Well, the esteemed Dr. Demento was in fact featured on a television pilot called Welcome to the Fun Zone which aired on June 2nd of 1984. A 90-minute attempt to be picked up as a replacement for none other than Saturday Night Live – during the Summer break for that series. Welcome to the Fun Zone boasted some pretty remarkable talent for the pilot – comedians and musicians both. You had the likes of Weird Al Yankovic, Howie Mandel, Carlos Santana, Marc Weiner, Bozo the Clown, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, John Paragon, Booker T. Jones, and The Flying Karamazov Brothers. In addition Welcome to the Fun Zone featured three hosts – Rusty Cundieff, Tawny Moyer, and Charles Zucker. Interestingly enough while Welcome to the Fun Zone didn’t get picked up – Cundieff would go on to become a Director – helming the 1995’s horror anthology Tales from the Hood before going on to Chapelle’s Show and The Wanda Sykes Show. By 1984 when the pilot for the proposed series had aired, Moyer had already landed the role as Nurse Jill in 1981’s Halloween II and Michael Crichton’s Looker. Zucker had been cast in 1979’s The Warriors in an uncredited role as Straw Hat but ended up playing Malcom in 1985’s Teen Wolf. Here is another fun fact for you, the Weird Al Yankovic tune entitled Fun Zone that he played at his concerts was written for this failed TV series – it’s madcap and energetic beat is perfect for what the show was attempting to capture. It also made a great intro for Michael Richard’s character of Stanley Spadowski in 1989’s UHF – featured on the soundtrack to that cult classic film!
That is not all though as there are a couple of special video segments, one which stars John Candy, Green Acres‘ Alvy Moore and I believe Sid Melton too, and John Carradine – in a mock horror film ‘The Golf Course that Dripped Blood’. There is obviously a reason that Welcome to the Fun Zone didn’t get picked up but there are some diamonds buried in the rough and to be totally fair I’m sure the series would have gotten better. Two of my favorite segments involve the Wind-Up Toy Olympics as well as a claymation short by Will Vinton entitled The Great Cognito – a 1982 Oscar nominated short film. I know that this was intended to have played at the same time as Saturday Night Live but I was a little shocked by some of the more risque humor – especially with a skit starring John Paragon as an unhinged movie critic. Paragon is probably best known for his role as Jambi the Genie from Pee-wee’s Playhouse and the voice of Pterri – he would also portray Richard Fletcher in 1989’s UHF.
Welcome to the Fun Zone presents an interesting look at what might have been – enjoyable music and the special video segments and The Flying Karamazov Brothers are quite entertaining. The obvious attempt at capturing the attention of teenagers and young adults of the day with the large sets and musical acts is noteworthy as is the role of Dr. Demento in the show. What direction Welcome to the Fun Zone would have taken if picked up is anyone’s guess – at least we have the opportunity to watch the pilot!