Single Dads at the End of Television
Now into the *sixth* decade of primetime television, TV Single Dad shows were more popular than ever. With the increase of cable / satellite / HDTV venues, the demand for the familiar plotlines of Single Dad shows only increased as the years rolled by.
Terrestrial broadcast networks began their steep decline in viewership at the beginning of the 21st Century, but their reliance on the TV Single Dad genre to lure viewers never wavered. The more things change...
First, the Questionable Shows of the 2000s...
- Normal, Ohio
Aired: 2000 (FOX)
QUESTIONABLE DAD: Rex Gamble (John Goodman) / Divorced Gay Dad
DAD’S JOB: Unknown
KIDS: Charlie Gamble (Greg Pitts)(20-ish)
WHERE’S MOM?: Remarried – nearby
STAND-IN “MOM “: Possibly Aunt Pamela (Joely Fisher) – Rex’s sister
WHY IT DOESN’T COUNT: Formerly called Don’t Ask, this could have been a major-league, groundbreaking series. The hole in the boat on this show’s qualifications in the Hall of Fame is that Goodman’s character doesn’t live in the same house as his son, thus failing the Mindy McConnell Occupancy Act. (see The Rules). Sorry, John.
Next, the Hall of Fame Shows:
Aired: 2000 (ABC)
DAD: Dr. Derrick Hatcher (Michael Jai White) / Unknown
DAD’S JOB: ER Physician
KIDS: Zoe (Yada Beener)(13)
WHERE’S MOM?: Unknown (not even the writers knew this)
STAND-IN “MOM”: Unknown
It was up against ER in the same time slot, but this show would have carted home wheelbarrows of Emmys if it had survived the competition. Two episodes aired on ABC and WHAM – “on hiatus” (that’s TV-talk for “DEAD”).
Formerly titled “Bellevue”, this series was like St. Elsewhere meeting NYPD Blue. An interesting element was the divorced non-custodial dad on the show in the form of Dr. Robert Banger (Ted Levine). If you’re trying to place Ted Levine – he’s got quite an acting range in him. Ted’s played Alan Shepard on HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon, as well as the expert tailor/serial killer Jame Gumb in Silence of the Lambs. Michael Jai White played the title character in Spawn (the movie, not the HBO cartoon).
Michael Jai White’s character wouldn’t have had his own “focus” episode until the unaired April 13th, 2000 episode (an episode called “Spell Check”), when the audience would have been introduced to Dr. Hatcher’s home life. Since the writers hadn’t determined what happened to Mom, it’s unclear whether Dr. Hatcher was divorced, single, or a widower.
Here’s a quandary: since we never got to see Dr. Hatcher’s character actually BE a TV Single Dad, should this show have counted?
Fortunately, in 2008 DirectTV begin airing the long-mothballed series – – so Wonderland escaped the “doesn’t count as a series” closet.
Interesting to note that this production had Ron Howard as Executive Producer – a nice progression for a two-time son of a Single Dad (Opie Taylor in The Andy Griffith Showand the original Movie Eddie in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father with Glenn Ford).
A big help for the show was the lead-in of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? for the first month of shows. Unfortunately, the show couldn’t make it against ER and dropped out of the schedule rather quickly.
Here’s ABC’s take on the show:
“Wonderland,” a riveting, gritty, one-hour drama shooting on location in New York City, delves into the lives of the doctors manning Rivervue Hospital’s psychiatric and emergency programs. Writer, director and former “Chicago Hope” star Peter Berg is the executive producer/writer/director.
Mr. Berg and the writers of the drama spent months at a New York hospital researching the project and working side by side with top psychiatrists and ER physicians. They were able to observe everything from electric shock therapy sessions, to interviews with serial killers, schizophrenics and suicidal housewives.
Edgy and real, the stories for “Wonderland” are inspired by the experiences of staff and patients. The cast of “Wonderland” is encouraged to improvise, and the show is shot documentary style, resulting in nothing less than gripping television. With personal lives as complex as their patients’ minds, the doctors of Rivervue endure joys and sorrows that often mirror the triumphs and tragedies of the afflicted they strive to heal.
The cast stars Ted Levine (“Silence of the Lambs”) as Dr. Robert Banger, Martin Donovan (“The Opposite of Sex”) as Dr. Neil Harrison, Michelle Forbes (“Homicide: Life on the Streets,” “Kalifornia”) as Dr. Lyla Garrity, Billy Burke as Dr. Abe Matthews, Michael Jai White as Dr. Derrick Hatcher, and Joelle Carter as Dr. Heather Miles.
In the realm of psychiatric medicine, this public, city hospital is the Mecca, and its doctors are among the world’s best, brightest and toughest. Professionally, Dr. Robert Banger (Mr. Levine) heads up the forensic psychiatry department (the psychiatric study of criminology); while personally, he struggles to cope with the break-up of his marriage. Still in love with his wife, Dr. Banger is forced to fight her tooth and nail for the custody of their two young sons. Dr. Neil Harrison (Mr. Donovan), who also specializes in forensics, grapples with the fears and joys of impending fatherhood. His wife, Dr. Lyla Garrity (Ms. Forbes), heads up the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program, a.k.a. CPEP (a critical response facility for people suffering psychiatric emergencies).
Dr. Abe Matthews (Mr. Burke) is recognized as a talented psychiatrist who works in the CPEP, but has a well-earned reputation as a first-class, commitment-phobic womanizer, both inside the hospital and out. Dr. Derrick Hatcher (Mr. White) balances the struggles of single parenthood with working daily miracles in the emergency suite — all while simultaneously leading med students through the ropes of Rivervue’s “boot camp.” And, psychiatric intern Heather Miles (Ms. Carter), while learning from the best, contributes her talents and special insights to the treatment of patients in CPEP.
In addition to Mr. Berg, executive producers for “Wonderland” are Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Tony Krantz, along with co-executive producer/director John D. Coles. Peter McIntosh is the line producer. The program is produced by Hostage Productions, Inc. in association with Imagine Television.