• Written by Rick Ellis
  • Category: Forgotten TV

The Best TV Shows You've Never Seen: 'My Life And Times'

"I can't say that I've seen everything but I've seen a lot. I've seen footsteps on the moon and seen myself stumble. I've seen fear and did my darndest not to be afraid. I've survived the nineties and braved the millennium. I've loved and lost and learned to love again. And I've learned that life is an adventure. You have to hold on and let it carry you away. I've let it carry me to the year 2035 and I'm here to tell the tale. I'm Ben Miller and this is my life and times."

Sometimes you can have just the right cast and crew and ultimately the viewers just don't tune in to watch. That was certainly the case with the short-lived ABC half-hour dramedy "My Life And Times."

On paper the series couldn't have a better pedigree. It was created by Ron Koslow, who was just coming off the success of the drama "Beauty And The Beast." This series had a lot of the same elements. A wistful kind of romantic mood combined with incredibly sharp storytelling. "My Life And Times" also boasted a strong cast. A pre-"My So-Called Life" Tom Irwin played the lead role, with a pre-"Mad About You" Helen Hunt playing his wife. Film director Michael Apted directed the pilot and each one of the six episodes played out like a finely made movie.

But "My Life And Times" had some things going against it. Some viewers seemed to be confused by the premise of the show, thinking it was more of science fiction series than it turned out to be. Irwin played 85-year-old Ben Miller, and when viewers first meet him, it's 2035 and he's living in a retirement home.

Each episode opened with the narration at the top and they centered on Miller's reflections about the past, with the focus more on his personal life than any overarching historical events. The best episode of the series might be "Jesse," which featured guest star Claudia Christian. As a younger man, Miller had seen her walking down the street and they end up having a one-night stand. They never see each other again although he thinks about her and that night the rest of his life. He ultimately sees her in the nursing home and he discovers the bittersweet truth about her life and why they never reconnected.

The other challenge the show had was its format and timeslot. Most TV dramas are an hour, and the 30-minute format of the show was no doubt a bit confusing. It didn't help matters that the show was programmed as part of a two-hour block of comedies that included "The Wonder Years," "Perfect Strangers" and "Doogie Howser. M.D."

But if the viewers failed to tune in, it was their loss. Each episode is warm and real and bittersweet. Irwin does a great job both as the 85-year-old Miller and as his earlier incarnations. Helen Hunt is radiant and you can see the talent that will help make her a success in other projects. Megan Mullally also shows up in a couple of the episodes.

The result is six perfect episodes and in a just world, "My Life And Times" would have been a success. But it turned out just to be one of the best TV Shows you've never seen.

Check out what you missed below, with all six episodes available thanks to YouTube.

  • Written by Rick Ellis
  • Category: Forgotten TV

Forgotten TV: 1973's 'Sticks And Bones'

The history of television is filled with instances in which the broadcast networks and their affiliates clashed over whether or not a TV episode or movie is appropriate for a local audience. There have been many times when a few stations have decided not to air a show, but few programs met with more resistance from local stations than the 1973 broadcast of the Tony-winning David Rabe play "Sticks And Bones."

Cliff DeYoung plays David, a blinded Vietnam veteran who is angry with his circumstances and his family's inability to understand what he experienced in battle. It's a grim, often dark, look at the then-contemporary American life and it powerfully captured the conflicted feelings of many Americans. Even for fans, it's a challenging play to watch, but it was also a very important project at a time when the war in Vietnam was beginning to hit its final days.

"Sticks And Bones" was the second in a trilogy in David Rabe's Vietnam trilogy, with part three being the very well-received "Streamers." The play had a successful Off-Broadway run and the movie adaptation was greenlit by CBS as part of a long-term deal it had with producer Joseph Papp. Robert Downey Sr. wrote a movie adaptation of the play and directed the film. Along with DeYoung, the film starred Anne Jackson, Brad Sullivan and Tom Aldridge.

The CBS premiere was scheduled for March, 1973 and the network expected a fair number of local affiliates to not air the film. But a week before the airdate, nearly 80 of the network's 186 affilates had opted out. That decision led CBS President Robert D. Wood to indefinitely pull the film, on the ground that the presentation "at this time might be unnecessarily abrasive to the feelings of millions of Americans whose lives or attention are at the moment emotionally dominated by the returning P. O. W.'s and other veterans who have suffered the ravages of war."

There was also a lot of controversy about the characters in the production, which mirrored the character names of the very wholesome TV show "The Adventures Of Ozzie & Harriet." The parents were named Ozzie & Harriet, with two sons named Rick & David.

Papp reacted by noting the film had been screened for affiliates twice in the previous week and that he had made several small edits for language. He also branded the postponement "a cowardly cop‐out, a rotten affront to freedom of speech and a whittling away at the First Amendment." He also announced that he planned to walk away from a production deal he had previously signed with the network, which called for the production of 11 more plays.

CBS eventually aired "Sticks And Bones" in August and 94 affiliates declined to air the broadcast. As you might expect, ratings were terrible and thanks to all of the behind-the-scenes wranglings, the film is unavailable on DVD and hasn't been seen publicly since the original 1973 broadcast. Although apparently Robert Downey Sr. had a private screening of the film in 2012, using a version he claimed had been stolen from the CBS vaults.

The film still apparently sits in the CBS television archives and while at this point there doesn't seem to be a reason not to make it available in some form, not even the UCLA Film & Television Archive has a copy.