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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!
That is where the trouble began and the producers knew it. Where do they go from there? Sure, the team trying to defend their championship was enough to sustain one season. But that was it. The main reason for the shows existence was gone.
So what did the writers do in a last ditch effort? They give Hayden another bunch of underdogs, an expansion NFL team. It just didn't work. Coach (the show) was about Minnesota State. Not Florida. The shows really lost a lot of quality after that move. It was a classic example of a show that should have gone out on top a season or two earlier.
This is a hilarious show about football and life. I loved the episodes where Luther lost his bird, Luther owns "Turtle World", Dauber loses the playbook, and the episode where Hayden lets Luther get some of the media's attention.
I watch this every weekday morning on TBS. I wished this show came out on DVD. A must watch for anybody who likes to laugh or likes football.
No matter how many times I watch each and every episode I crack up. I don't watch sports, I don't even like sports of any kind, but I love this show. Every character is special and adds to the show.
It's only on at 6:00 am on USA, I stay up to watch it. I never found Cheers or Seinfield entertaining or funny. Outside of Home Improvement and Everybody Loves Raymond they have not come out with a good show even worth turning on. I do like The District,and watch also faithfully. I wish it was on more often. I loved it in the one episode of the district the characters Luther and Dauber played apart of it. I enjoyed seeing then all together again, It's to bad they could not find a spot for Christine.
10/10! Great Coach game plan that goes in and out! Coach rules and is still one of my favorite shows on TV! The show now airs on the USA network and if you can't get up early to watch it, well, just Tivo it!
I'd argue that despite its underlying football theme, "Coach" is a show enjoyable for the whole family; the characters are wonderfully scripted and acted so that it's easy to identify with and embrace them. Sit back, relax and join Coach Fox & Co. on their journey.
If you're a cable subscriber, consider yourself lucky and try to catch the repetitions on TVW, for example. Believe me, it's one of the best in TV-comedy history! And it makes addictive.
Season 8 was a big mistake and the end of the show - even though it went another year - this was the beginning of the end. The entire NFL run made a mockery of the show that everyone had known and loved - it was so bad that ratings went down and it caused a beloved show to be cancelled. Nothing was good about seasons 8 and 9 - it made a fool out of Coach Fox, it continued the nastiness of Luther Van Damme and introduced the two worse characters in the entire 9 year run: Doris and Martine. Even getting rid of the ridiculous houseman Martine was too late to save the show. While Katherine Helmond was great in SOAP (and a bit in Who's the Boss), she was dreadful and annoying in Coach.
A 10 for seasons 1-6, an 8 for season 7, a 3 for seasons 8 and 9.
But the way this show treated football is outrageous. Hey - I'm not one of those zealots who thinks NCAA sports are God's own work. But the writers blew every opportunity to misrepresent anything resembling a college team. And clearly not out of ignorance - the plots that relied heavily on football completely distorted aspects of the game so as to be ridiculously unbelievable. A few times for the sake of plot development would have been okay, but just about every time out they set up one unbelievable situation after another.
The worst part about this is that the main characters strutted around every episode as if they breathed and ate the game. I realize there are intricacies of any sport or job that need to get glossed over for the sake of the larger audience. But the fact remains that Nelson's "Coach" character was interchangeable with any other macho-idealized profession. He could have been a sky-diving instructor, and the show would've followed roughly the same path.
The real NCAA has so many unpredictable nuances (scandals, grade fixing, gambling, kickbacks, overblown media coverage - not to mention the real excitement of the actual season) that you'd think a group of competent writers could draw enough realistic raw material for a show. But instead they copped out and removed any halfway-realistic aspect in order to make their plots work. The most egregious example comes in the show's climax - the coach's Screaming Eagles win the national championship bowl. In order to make the coach look like a genius, the writers concoct a plot where he intentionally leaves his star quarterback out of the entire game, only so he can bring him in during the last series to surprise the other team and win the game. It's not even questionable judgment - it completely distorts both the basic point of the game and the real intricate strategizing that goes into games such as these.