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Laura San Giacomo,
Hayden Fox is the head coach of a university football team, and eats, sleeps and lives football. His partner, however, does not share his passion for the sport, which frequently causes friction in their relationship. While Hayden often fits the stereotype of dumb jock (as do his co-workers Luther and Dauber), he sincerely cares about his friends and family, and tries his best to make things work out.Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <email@example.com>
In our way of life, Television Sitcoms come and go. Some series make such a brief appearance on the television schedule that they are virtually totally forgotten. It would seem that even a seemingly good premise, proper casting and high volume publicity blitzing of promo spots cannot guarantee any degree of success at all. There are certain intangibles, like chemistry and good old luck, which play a big role in the ratings ordeal.
It does seem that a lot of our more successful situation comedies of recent years have had one thing in common. Where the main character so often would be someone who was above it all, we have finally begun to see the lead character's having a foible or two.
Hence we have been treated to an array of less than perfect main characters such as Judd Hirsch's Alex Reiger in "TAXI" (1978-83) or Ted Danson as Sam Malone in "CHEERS" (1982-93). These characters have all of the faults and foibles as any of us, and maybe even a tad more in some areas.
Then why not have a series about the comical trials and tribulations of a guy who just happens to be a Head Coach at a Major (though fictional) University having a big time Varsity Football Program. His life goes on all year long; he doesn't get put on a shelf after the Autumn Football Season. Even if their squad is playing in one of those big time Bowl Games around New Years Day, they still have things to do in February, March, April, etc.
That brings us to "COACH", and none too soon! The series is as much a success due to those in the cast, but they also had some very good comic situations in which to let their characters just do their thing.
The main characters are Head Coach Hayden Fox (Craig T. Nelson), his Fiancée, Christine Armstrong, Asst. Coach, Luther Van Dam (Jerry Van Dyke) and Asst. Coach Dauber Dynzinski (Bill Fagerbake).
Most all of the series' episodes were built around these 4 adult characters and their problems with acceptance, status in the community and their relations with the opposite s-e-x. After all, just because one has been a Varsity Jock and B.M.O.C. doesn't mean that he wouldn't have a problem with acne or with finding the right girl as his mate.
Additionally, the series made good use of semi-regular and recurring characters. There's Hayden's Daughter from previous marriage, Kelly Fox (Clare Casey) and her totally non-athlete Boy Friend, Stuart Rosebrock (Kris Kam), who is a Theatre Major and a Mime. Athletic Director Howard Burleigh (Kenneth Kimmons) and wife Shirley (Georgia Engel) are always around as the "Per-Fect" couple. Howard's biggest foible his being the guy forever seeking proper respect as his position of Athletic Director.
And speaking of seeking recognition and respect, there are some problems wit the University's Band Director, Riley Pringel (Ray Birk). In one of our favourite episodes, Pringel attempts to have Luther's Basset Hound declared as an incurably viscous and dangerous to the community; because of a problem that occurred over mistaking a band leaders baton for hot dog. (Just see it!)
As for Luther, Jerry Van Dyke gets our award for hid "dark horse", "sleeper" of a character, who steals the show. In all of his years in Comedy and having Comic Roles in Films and TV, this is him at his very best.* He plays the 'Old Dumb Guy' to Bill Fagerbake's Dauber, a 'Young' Dumb Guy, but both characters are enjoyable, even lovable.
The setting of the mythical Minnesota State University served the series, its story lines and the cast quite well. There were plenty of "situations" developing that related to the team and its players; members of the "Screaming Eagles".
So then why did the Producers decide along about the 1995-96 season, in the series penultimate year on NBC, to change the locale? They went from coaching the fictitious Minnesota State University "Screaming Eagles" to the make believe Orlando Breakers of the National Football League. The routines were modified to fit into a situation that was in the NFL in sunny Florida, rather than North Woodsy Minnesota and the NCAA.
Perhaps the ratings on "COACH" were beginning to slip a little or something like that. Producer then decides to give it a little boost or bump in the Nielsens by a little transformation of setting. But obviously it didn't work.
It seems it never does. We remember similar situations with similar remedies in previous decades in such renowned situation comedy series. "OUR MISS BROOKS" (1952-56), McHALE's NAVY (1962-66) and "LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY" (1976-83) are all top rated sitcoms that followed the very same late series course correction in change of locale. In all cases, including that of "COACH", the change is done for the same reason, to give a renewed interest in its viewers. It's a sink or swim proposition.
In any case, no matter how popular and successful a series might be, it will still run its course, eventually running out of gas and passing on. Just like all of us.
NOTE: * Jerry Van Dyke said in an interview that in his time in show business he had once turned down the lead character of Gilligan in "GILLIGAN'S ISLAND"(1964-67) to accept the lead in "MY MOTHER THE CAR"(1965-66). And prior to "COACH", he seriously considered retirement! Thanks Jerry, we're all glad you didn't buy that rocking chair!
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