From 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., four shows would be showing during this time: Clarissa Explains it All, Are You Afraid of the Dark? The Ren and Stimpy Show, and a brand new sketch comedy show known as Roundhouse.
The show was about teens to early adults who do improve in front of a live audience discussing about a theme similar to You Can't Do That on Television. The themes could be from how to act on your first date to how to prevent yourself from getting in trouble. Also in the mix was the house band that would perform music exclusively to Roundhouse so that the teens could do dance sequences. These dance sequences would be developed, rehearsed, and performed without any real interruptions.
Some of the performers consisted of the following:
John Crane, who was the children's father. He would tell the improved story that was occurring while the teens were performing it. He was also the co-writer of the show. He would be in Roundhouse in between performing at the Groundlings Theater.
Dominic Luciero was one of the lead improvisers in the show. He was only around for 1 season after he left Roundhouse. At the time, they didn't realize until much later that Luciero was diagnosed with lymphoma. He would appear again for a few episodes during Season 3. One month after the Season 3 finale, he had passed away on July 1, 1994 at the age of 26. They didn't mention it until the final episode of the show where they dedicated to his memory.
Jennifer Cihi was one of the young adults during Season 3 and sung the main theme song. You might know her for being the singing voice for Serena and Sailor Moon from Sailor Moon and singing "Tatara's Women Song" from Princess Mononoke.
Lisa Vale was one of the leading women performers during Season 2 and 3.
Crystal Lewis was one of the lead singers for many of the songs in Season 1.
The show was created by a married couple named Buddy Sheffield and Rita Sheffield. Buddy Sheffield was one of the writers for In Living Color and had came up with the idea of doing a sketch comedy show for teens alongside his wife. This concept hasn't been done since the other previous Nickelodeon sketch comedy show You Can't Do That on Television. Around 1992, sketch comedy shows like Saturday Night Live, In Living Color, and New Kids in the Hall were all the rage. But having a sketch show consisting on teens and young adults doing improv and dancing sequences in front of a live audience was something that has never been done before...or since. According to an interview done by Mathew Klickstein at splitsider.com, Buddy and Rita Sheffield discussed about the process of getting a show like this done.
“At first, I wasn’t even sure it could be done. To create a half-hour show with music and dance and choreography and everything every week. But somehow we managed to do it. And it was fun, although it was challenging.”They showed what you could do for kids. To see the kids laugh and get so into it. Some of these kids were out in these little remote, rural areas in Mississippi. They were starved for something creative and something fun. It turned their world around. It was so rewarding to work with kids because they’re so true to who they really are born to be. They haven’t grown up yet and gotten cynical. They haven’t yet learned the ways of the world and to think a certain way. You get their complete response that is so authentic and so real.”
“When I first heard in 1985 that there was this little kids channel, I wanted to be on there,” said Rita Hester (formerly Sheffield). “That was my goal, and so no matter how it ended up, I reached that. I considered it paradise to walk into our soundstage every week and going and doing my own kids show. No matter what happened, I thought it was glorious that they gave us that opportunity.”
The show lasted for 4 seasons ending its run on January 27, 1996. Most of the cast members of Roundhouse faded into obscurity and didn't pursue in other acting or singing roles. As for some who did, here you go.
John Crane had acted in a few minor TV roles such as Baywatch, The Next Wave, Murder Live!, and Alien Avengers. He wrote a few episodes of Rocket Power, Johnny Bravo, CatDog, and The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron. He became the head writer, the executive producer, and occasional performer in Fox's Saturday night sketch comedy program MADtv.
Crystal Lewis became a Christian singer. She would influence other singers like Jordin Sparks, Stacie Orrico, Hoku, Nikki Leonti, and Lincoln Brewster.
As for Buddy Sheffield, the co-creator of Roundhouse, he divorced Rita a few years later. In 2001, Sheffield gave a pitch to the Disney Channel about a teen show called Rock and Roland. The show was about a teenage boy who had a widowed parent and was a regular kid by day and a pop star by night. He had to constantly hide his alter pop star ego in front of his friends and his fans. Disney dismissed the idea. Years later, a show that had Sheffield's concept was released and became a huge phenomenon. That show was called Hannah Montana.
In 2007, Sheffield sued Disney for stealing his idea and concept. Eventually in August 2008, the case was settled.
However, despite Roundhouse lasting for 4 years, winning a few awards like the CableACE Award, the Young Artist Award, the Youth in Film Award, and the Ollie Award, almost no one remembers Roundhouse. Not back then or today. One of the main reasons why was because there was not a lot of advertising between the executives of Nickelodeon. They didn't really care too much for Roundhouse either. At the time, more popular shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark? The Ren and Stimpy Show, and Clarissa Explains it All were more discussed and viewed among audiences. Which brings me to my next reason why. The shitty time slot. It was sandwiched between the other more popular shows. Roundhouse was aired after The Ren and Stimpy Show and before Are You Afraid of the Dark? Kids were just slogging through Roundhouse or skipping the show all together right before the other better shows came out. Unlike You Can't Do That on Television, Roundhouse was never given a chance to shine and form its own identity as a SNICK show and that's kind of a shame.
I said "kind of" because looking back at this show 20 years later, I respect and admired what Roundhouse was doing. As I said previously, it was something that has never been done before or since then, but the execution of it wasn't good at all. Most of the jokes are not funny! Almost of all them fall completely flat and go away too quickly. It's like saying, "Oh, if you didn't like that joke, don't worry. Just wait 10 more seconds for another attempt." That's what it felt like to me. Everything was just rushed and I didn't get a chance to absorb the joke. At least the ones that were kind of funny. The dance sequences were okay too. I enjoyed them, but looking at it now, nobody dances that way anymore. It's really dated by today's standards.
When working on this tribute, I asked people this following question. "What was your favorite sketch comedy show at Nickelodeon?" Some of the older people said You Can't Do That on Television. Some of the younger people said The Amanda Bynes Show. Most of the people said All That (which we'll discuss about next week). No one said Roundhouse. I can understand why. At least with You Can't Do That on Television, it had a lot of memorable skits and moments: Barth's Burgery, the slime, the Locker Jokes. Sure in today's standards, the jokes are extremely corny, but as I said in my You Can't Do That on Television review, they have an undeniable charm that can never be replicated in today's time in which the main humor is edgy adult humor. With Roundhouse, I never really got anything out of it. I loved the concept, but not the execution of it. I really don't recommend watching Roundhouse.
That's all for now. Tune in next time as I ask you this: Do you have it?
Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.
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