Longbox Heroes, and it’s sub podcast After Dark, is one of my favorite things to listen to every week. Some podcasts sit in my queue until I have multiple to listen to, but these two are usually played within the first hour of download. Every year After Dark has a year long viewing gimmick. Doctor Who and wrestling, movie club, and in 2019 every month the hosts Todd and Joe will take a look at a failed backdoor pilot from television history.
We all remember successful pilots. Two new girlfriends named Laverne and Shirley appear on Happy Days. JAG spawned NCIS. There are many examples over the decades. Even better though is when a blatant attempt to launch a new show fails miserably. This can happen for many many reasons, and Longbox Heroes After Dark will look at 12 of them throughout the year. Partly to get some more ears on their show, and partly to get my own thoughts down, I’m going to share my viewing of the year’s first pick. The Happy Days spin off, Blansky’s Beauties.
If you want to listen to Joe and Todd talk about this episode, tune in when the show drops on Friday, February 1 at
Click to listen to the new episode of After Dark and enjoy. Due to recording schedules and wibbly wobbly timey wimey factors I need to get my thoughts out by Tuesday night which is why we’re all here today.
In the season 4, episode 17 of Happy Days titled The Third Anniversary Show, a lot of clips are played. It really is a glorified clip show. By then the show was a hit and could pull off a couple minutes of new footage bookending classic scenes. For some reason it was decided to introduce a new character within those few minutes. Nancy Blansky (played by Nancy Walker) visits her cousin Howard, and apparently is the one that set up Howard and Mrs C on their first date. References are made to Nancy’s job in Las Vegas. She does a two step out of the house and in theory that should be the end of this February 4, 1977 episode. Instead, on February 12 the brand new show Blansky’s Beauties debuts.
Remember that funny confusing time factor mentioned earlier? It was a problem in 1977 too. While Happy Days took place in the 1950’s and Nancy visits during that time, somehow she looks exactly the same on Blansky’s Beauties which took place in the at the time current year of 1977. This woman did not age in 20 years! How does she stay looking so, um, youthful? I don’t know if she got a face lift but she definitely got a picker upper.
Nancy is in charge of a group of Las Vegas showgirls. Her beauties. There are two main sets for the show: the dressing room, and Nancy’s shared apartment. She has a boyfriend, two of the dancers live with her, and for some reason her nephews as well. Including a young not yet Chachi, Scott Baio. Both shows being Happy Days spin offs means there are two people that look alike in this universe, 20 years apart. Maybe Baio was playing a descendant of Chachi on Blansky’s Beauties which aired years before Joanie Loves Chachi but took place in the seventies while JLC was in the fifties. My head hurts.
So Nancy lives with the star blonde gorgeous showgirl Bambi and the less traditionally attractive, smarter brunette Sunshine. Much like many blondes and brunettes pairings over the years, the blonde is meant to be the star but really the brunette is better all around and in truth more attractive. See also: Three’s Company, Baywatch, or Hulk Hogan vs “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
Nancy and Scott Baio aren’t the only familiar faces. Arnold himself, Pat Morita, is here as the owner of a coffee shop. To add more confusing time loops, Arnold was on Happy Days, then left for multiple failed sitcoms, returned to Happy Days, and finally when time corrected itself in the 1980’s he taught karate to a whiny teenager.
The best member of the cast though is the dog. “And introducing, Blackjack.” See, he’s a dog that lives in Vegas and his name is Blackjack. The comedy just writes itself with high concepts like this.
With so many better options for shows one wonders the purpose of this concept? Turns out this exists during a forgotten time in television known as “Jiggle TV”. Put attractive women in tiny and or tight outfits and let that bring in the ratings. Any plot, any jokes, anything resembling a television show doesn’t matter. The audience will tune in for the girls and not care about whatever dead horse jokes or plotlines are lazily worked in. The Love Boat, Charlie’s Angels, and Three’s Company are some well known examples of this. Sure we all remember the shows, but name one specific episode. There are no classics, just excuses for blondes and brunettes in bathing suits.
If you would like to punish yourself with an episode of Blanksy’s Beauties fear not!
It’s just a terrible show. Paper thin plot. Too many characters on stage. Quick unearned joke to quick unearned joke. A ridiculous amount of exposition because not enough is actually said. There’s so many reasons to tune out which is sad on a show full of scantily clad women.
You might think this is a one off. No one could create such a failure more than once. But you’re wrong! Scott Baio and four other members of the cast were on the equally unsuccessful second bite at the apple. Who’s Watching the Kids stars Vegas performers who have to leave their kids at home to be in charge of each other. Who doesn’t love latchkey humor in Sin City?
All of these shows were created by the late Garry Marshall as part of his larger shared universe. Populated with showgirls, angels (Out of the Blue), aliens, greasers, and Milwaukee bottle cappers. The Avengers of laugh tracks.
If anyone remembers this forgotten, not treasure but something else, let me know. Make sure to listen to the podcast on Friday and stay tuned for more forgotten pop culture history.