Thursday, June 5, 2014

Revisiting 1974: Why did These Are The Days fail?

We're back to our retrospective of Hanna-Barbera's freshman class of 1974, marking its 40th anniversary this year.

H-B sold four series to ABC that season, and we've previously looked at two of them----Devlin & Hong Kong Phooey. The live-action Korg: 70,000 B. C. is the final subject in our series, so we're looking at These Are The Days today.

Inspired by CBS' hit series, The Waltons, Days goes further back in time, to the start of the 20th century in small town America. The studio opted not to just rely on regular repertory performers such as Daws Butler, Don Messick, & Janet Waldo. Instead, they complemented them with a cast comprised mostly of actors familiar to primetime audiences:

Pamelyn Ferdin was already on the H-B payroll, having worked on Roman Holidays two years earlier. Ex-Monkee Micky Dolenz was also co-starring on Devlin, and this was three years after he'd made his cartoon debut in Funky Phantom. Frank Cady was, and still is, remembered as Hooterville's unofficial major domo, Sam Drucker, on Petticoat Junction & Green Acres between 1963-71. Henry Jones made quite a few appearances in guest roles during the 70's, but never had a regular series that I know of. June Lockhart turned H-B down a year earlier when they mounted an animated version of Lost in Space, but was brought in as the mother. Young Jackie Earle Haley was also working on Valley of the Dinosaurs over on CBS, and would later go on to a successful film career.

To refresh your memory, here's the open, courtesy of Muttley16:

So why did it fail, and could Warner Bros., which now owns the rights, be persuaded to bring it back?

Days---and, for that matter, Devlin----failed because they were buried near the bottom of the lineup, prone to frequent pre-emptions for college football late in the fall season, and in the summer for the British Open golf tournament. ABC just didn't believe that a dramatic cartoon could grab the same high ratings as a comedy or adventure show. That pessimistic thinking planted the seed in the viewers' minds, alright.

If WB were to relaunch the series, they'd have to re-set it closer to modern times, either in the 50's or the 60's, and allow the characters to deal with social issues of those periods. A turn of the century series won't work today. That much is certain.

So, what do you think?


SaturdayMorningFan said...

I have only vague memories of this show but I know I watched it whenever I could. I'd love to revisit it on DVD if WB Archive would just put it out. They've put out all the low-quality HB shows they can, I don't understand why they are dragging their feet on this higher quality show. I think it would work just fine today set at the turn of the last century. My 4 year-old daughter loves Little House on the Prairie, I'm sure she'd like this too.

magicdog said...

It's probably cognitive dissonance that makes one think a show set at the turn of the last century might not work now, but it might.

The setting of TATD in many ways parallels our own - being on the cusp of big changes, new developments in technology, warfare (WW1 but 15+ years away), etc., contrasting with more conservative forces.

Because we live in 2014, it seems the equivelant would be to set a show either during WW2 or the mid 60s - the times today's grandparents would relate to (as grandmas and grandpas in 1974 would have better related to the early 1900s). It could still work either way. I remember a TZ commenter mentioned TATD could be updated to include the same family during different time periods - from the early 1900s to the present. I think that could risk confusion, but if done right, it could show how the family came to be as they are now and learn about the past.

hobbyfan said...

I think that TZ poster might've been me or Kenny McCall. I know I discussed it in one of my threads over there.

Anyway, Since Days aired around lunch time, and stations opted against running it, few people might've seen it the first time around. I know I saw at least part of it on a Black Friday block.

Of course, the ideas that Kenny and I and others have fostered on TZ are too complex for the simpletons at WB to comprehend, which is why a revival may be left to hands like ours.