Do you remember the show 'The San Pedro Beach Bums'?
Top image: ABC / sitcomsonline
Sometimes, regardless of how hard the network might try, a television show simply fails to click. In the fall of 1977, ABC gave The San Pedro Beach Bums a cushy time slot and pumped the series full of guest stars. Charlie's Angels, Regis Philbin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, football icon Frank Gifford and Wonder Woman star Lyle Waggoner all popped in for guest appearances on the hour-long comedy. There was a crossover episode with The Love Boat. The Bums led directly into Monday Night Football, competing against CBS's misguided Young Dan'l Boone and the hugely popular but decidedly wholesome Little House on the Prairie.
Yet The San Pedro Beach Bums was canceled after 10 episodes. Perhaps America wasn't ready for five dudes living together in a houseboat.
Like many series of the 1970s, The San Pedro Beach Bums had its origins in a TV movie. In May of 1977, the pilot film The San Pedro Bums aired on ABC, performing well enough to earn a series order. The network expressed some concern over the title, fearing "Bums" would not appeal to audiences. So the word "Beach" was added to the Aaron Spelling production. Because people love bums as long as they're on a beach?
The blue collar Los Angeles community of San Pedro was known as a home to fishermen and harbor workers. The "bums" were an assorted handful of Sweathog-like characters — the tough guys, the ladies' man, the dweeb, etc. They were named Stuf, Dancer, Moose, Buddy and Boychick. The most familiar face in the cast was perhaps Stuart Pankin ("Stuf"), who would go on to star in HBO's pioneering mock-news parody Not Necessarily the News. He also voiced the father dinosaur on Dinosaurs.
Part of the series' weakness was its mercurial nature. In any given episode, the guys might aide a private detective, ask Charlie's Angels to host a beauty contest, help an elderly woman on Thanksgiving, hop on the Love Boat for a cruise, or hide a prize racehorse on their boat. That's rather random plotting for any series, but especially for one that lasted only a few months.
In winter, ABC sunk the Bums and replaced them with a young man raised by wolves, Lucan. That lasted 11 episodes. The 13-episode Sugar Time! followed. Lesson: Don't challenge Little House on the Prairie.