Spencer and Under One Roof


Spencer (1984-1985)
Under One Roof (1985)
Type: Series Revamp

   Attention all network head honchos: if a show you are airing goes horribly wrong in some way, revamping and renaming it is only going to confuse viewers and they will stay away. Real life is confusing enough. Nobody needs confusion from their entertainment.

   Our case in point for today: NBC's sitcom Spencer. Spencer was a sitcom about the wacky misadventures of a teenager named Spencer Winger and his friends. Yep, haven't seen that idea for a show done in at least, oh, a day or so. Like I have said on another similarly themed page, a show with such a standard premise needs something to distinguish itself and this one almost did.

   That unique element was its star Chad Lowe, younger brother of big shot star Rob Lowe. Chad Lowe made for a likable charismatic lead. His Spencer was different from other TV teens in that he was an intelligent thoughtful troublemaker. That's a good character type to base a show on, they had a cool lead actor. What could go wrong?

   Oh! I know! How about Chad Lowe says adios and leaves the show over money issues. Smart move here would be for the network to cut its losses. The star playing the title character of your show is GONE! Hello? But the network tried to save the show. They were all set to make the show except for the absence of a lead character. What did they have to lose?

   Spencer, the series, disappeared and a few moths later Under One Roof popped up in to take its place. Same basic show as Spencer with some changes. Spencer's dad was written out and some grandparents were written in so the central premise could shift to the wacky fun when three generations of a family live under one roof. That sounds like crazy good fun. Oh the nutty conflicts between young people and the geriatric! Just the sort of thing the audience for a show about a smart troublemaking teen would really dig right? I don't think so.

   But NBC had little choice. They HAD to shift the focus off of Spencer. Spencer was still on the show but now played by actor Ross Harris. Now we are talking about an actor having to step into some pretty big shoes - taking the former title role on the show over from an appealing lead with a famous acting name. A great actor would be daunted and, judging from the body of his work since, Ross Harris wasn't great. And for a just okay actor to take over such a role... well moving the focus off of him and onto the whole family was a smart and kind move to make.

   But the entire thing was doomed by the confusion issue I mentioned before. NBC premieres Spencer with much ballyhoo to grab an audience. Then after a very short run, poof, it's gone. This is back before every minuscule Hollywood happening was being reported or cable, the internet and in magazines. To the casual viewer, the highly hyped series was just gone. Then a few moths later there is this new show on the air named Under One Roof that seems oddly Twilight Zone-ishly familiar. The house, the characters... it seems strangely like another show that may have been on the air a short time back. Or was it? If it was it wasn't on for long. And this show even has a kid named Spencer. Wasn't that the name of that other show? But what's going on? This show is Under One Roof and the Spencer kid isn't the same Spencer kid I remember from before. This is all just a little different. I don't get... oh hell what's on ABC?

   And thus a show dies young, experiencing a slow lingering demise.


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