Almost Home and The Torkelsons

Almost Home (1993)
The Torkelsons (1991-1992)
Type: Series Revamp

   Oh dear God! Another revamped series where the network refuses to let a series in a ratings coma just die. Nope. They have to hook it up to an I.V. and life support hoping in vain it might show signs of life only to watch it die a slow painful death.

   It all started with The Torkelsons. It was a show about Millicent Torkelson. She was dirt poor and her husband had abandoned her and their five kids. All she had was a ramshackled house in rural Oklahoma. She did part time work and scrimped and saved to make ends meet as well as taking in a boarder. The boarder was a kindly old gentleman named Wesley Hodges played by TV veteran William Schallert.

   Despite the horrible situation, with the family on the verge of financial ruin all the time, mom was always chipper and upbeat. The same could not be said of her oldest daughter Dorothy Jane. Dorothy Jane was a teen at that age where she just wanted to blend in and be like the crowd. She hated and was embarrassed by her family's poverty and the show largely centered on her trying to cope with the situation she was in.

   Okay, another note for the networks: poverty is depressing. I mean I get the idea of the show. The family is down but refuses to become down and out. They have love and spirit! But right off the bat, who wants to tune in and see people in such dire straights? Mom is such a force you would think they would be doing a little better. Sure there are women like her in the real world who can't seem to do better either but so what? This isn't real life. It's TV and people want to see people with such heart do better. Otherwise it's too much. TV is largely watched for escapist entertainment so who wants to watch a show about a family on the skids? I know I know, they're on the skids but they're happy. Life just craps and craps and craps on this woman and she just is happy as a clam and refuses to despair at all? Is she insane? It was a nice show with a lot of heart but the premise just wasn't one that made you want to watch. After one season, The Torkelsons lost their home on NBC.

   But don't worry! Remember this is the happy scrappy family that cares about each other and refuses to give up! The Torkelson family returned in the middle of the 1992-1993 season. Their show was retooled and renamed Almost Home.

   Almost Home began with mom, despite all her struggling, finally having to give up her house (Good Lord! Give this woman a break!). The family was forced to moved to Seattle, Washington where mom had taken a job as nanny for the two children of a widower businessman named Brian Morgan and played by Perry King. Morgan's kids were rich and a bit spoiled and he hoped that they would not run off Mrs. Torkelson like they had their other nannies. He also hoped some of the Torkelson kid's values might rub off on them.

   So you have to give the network some credit. The revamped show ditched the "we're poor but we have love to keep us happy" premise and replaced it with the much more palatable "rich kids vs poor kids" premise. The new premise also added a nice dose of friendly conflict to the mix to liven things up. But like most revamped shows the fixes didn't help. Viewer's tune in, they see the Torkelsons and go, "Oh this is that show about those folks who are so tickled pink to be eating government cheese I didn't watch last year. It's back on?" Click. They're on to the next station before they can see the changes. After half of a season, the Torkelsons again found themselves without income as NBC canceled the show and fired the lot of them.

   One other weird thing. The Torkelson's thing is that they might not have money but they have each other. But when the show changed to almost home there were some cast changes. Okay, Mr. Hodges was dropped because you're not taking your boarder with you when you move. Fine. And he had to go so that there would be room on the show for Perry King's character. I mean you've only got a half hour. You can only handle so many characters in that amount of time. But that means someone had to also go to make space for the two Morgan kids. So two of the Torkelson kids were also dropped without explanation. What the hell? This is the family who didn't have anything but each other. Two of them disappear and nobody bats an eye? I guess Mrs. Torkelson really is crazy. Here are my top bets on what became of the kids.

1.) They fell victim to a force that erases TV kids from existence and from the memories of everyone they knew. The same thing happened to Chuck Cunningham on Happy Days, Judy Winslow on Family Matters and Seven Bundy on Married... With Children.

2.) Stolen by wild animals and being raised by wolves.

3.) Cannibalism. They were very poor and government cheese only takes you so far. They finished off Mr. Hodges and... lets just stop there. To anyone connected with the show who reads this theory and is shocked and offended, too bad. If you would just have explained it I wouldn't have to be coming up with such horrible theories.

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