Horror and science fiction have always been a part of the television canvas, and constant attempts have been made over the years to produce classic entertainment. Some have fallen by the wayside, while others became mainstream phenomena. With “TV Terrors,” we take a look back at the many genre efforts from the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, exploring some shows that became cult classics, and others that sank in to obscurity.
“The Elvira Show” was filmed in 1993 for CBS… but never aired
The past three years have seen a major resurgence of the Mistress of the Dark that we know as Elvira. Elvira has always had that wonderful ability to disappear for a few years, re-emerge in full force for a long time and creep back in to the shadows for a little bit. It’s pretty much why everyone loves her. Cassandra Peterson has turned the character into a bona fide franchise, especially in the digital age, selling branded merchandise, her own book, and even collectible dolls from Funko.
In the cable television days and video age, Elvira was an—ahem–asset you saw often, and one of my earliest memories of the horror host came through her introductions to movies on television and appearances on MTV. I could go on and on about how her 1988 movie “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark” is a childhood favorite of mine, but I digress.
That said, as many know, her 1988 movie was intended as a back door pilot for a potential sitcom on NBC, and I can think of no one better suited for their own sitcom than Elvira. Spending years in development, Elvira finally got her wish in 1993, when she filmed her very own pilot for the CBS Network. Her show entitled “The Elvira Show” (starring Elvira as herself!) offered a unique spin on the sitcom, with a horror based premise less about family values and more about Elvira’s razor sharp wit, rapid fire double entendres, and huge pair of—uh—eyes.
Officer: This is a bust!
Elvira (pointing at her cleavage): “No, this is a bust!”
Loosely set after the events of the movie, Elvira moves again, this time to Manhattan Kansas where she ends up in another conservative small town. There, she resides with her fun aunt Minerva (who also happens to be a quirky witch), and their smart mouthed cat named Renfield. Elvira hides in plain sight pretending to read fortunes and create potions for the superstitious folks in town, but things get complicated when long lost niece Paige is dropped off at the house and forced to live with her aunts.
After her parent died, she was sent to live with nuns on an island, and then—dropped off at the door for some reason. As a conservative religious girl, Paige finds herself struggling to keep up with their antics, especially as she begins to realize she might have powers of her very own. She has to come to her family’s aide when Elvira accidentally casts a spell on a hunky local police officer.
“The Elvira Show” was pretty much a series intended for the fans, and hoping to breed a new audience that could appreciate the “Three’s Company” shaded humor filled with innuendos, and winks at the audience here and there. Katherine Helmond (“Soap,” “Who’s the Boss?”) is kind of like an older Elvira, but one who isn’t as out there as her long lost niece. The pilot only seems to have a little bit of money to play with, so a majority of the episode’s events take place in the house and the house alone.
With so much set up and potential, you assume the show would have too many storylines for one episode, but there’s shockingly very little to be had. A majority of the comedy is reliant more on how many sex jokes Elvira can shoot out before the end of the episode. All the while Paige is basically the foil of her two aunts, working to keep the uptight town folks at bay. Beyond that there isn’t much of a storyline aside from someone trying to catch Elvira and or Minerva in the act, and looking for a reason to put them in jail. I would have loved to see a sleeker series with Elvira leading the life of a superstar and supernatural being, or maybe experiencing a double life as a super powered witch trying to fit into nineties city culture.
“The Elvira Show” inexplicably repeats the same beats from the 1988 movie, right down to Elvira moving in to an old house, and fending off cantankerous old neighbors. Apparently based on many reports, when “The Elvira Show” was filmed, CBS went crazy over the immense usage of boob and sex jokes and cancelled the series before it ever premiered. The pilot never even aired. Years later, oddly enough, the G rated “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” rose to mega popularity, sharing essentially the same plot and structure as the failed “The Elvira Show.” Granted, “Sabrina” was based on comic books that predate “The Elvira Show,” but it’s interesting to note nonetheless. It’s just a shame that Elvira’s show was never picked up, while “Sabrina” became a household favorite just a few years later.
Regardless, Elvira continued her long and admirable career as a horror hostess, comedienne, performer and entrepreneur, still going strong to this day. If you have twenty five minutes to spare, give “The Elvira Show” a shot. I can’t guarantee a laugh riot, but you can never go wrong with Elvira.
Is It On DVD/Blu-Ray? Absolutely not, but the pilot has circulated online for many years in its complete form (below). Hopefully someday it can be restored and included in an “Elvira” box set. Sure would be nice if Arrow included it in their upcoming special edition of “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.”