I can hardly believe it, Oh,
But now I know I can see this is my place to go
and now I’m home. I’m home, I’m Home.
Thank you, Boston!
Being home sick in the late 90s meant one really important thing – honing my The Price is Right skills. A close second? Watching something called USAM, a morning block of failed NBC sitcoms that USA would use as a lead in to other game shows and reruns of Saved by the Bell. I don’t know why I remember this block of TV so much, but it included a potpurri of shows that couldn’t cut it in the Must See TV Thursday block – Caroline in the City, Single Guy, Veronica’s Closet – and one that always stood out to me was Boston Common.
And, man, people did not like that show.
I remember the show mainly on the back of its theme song, which has long been on rotation on my rotary-dial iPod, and its melody and vocals ripped almost directly from a B-track of “Under the Table and Dreaming.” The song, not sung by Dave Matthews, is catchy in a way that only 90s sitcom themes were catchy – I’m looking at you, the Rembrantds. When I moved back to Boston a few years ago, I did cornily make it the first song I played as I got off the plane.
Boston Common lasted all of two seasons on NBC – 1996 through 1997 – and had the plot of Virginia hick moves his sister to Boston for college and he falls in love with a local, so he stays, too. Anthony Clark, who actually is a graduate of Emerson College (on which the fictional school in the show is based) and is really only recognizable as “Oh! That guy!”, was the show’s male lead, and it’s actually quite remarkable how little the show actually produced. One casting note, at least, as it is one of the first entries in Zach Galifianakis’ career:
One of my favorite things in the last week was this glorious parody Oral History Of Late-’90s NBC Time Slot Hits, and Boston Common gets its due, for sure. If you have any nostalgia for the other shows NBC aired other than Friends and Seinfeld, this is definitely your read. As a parting shot, this was the way Boston Common got framed:
With Boston Common, NBC was attempting to revive Boston as a Must See TV locale for the first time since Cheers went off the air. Instead of a bar, a college campus would be the locale for humorous interactions between a hilarious set of misfits. Jerry Seinfeld’s success on TV had convinced network brass that literally any standup comedian could be successful on Thursdays. And in Anthony Clark, they had found their anyone.
Some blessed soul has put the entire run of the series up on YouTube (Season 1 and Season 2) because there is no way in *any way* that this bad boy would ever get a DVD run. Come on, the first joke in the entire show calls Massachusetts the “Pudding State”. It’s bad 90s television at its best. I may rewatch it one of these weekends once I burn through Arrested Development, a binge watching session that is totally full of empty calories after a great buffet. Still, it’ll be worth it to remember NBC’s Silver Age of Multi-Cam Comedies in the 90s and, of course, Boston Common itself.
Thank you Boston!