistic and less outlandish than Prison Break.

If anything hindered Beans Baxter‘s success, it was Savage Steve Holland.  He was the executive producer, director and head writer.  The show was made for a family audience, yet had Wendy O. Williams in a recurring role.  It’s hard for any show to be both edgy and family-friendly.  Of course, Eek! the Cat had dyslexia jokes and featured the voice talents of Tawny Kitaen, so I’m just going to give the point to Holland.

In one of the odder permutations of his career, Savage Steve Holland has become a Disney Channel stalwart.  He’s directed the Disney TV-movies Shredderman Rules and Stuck in the Suburbs, as well as episodes of Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire.  Holland has also directed episodes of V.I.P. and Shasta McNasty.

Holland has dabbled in proper films lately, directing National Lampoon’s Ratko: The Dictator’s Son and Legally Blondes.  It would be nice to see Holland make a comeback, as he’s been doing straight-to-video fare for far too long.  In lieu of a proper ending, here are some Whammies from Press Your Luck.

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