Friday, January 24, 2020

Show Notes: Episode 7-4: Head of the Class/What a Country

*Thanks again to Jim for suggesting we discuss Head of the Class, and thanks to Yakov Smirnoff for showing us the foibles of our country--nay, the foibles of our peoples.

*Head of the Class aired on ABC from 1986 to 1991, 5 seasons, for a total of 114 episodes. It was on Wednesdays each year until it moved to Tuesday as a replacement series in the Billy Connolly season.

*The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming premiered Wednesday, February 4, 1987 at 8:30 after Perfect Class and preceding Dynasty and Hotel. NBC went with Highway to Heaven, Gimme a Break, The Tortellis, and St. Elsewhere. On CBS, it was Mike Hammer, Magnum P.I., and The Equalizer.

*Maria Borges left the IHP after the third season to attend a performing arts school to be a singer. Fellow classmates Janice and Jawarhalal also left as the show retooled for season 4 with some new cast members.

*Here is the Chicago Tribune article we mention in which star Howard Hesseman expressed concerns over the show.

*Note the lede in this 1990 mention in a Utah paper about Hesseman leaving:
Howard Hesseman, who's starred in "Head of the Class" for four years and whined about it almost that long, is finally leaving the ABC sitcom.

*This 1990 Entertainment Weekly article speculates that the show's impending cancellation was due to it performing as a poor lead-in for Roseanne despite being #21 overall. An interesting quote from showrunner Richard Eustis:
This season, Head of the Class was retooled to showcase Scottish comedian Billy Connolly (in foreground below, with company), who replaced series original Howard Hesseman. His prominence has some old hands griping about their reduced roles. ”They’re such pros that they don’t let it affect their work,” Eustis insists. ”They all know that if this show has renewed life, it’s going to be because of Billy. If you have fewer lines but Billy’s up there saving your job, what do you care?”

*There is no evidence that the Russian academic team was using performance-enhancing drugs to gain advantage in competition.


*Bad Boy Brian Robbins became a director (Varsity Blues) and prolific producer after the show.

*The man who serves as quizmaster is indeed Deadwood's Mr. Wu: Keone Young.

*Famous draws in competition: 1968 Yale-Harvard (29-29), the 2002 MLB All-Star Game, Rocky Balboa and Thunderlips in Rocky III.

*The "trip to Moscow" episodes in 1988 made the show the first American sitcom to film in the USSR. We won't give it away, but there IS a winner in the rematch!

*What a Country aired in first-run syndication from September 1986 to May 1987.

*The Soul Man premiered October 4, 1986. The version we watched is an off-air recording from WPIX in New York.

*Yakov Smirnoff, born in Ukraine in 1951, defected to the USA in 1977. He became a United States citizen on July 4, 1986!  His career as a comedian and actor peaked in the 1980s, but he had a long run headlining his own theater in Branson, Missouri, and still performs.

*The What a Country theme song is by Dick DeBenedictis.

*This show is based on a Britcom called Mind Your Language (1977-1979, 1986).

*"Dick Lewis is watching!" was the centerpiece of a campaign by Newmark and Lewis, a tri-state electronics chain that went under in 1992.

*If you want to hear us rap more on the podcast...keep it to yourself!

*"Battle of the Network Shows was taped before a captive studio audience."

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