Bay City Blues

Bay City Blues

1983 - United States

Review by Mike Spadoni

As of this writing, no fictional series set in the world of baseball has succeeded. Not even Steven Bochco-the man behind the groundbreaking Hill Street Blues-could hit a home run by using the same formula that worked for cops and applying it to a minor-league ball team. As a result, Bay City Blues was one of the more notable flops of the 1983-84 US television season.

According to a "TV Guide" article of the time, "Bay City" was forced upon NBC by MTM Productions, which threatened to take the baseball drama to another network if it did not renew the studio's low-rated but critically acclaimed medical series St. Elsewhere. NBC accepted the deal, and it paid off-sort of. St. Elsewhere thrived and remained on the network's schedule through 1988, but "Bay City" lasted less than a month.

Set in the blue-collar town of Bay City, California, the Bluebirds were a local baseball team where the newcomers learned their skills-and hoped to move on to the major leagues. It was also a team where once-great major league players went to spend their remaining years in the sport. The large ensemble cast included Michael Nouri who played team manager Joe Rohner; Pat Corley as baseball team owner Ray Holtz; Bernie Casey and Dennis Franz as coaches Ozzie Peoples and Angelo Carbone respectively; and Marco Rodriguez who dressed up as the team's mascot, the "Bluebird". Also on the series was Kelly Harmon as Sunny Hayward, the wife of a powerful banker who was having an affair with Joe. A relatively unknown Sharon Stone played Cathy St. Marie, the wife of one of the players.

Like "Hill Street," this series looked at sex from a grown-up's perspective, and there was plenty of bed hopping besides the Sunny-Joe relationship. One of the players even had a "deep dark secret"-he was a bedwetter, possibly a first for an American series.

NBC promoted the series as being "from the co-creator of 'Hill Street Blues'", but it lacked the spark of optimism that motivated the "Hill Street" squad. Viewers switched over to ABC's newest hit from Aaron Spelling, the husband-wife detective series Hart to Hart.

Bay City Blues was quickly pulled from the NBC lineup, despite airing just a few of its 8 out of 13 intended episodes. (The remaining episodes were burned off, with some airing late Sunday nights after NBC stations aired their local newscasts as well as being aired by selected affiliates in two-hour blocks. Despite its cancellation, the series found new life when ESPN Classic acquired the rights and aired all eight episodes in 2011.

Sharon Stone went on to a rather successful film career; Franz would find more success when he later became a regular cast member of "Hill Street" (and later NYPD Blue); Michelle Greene (who played the wife of yet another player) would move on to L.A. Law. "Bay City" proved to be a temporary setback for Steven Bochco. An actual stadium was built for the show, which cost big money when combined with the large ensemble cast. As a result, MTM Productions lost big money when the show was quickly cancelled. Bochco was also running up deficits on Hill Street Blues; by late 1984, Bochco was fired by MTM, but would go on to make a comeback.

Bay City Blues may have had a short life, but it did break ground in one sense. It was the first US broadcast series to show actors' bare behinds during the show's locker room scenes. The viewer will have to decide whether that "first" was a step forward for television. Or not.

Published on April 1st, 2024. Written by Mike Spadoni (2003) for Television Heaven.

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