Dead Pool '98: The Silence of the Ham -- Sue Costello's Loss Is Your Gain
In the late '80s world of stand-up comedy, Lenny Clarke was bigger than Jesus. He was packing them in nightly at Zanee's, at the Laff Hut, at Cap'n Billy's House O' Belly Laughs. And network suits took notice. They were clamoring to stick Lenny Clarke in a sitcom -- any sitcom -- where his unique blue-collar take on life would surely strike a chord with Middle America.
Well, CBS did just that. It stuck him in Lenny, where Lenny Clarke played Lenny Callahan, a Boston-based working class schlub holding down jobs with the electric company by day and as a doorman by night. When not working, Lenny would spend time kibitzing with his large, Irish family, sharing his unique blue-collar take on life.
The show went over like a lead zeppelin. Lenny the show was yanked away from its cornerstone Wednesday night time slot and shunted off to the Saturday night line-up where it could do no more harm. Lenny the comic was hustled off to a supporting role on The John Larroquette Show in what can only be viewed as a masochistic effort to prove that there were worse shows than his own on the air . And the lesson for TV networks was simple and direct -- don't ever cast another stand-up comic was a working class schlub in Boston, or viewers will flee your network en masse to watch Unsolved Mysteries over on NBC.
It was a lesson that Fox failed to heed.
In the late '90s world of stand-up comedy, Sue Costello was bigger than... well, she was pretty big at any rate. She was packing them in nightly at... OK, someone must have caught her act at some point. Because faster than you could say, "That woman sounds like she's gargling battery acid," Fox was waving a sitcom offer at the spunky comic.
It stuck her in Costello, where Sue Costello played Sue Murphy, a Boston-based working class schlub holding down a job as a waitress. When not working, Sue would spend time kibitzing with her large, Irish family, sharing her unique blue-collar take on life. She would also scream "Maw!" a lot.
Well, you don't have to be a Nobel laureate to figure out how this on was going to play out. Most of America turned a deaf ear to Costello. They were the fortunate ones. The ones who tuned in to watch Costello soon found themselves with deaf ears, thanks to the dulcet tones of Ms. Costello's eardrum-shattering shrieks.
Little wonder, then, that Fox, haunted by visions of dazed viewers fumbling to change the channel as blood and viscous fluid poured from their ears, pulled the plug on Costello before it could kill again. The derivative plotlines. The tired characters. Sue Costello's horrible, horrible voice. We all should have seen it coming.
And fortunately, a few of you did.
Earning an honorable mention and a pat on the back from us Vidiots was reader Brian Jenkins, who didn't pick Costello to go first but did manage to include it in his top three. But for Fox's inexplicable decision to keep "Holding the Baby" on the air, it would be Brian drinking from the frosty cup of victory and snacking of the sausage platter of triumph.
But they didn't. So he's not.
So how will we break out three way tie? The same way we always make decisions here at TeeVee -- with a bunkhouse battle royale fight to the death! All three contestants will enter our reinforced steel cage with a weapon of their choosing -- a morningstar, a battle axe, a sawed-cue stick or a cat o' nine tails. And they'll spend the next two hours, locked in mortal combat, fighting one another tooth and nail for the right to...
Hmmmm? The lawyers are on the phone? They say us sponsoring a fight to the death is illegal? Aw, crap.
In that case, then, we'll just have to decide this the way we always do -- by seeing which new program will be the next to follow Costello in to the infernal regions. Will America's hatred of working-class micks extend to To Have and To Hold? Will NBC do the right thing and cancel Wind on Water sight unseen? And just exactly is Hyperion Bay anyhow?
Only time -- and history -- will tell.
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