A couple of weeks back, while assembling our post on the shortest-running shows in TV history, we noticed a bit of a pattern: an awful lot of them were vehicles for movie stars, who keep getting TV shows even though their track record for success is surprisingly low. There are exceptions, of course, but more often than not, it seems that TV executives value the built-in recognition factor of a big star over quality writing and the kind of ensemble work that the best television thrives on. As a result, an audience may tune in for the first week or two, but if they don’t see big-screen quality right away, they tune out. We thought of this pattern again when we noticed the single season of ABC’s canceled Missing among today’s DVD releases — a show starring Ashley Judd, who was headlining very big movies just a few short years ago. Ms. Judd can take solace, however, in the fact that many a movie star before her has flopped on the tube; after the jump, we’ve collected ten of the most notable examples.
The Jimmy Stewart Show, Hawkins
Our first three examples all come from the years 1971-72, when the influx of New Hollywood acting talents like Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, and Ellen Burstyn sent a wave of old-school movie stars to the small screen — where they found little success. The ’71 season marked the first of James Stewart’s two attempts at television; The Jimmy Stewart Show cast the beloved actor as Professor James K. Howard, small-town university professor. The sitcom didn’t land, receiving bad reviews and cancellation after its single, 24-episode season. Two years later, Stewart tried again with Hawkins, a mystery series that ran on a Columbo-like rotation on The New CBS Tuesday Night Movies. Reviews were better this time around, and Stewart won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series. But ratings were poor, possibly due to its rotation with another mystery movie series that had (presumably) a very different target audience: the TV adaptation of Shaft. Jimmy Stewart is a bad motherSHUT YOUR MOUTH too, but Hawkins was gone after a single season.