The following changes were made when the show went from ABC to NBC: Anita Barone was replaced by Ann Cusack. Jeff's mother was alive in the first season but was never shown along with his father. In season two she was dead and his father was brought on played by G.W. Bailey. Jeff had a baby daughter in the last episode of the first season. In the second season she was gone and he had a second son named Justin played by Jonathan Lipnicki. Jeff's brother Wayne, played by Jay Mohr, and his girlfriend DeeDee, played by Michelle Clunie disappeared in the second season along with his father-in-law Elliot, played by Dakin Matthews, his mother-in-law Lois, played by Bibi Besch, and his sister-in-law Gayle, played by Debra Jo Rupp. Other people added in season two were Bill, played by Bill Engvall, Florus, played by Neil Giuntoli, Livie Ann, played by Jeanine Jackson, and Nettie, played by Kathryn Zaremba. In season one Jeff lived Bloomington, Indiana. In season two he lived in Briarton, Georgia. In season one Jeff owned his own heating and air conditioning shop. In season two he worked on a loading dock. The family lived in a completely new house. See more »
I guess when they started filming the first season, the network executives at ABC didn't know that Jeff Foxworthy had already sold more comedy albums than Carlin, Cosby, or Pryor. Instead of going with Foxworthy's proved style of comedy, they decided to juxtapose a Southern, rural, redneck Jeff against his Midwestern-intellectual-snobbish in-laws, his neighbor Craig, and his wife Karen. Perhaps the suits thought the in-laws and others would act a foil against which Jeff's Southern persona could be displayed. It never really worked. Jeff's existing fan base, myself included, did not recognize Jeff Foxworthy in his own show; "Who's this guy?" - it was nothing like his comedy - totally alien. In an interview years later Foxworthy explained that for the first six months of filming he wasn't even allowed in the writer's room.
ABC tried to retool the show by dumping the characters Russ and Walt, who worked at Jeff's HVAC business and bringing in Jay Mohr as Jeff's wild brother, Wayne. Still didn't work. Eventually the ABC suits cancelled the show.
But it was resurrected and retooled by NBC. Jeff's business tanks and he returns to his hometown, the fictional Briarton, Georgia, but his wife is played by a different actress, Ann Cusack. I don't know why Anita Barone left, maybe NBC thought she was too saucy to be believable as Jeff's wife, so they brought in whiney Cusack. They also have another son, Justin, played by Jonathon Lipnicki.
The move to the South provided Jeff's character with a history from which Foxworthy's comedy could flow. The setting and characters allow more of the familiar Foxworthy comedy to come out professional wrestling, big hair, trailer parks, mud boggin', cousins marrying and so forth. Jeff's high school best friend, Bill Pelton, played by real life friend and comedian Bill Engvall, Jeff's dad Big Jim Foxworthy played by G.W. Bailey are central characters that add so much more to the show than the ABC version's peripheral characters ever did.
But even NBC couldn't leave the show alone. The biggest changes were at Jeff's place of employment, Pitt's Trucking. Bosses came and went, so did truck drivers and dock workers. The second season had strong episodes and weak ones, but overall was a vast improvement. Unfortunately the network suits didn't want to invest another season in hopes of improved rating, and the show was eventually cancelled, this time for good.
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