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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

TV Pilot Hell - Turner & Hooch (1990)

The dreaded one-joke premise.  It’s a nearly guaranteed show-killer and here, we have an absolutely braindead TV sitcom based on a pretty bad police comedy.  Quality TV series based on movie franchises are extremely rare and this is an example of how to take a movie that was already pretty unfunny and drive its single joke right into the ground.  The first ten minutes of this TV series seems like an hour, and it doesn’t get any better.

In 1990, Tom Hanks was already too hot a commodity to appear in low-grade crap like this, so instead we get B-list actor Thomas F. Wilson as Det. Scott Turner, who most probably remember best as Biff Tannen from the Back to the Future movies, or as Coach Fredricks from Freaks & Geeks.  He’s not a bad performer when he’s playing off of better actors, but here he is just awful.  He is not leading-man-material, and he spends every scene struggling through his lines.  However, as much as I complain about Wilson’s performance, the supporting cast is far worse.  This film even goes so far as to add an obnoxious delinquent kid to the mix, making what is already a really lazy and dull comedy into something that is nothing short of unwatchable.  He is far, far worse than Kid from Dick Tracy, another legendarily bad child performance from around that time, and like Hooch, he has one character trait: He gets into trouble!  Oh… how zany…  To top it all off, this show ends with a pillow fight between the kid and Turner complete with period-appropriate sax solo and a freeze frame on Hooch.  I wish I were making this up…

The rest of the supporting cast includes Wendee Pratt as Mrs. Turner.  She had a few roles after this but is mostly known for her brief run on the soap opera One Life to Live.  The rest of the characters just show up then disappear, having no real effect on the show, existing only to set up the next scene.  Comic Relief Cop (his name is ‘Boney’... Because he’s fat..?) appears to tell Det. Turner what the next act of the show is and sends him on his way, and the show has a brief appearance by a lively chef who knows Turner, and I am assuming he is meant to be a recurring character but here he only exists to facilitate the introduction of that damn kid.

This show is written in cliches.  This is common in sitcoms, but here everything has been done over and over again and Turner & Hooch goes the extra mile by taking those cliches and just replaying them ad-nauseum during its 23 minute run.  The kid is a runaway thief who ends up in the care of the unwilling cop.  The wife is a goody-goody who wants to help the “misunderstood” kid, only existing in the entire show to make sure Turner is stuck with Hooch and an aggravating child actor (Det. Turner really needs to get a divorce).  There are no other cops of consequence and imagine my surprise when the titular cop wasn’t called in to get chewed out by his tightly-wound and heavily-caffeinated chief.

All of those complaints aside, the episode is just a mess.  Scenes bounce between each other so fast it is actually a little disorienting and I have a sinking feeling this was meant to be a one-hour block but was cut in half after producers saw the finished product.  I make that assumption based on the fact that it feels like chunks of the show are missing.  Character introductions are fast and short and never really establish any sort of relationship.  The marriage between Det. Turner and his wife feels more like the relationship between a homeowner and a maid.  The kid in the show is bad, sure, but he seems like he was born ready to wind up in the care of a cop, never showing any resistance or surprise about anything.  Ultimately, nothing comes together.  There are sections of the story that feel lost and there is zero, ZERO character development.  The only thing we get is Hooch running into things, knocking people over and simply just causing a ruckus so we can get a zany jazz solo followed by a soul-crushingly-bad reaction shot from Thomas Wilson, who acted like he just didn’t want to be there at all.

Turner & Hooch aired on NBC in the Summer of 1990.  A Summer premiere (especially pre-2000) is usually a bad sign anyway, but hoooo-boy!  1990 was a bad, BAAAAD year for television.  To give you an idea of how awful this year was, Turner & Hooch, as stillborn and bland as it is, is not the worst cop-with-a-dog comedy series of that Summer!  The problem with Turner & Hooch is it’s just boring and lazy.  Outside of some of the performances, there isn’t really anything painful about it, and I can honestly see myself forgetting this show even exists.  At least with famously bad shows like Small Wonder you remember why it was bad.  Less than an hour after sitting through this snore-fest I was only thinking about what I wanted for lunch.

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