Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dick Clark’s Failed Ideas

Dick Clark passed away yesterday at the age of 82. It’s been said of Clark that through hosting American Bandstand for more than 50 years that “only God made more stars.” From Buddy Holly and James Brown to Run DMC and Boyz 2 Men, Clark was responsible for introducing several generations of performers to America. In addition, the “world’s oldest teenager” developed and hosted several popular entertainment shows including the $20,000 and $100,000 Pyramids, “TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes” and the many New Years Rocking Eve specials.

But not every Dick Clark musical act and TV show was a success. Among the hits, Clark had more than his fair share of stinkers:

Zu$ie Q: Perhaps too much for the late 50’s, this spicy teenage performer was known more for her flamboyant personality than her singing talent. Between her racy attire, bacchanalian lifestyle and in-your-face attitude, Zu$ie Q set the music world on edge in 1958 with songs such as: Rock & Roll Riot Squad, Hangover Romeo and Teachers Pet (But What I Need Is a Good Spanking). Sadly, if Clark could have launched her during the Britney Spears era, Zu$ie Q may have been a chart topper.

Name That Cheese: Sponsored by Kraft Foods, this short-lived game show paired celebrities with normal citizens in a challenge to identify varieties of cheese while blindfolded. Early rounds featured taste comparisons between easily distinguished cheeses such as mozzarella and Roquefort, and moved on to more difficult evaluations like regional varieties of brie. Clark’s producers tried to combat poor early ratings by pairing Name That Cheese with a half hour wine quiz show but a spoiled vintage of California Zinfandel brought on such massive stomach cramps in the cast and crew, the whole project was shelved.

The Jail Birds: This musical group was literally composed of former convicts. Conceived as an ensemble group where individuals could come and go based on their various parole regulations, the act struggled both with travel restrictions hampering any touring out of state, a high degree of recidivism, and a general lack of musical talent in the arsonist section. With the advent of 'urban' music in the late 90's, Clark tried to revive the concept under the name "The Ex-Cons" but cancelled the opening performance after an electronic ankle monitor malfunctioned in the shower, killing bassist Steve “The Molester” Sherwin.

The Simpkins: This animated half hour comedy focused on a dysfunctional family struggling with the problems of daily life. The parents oil refinery worker Hugo and soccer mom Madge were constantly battling wits with their three children: Brett, a mischievous 10 year old, Leslie an over achieving but under confident 8 year old, and Midge their toddler. After one airing the show was cancelled due to multiple copyright violations.

The Taliban's Got Talent: In an attempt to mine the last untouched reservoir of human vocalists on the planet, Clark launched this talent contest exclusively for participants from this small fundamentalist sect. Critics felt the show pandered to the Muslim community and a section of the public fed up with the loose morals of today’s celebrities (many of who were launched by Clark himself) and the show quickly became background noise in a marketplace already crammed with reality shows and vocal competitions. Ironically, Farzhay ak-Abbanis, one of the programs few participants to be shown on the air, was Zu$ie Q’s granddaughter.


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