Television Turmoil is a look at the worst and weirdest series to make their way onto the small screen.
The early 80s were something of a rebuilding period for NBC, to put it charitably. Under the tenure of Fred Silverman, the network suffered a series of high-profile failures and nearly went out of business. By 1983, the channel had stabilized and within the next year would land atop the TV ratings, pulling themselves back from the brink. For the ousted Silverman, success was harder to find. Along with Intermedia Entertainment, the production company he formed upon leaving NBC, Silverman spent years attempting to get a show on network television. It would take a partnership between the former CEO and his old network to land his first program.
Executive produced by Silverman, We Got It Made had the very novel concept of “reverse Three’s Company,” a show Silverman also green-lit in his time as the head of ABC. The series followed hapless bachelors David Tucker (Matt McCoy in Season 1 and John Hillner in Season 2) and Jay Bostwick (Tom Villard) who decide that they need a live-in maid for their, even by sitcom standards, small apartment. Enter Teri Copley as Mickey Mackenzie, filling the Suzanne Somers role of ditzy blond who is overly sexualized by both the characters and audience. Rounding out the cast are David and Jay’s girlfriends, Claudia (Stepfanie Kramer) and Beth (Bonnie Urseth), who start out as jealous killjoys in the pilot before turning into amorphous blobs who fill whatever role is needed for the current scene.
As you might expect from a show attempting to ape some of that Three’s Company style, many of the plots in We Got It Made revolve around misunderstandings and innuendo with none of the charm. The writers often seem to forget what misunderstanding started their plot and jump right to the next ridiculous thing they can think of. For instance, the pilot involves our trio getting locked in the bathroom, forced to rely on David and Jay’s jealous (for this episode) girlfriends to open the door for them. Not wanting to be caught in the bathroom with a freshly showered Mickey, the two bachelors distract their girlfriends while Mickey sneaks out the window and onto the deck. Eventually, Mickey ends up naked and hiding behind a potted plant as she attempts to enter the apartment. It is a type of comedic stakes heightening that could only work with a combination of game acting and great writing, two things this show sorely lacks.
Perhaps the biggest hinderance to the program, one that is fully on display in my above description, is how uncomfortably horny it is. Copley’s Mickey isn’t so much a character as she is an object for both the males on the show and in the audience to ogle and catcall. With episodes like “Mickey Goes Topless” and “The Naked Truth,” it isn’t hard to see what the show is actually trying to accomplish. It isn’t about comedic set pieces or hilarious dialogue. We Got It Made is a show designed exclusively for men, something for the boys at home to turn their brains off and stare at for a half hour.
Now, I won’t be so naïve as to suggest that other shows haven’t found great success doing mostly the same thing. In the case of We Got It Made, it only took viewers a few episodes of painfully unfunny jokes and ridiculously horny antics to realize there wasn’t much else there. By January, the program moved to Saturdays, where it quickly withered on the vine before being cancelled two months later. The story, however, does not end there.
In 1987, NBC was looking for a show to fill the Friday slot on their new “Prime Time Begins at 7:30” campaign, an effort by the network to compete with popular syndicated shows using a line-up of their own programs. Needing something cheap and relatively easy to produce, they revived We Got It Made for another run. The new season of the show featured a returning Mickey and Jay, while David was recast and the girlfriend characters dropped entirely. Filling out this iteration of the cast were wacky neighbors Max Papavasiolios (Ron Karabatsos) and his son, Max Jr. (Lance Wilson-White).
Because of the earlier time slot, the show’s racier aspects were tamed in favor of more generic sitcom antics. Plots still acknowledged the attractiveness of Mickey, but her presence on the show became more motherly, while David and Jay became more infantile. Watching one of these revamped episodes feels jarring, like watching a show in its last season with no context. Thankfully, the lack of humor remains to give a bridge between the different versions.
Unfortunately, Prime Time did not begin at 7:30, a lesson NBC soon learned. After a single season, the network ended the experiment. We Got It Made was dropped from syndication, ending the show’s run for good. Fred Silverman and his production company found lasting success with shows like Matlock and In the Heat of the Night, another in a long line of network execs who failed their way into making more money.
We Got It Made, meanwhile, remains a punchline. Even now, it continues to be regarded as one of the worst shows ever produced, a title it earns not with an outlandish premise or extremely distasteful comedy, but by simply offering nothing of worth. It is a pure distillation of the sitcom genre’s 80s decline. The rare show that really makes you believe TV can rot your brain.
Next Time: We head up to The Great White North for the super-powered stylings of My Secret Identity.
As always, thanks for reading! If you have any suggestions for future shows you want to see covered, leave them in the comments below. For more great content, follow me on Twitter @JesseSwanson.