The Waverly Wonders (partially found television sitcom; 1978)
The Waverly Wonders is a television sitcom directed by Dick Martin that stars former football star Joe Namath. The series aired on NBC during the Fall 1978 television season, and was the first television series Namath had done, despite having received the nickname "Broadway Joe" for other previous roles in acting for movies such as Avalanche Express. The show was broadcast in the midst of a giant overhaul in NBC's programming that left only three series from the previous season (Little House on the Prairie, The Rockford Files, and Wonderful World of Disney) on the air. This was done in order to compete with rival networks ABC and CBS in order to get them out of the last place of the three in the television ratings. The series reportedly cost around $200,000 (about $787,600 adjusted for inflation as of October 2019) to produce, which is about the same amount that was used to produce the hit series Rhoda.
The series opened on NBC with a special opening preview hosted by Dean Martin and O. J. Simpson alongside Who's Watching the Kids, but while Namath was stated by many to be a great actor with a lot of potential, the premise of the series was highly criticized and generally given low ratings. While the series was supposedly inspired by the 1976 baseball film The Bad News Bears many people, including Namath himself, felt that the series was mirroring the premise of Welcome Back, Kotter which was still on the air at the time. Others stated that the series was highly predictable, and had no set ground in reality. Some thought that while Namath's acting capabilities were decent, he still needed to do some work in order to make it out of the amateur level, and that the scripts for the show needed some work if the series was going to last. After three episodes, the show was cancelled by NBC, being third from the bottom in the Nielsen television ratings, and among the first to be cancelled in the Fall '78 season.
Joe Casey (Joe Namath), originally set to be named Harry Casey in the first scripts, is a retired basketball player who decides to take up a career in teaching. While he teaches history to his class of students, he is more focused on improving the school's basketball team as head coach, seeing how the team has never won a game. In the midst of it all, he develops a romantic interest in the school's principle (Gwynne Gilford) and finds himself in conflict with the school's former coach among others.
While promos of the series are available online, none of the three episodes has surfaced either online or in any major archive. However, the welcoming segment with Dean Martin and O. J. Simpson is currently held in the Mississippi State University Archives along with another promo for the show.
- Joe Namath's biography, in which the series is described on pages 387-388. Retrieved 11 Oct '19
- An article showcasing NBC's major television lineup changes. Retrieved 11 Oct '19
- An article estimating the cost of the series to be around $200,000. Retrieved 11 Oct '19
- A television schedule listing describing the special preview for the series. Retrieved 11 Oct '19
- An article on page C13 describing Namath's good acting ability, but the low ratings for the series. Article also describes how the show was supposed to be inspired by The Bad News Bears, but came off as copying Welcome Back, Kotter Retrieved 11 Oct '19
- An article in which Namath stated that he was worried that the series came off as a mirror. Retrieved 11 Oct '19
- An opinion piece stating that the series was among a few that were predictable and had no sense of reality. Retrieved 11 Oct '19
- An article at the bottom of a newspaper page stating that Namath's acting and the show's script would need improving if it wanted to survive. Retrieved 11 Oct '19
- An article stating that the show was cancelled due to it's low Nielsen ratings. Retrieved 11 Oct '19
- An article describing how the series was among the first cancelled that television season. Retrieved 11 Oct '19
- A page detailing the change of the main character's name in the series, as well as the plot. Retrieved 11 Oct '19
- The Mississippi State University Archives, where promotional footage from the series can be found on pages 33 and 36. Retrieved 11 Oct '19