STILL NO FISH: WHAT IF ABE
VIGODA HAD NEVER BEEN BORN?
 
BY STEVE JUSTICE
 

The ageless Abe Vigoda has been a fixture of television and movies as long as most people can remember. But what if Abe Vigoda had never been born? This month the ApeSheet continues to explore the possibilities in part 2 of our 3 part series. If you missed the first part, click here to check it out.

Last month, we left off with Tom Selleck taking over the role of Stud in the Kitty and Stud's series made popular by Stallone. Because Selleck's career didn't take off with Magnum, it didn't make much of an impact when Friends brought him in as Richard, Monica's older boyfriend. In fact, the show's ratings plummeted, and it soon went off the air. With no hopes of establishing a career outside of Friends, Matt LeBlanc joined Selleck in the spin-off Kitty and Stud's series, Sucking at Stud's. You can guess the plot. Without Friends and ER (see part 1), NBC had nothing to save its Thursday lineup. The network became fifth in the ratings behind both the WB and UPN.

Back to the Godfather, since Vigoda was never born, he couldn't play Sal Tessio. Instead, Francis Ford Coppola campaigned long and hard for his favorite actor to get the part, Fred "Herman Munster" Gwynne. Predictably, Gwynne was a big hit. His career took off. Obviously, he didn't have time for crap such as Pet Sematary, Disorganized Crime or My Cousin Vinny. Without Gwynne's fine acting, My Cousin Vinny flopped. Marisa Tomei did not win the Oscar. Her career floundered. She couldn't get any legitimate work. Henrietta Holm, Kitty from the Kitty and Stud's series, was starting to really show the wear and tear. Someone had to take her place. Enter Tomei.

We know from last month that Burgess Meredith landed most of Vigoda's juicy parts, but what about Ray Walston? Vigoda's roles in Vasectomy: A Delicate Matter, Look Who's Talking and Joe Versus the Volcano were played by Walston. At the same time, Walston managed to film The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington, Private School and Saturday the 14th Strikes Back. Unfortunately, he was not available for Popeye or Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The role of Poopdeck Pappy instead went to Ernest Borgnine and Mr. Hand was played by David Schramm, best known for his work as Roy Biggins on Wings.

Schramm was a huge hit as Mr. Hand. In fact, his performance was so strong that the spin-off TV series Fast Times stayed on the air for years. It continued until Schramm left the show for his part on Wings. After several years on Wings, Schramm left to do a spin-off with Thomas Haden Church about two men living in a tiny studio apartment in Jamaica, Queens. The show, which also features Queen Latifah as the super, is called Bumpin' Bottoms. It is still on the air today. With Church busy Bumpin' Bottoms with Schramm, he never filmed Ned and Stacey.

Without Ned and Stacey, Debra Messing didn't really do much TV work except for those few spots on Seinfeld. Her part as Lt. Penelope Carpenter in the 1997 movie McHale's Navy was a hit. In fact, the audience reaction to her role combined with a swelling appreciation for Borgnine made McHale's Navy a box office smash. The 1999 sequel, which focused on the growing attraction between Messing and Borgnine, did even better. The third installment in the series is expected soon, and Messing and Borgnine are negotiating a deal with UPN for a TV adaptation. With Messing busy with Borgnine, she never auditioned for Grace in NBC's Will and Grace. The show was instead cast with Ellen DeGeneres. It never made it out of production. Yet another blow to an already weakened NBC.

Next month: Find out what all of this is going to do to NBC. And, we reveal who did the voice for Sal the Wheezer in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

Follow this link to Part 3 of No Fish.



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