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Television sitcom about a recovering alcoholic who becomes the manager of a big city bus station. The tragicomic theme of the show is perhaps summed up best by an old carnival sign that now hangs in his office, 'This is a Dark Ride.' Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
The sign in John Hemmingway's office said it all: "This Is A Dark Ride." Hemmingway, played by John Larroquette, was a recovering alcoholic struggling to right himself in, of all places, a bus station in St. Louis. The first year of this show was absolutely brilliant, with a tremendously talented ensemble cast and decidedly sharp and intelligent scripts that almost went out of their way to challenge ethnic and social mores. Come on, what other sitcom boasted a hooker as a regular?
Then came the trademark NBC meddling. Apparently, NBC thought they had a potential "Cheers"-in-a-bus-station on their hands and immediately pressured the show's producers to lighten the mood of the show considerably, effectively ripping out the heart of what made the show so memorable. Beginning in the second season, John moved from the depressing dump he was living in into a high scale apartment, which just so happened to be across the hall from a nurse played by Allison LaPaca and the obligatory relationship ensues. Now, LaPaca's crooked smile and stiff acting has killed numerous sitcoms but I should say this one wasn't entirely her fault... The surrounding characters lost their edginess -- the hooker became a respectable bar owner, the sharp-tongued, streetwise food counter owner became your basic wiseguy buddy, and so on. Suddenly, the dark and intelligent comedy is your standard relationship sitcom with stereotypical characters and scripts seemingly right out of "Three's Company" without the lovable campiness. It wasn't really bad but it was a mere shadow of its former self.
In the aftermath of all this tinkering, the show lost many of the viewers it attracted in its first season and became so bland it failed to attract new viewers. NBC, forever unwilling to admit its meddling ruined the show, unceremoniously cancelled The John Larroquette Show a few episodes into its fourth season. A sure television tragedy if there ever was one, as that first season should go down in the annals of television history as one of the greatest seasons ever for a sitcom.
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