Debuting over the Nickelodeon cable channel on October 11, 2004, the weekly, half-hour Nelvana production Backyardigans enthusiastically revived a format that, on commercial TV at least, had lain virtually dormant for decades: The children's musical program. The stars were a quintet of rambunctious, computer-animated preschool animals: Austin the kangaroo, Pablo the penguin, Tyrone the moose, Tasha the hippo, and Uniqua the. . .well, no one was quite sure what Uniqua was, but she was certainly unique! In the tradition of Muppet Babies, the fearless fivesome imagined themselves into all sorts of fantastic adventures in a vast array of mythical worlds. The series' appeal--which extended far beyond the youngsters to whom it was aimed--was manifested in the splashy, CGI production numbers (running the gamut from classic Broadway to hip-hop) and complicated choreography (accomplished by filming live-action dancers in motion-capture), as the main characters gamboled around an ever-changing backdrop of sky, water, and mountains. Created by Janice Burgess and intended to stimulate the imaginations of the kids at home (which it accomplished splendidly), The Backyardigans ultimately achieved over-the-air TV play when it was added to the Saturday morning lineup of Nickelodeon's sister network CBS.
When it premiered in September 1993 - initially as a fixture on the NBC Thursday night line-up, following Seinfeld - this situation comedy turned heads with its deliberately grimy and skeevy look and setting. Night Court alumnus John Larroquette starred as John Hemingway, a man with a rather unfortunate past that involved losing a prosperous career and his family to alcohol addiction. When the program began, he was thoroughly sober, but the only steady job that he could land was the graveyard shift, managing the dangerous Crossroads bus station in an unsavory section of St. Louis. Aiding him in his attempts to run the sorry place were a loudmouthed assistant named Mahalia (Liz Torres); the place's ne'er-do-well janitor, Heavy Gene (Chi McBride); and the bigoted black manager of the snack bar, Dexter (Daryl 'Chill' Mitchell). Also lurking nearby were a couple of cops, Hampton (Lenny Clarke) and Eggers (Elizabeth Berridge) who seemed far more interested in mowing down on donuts than they were in enforcing the law. Despite its unusually dark vibe, The John Larroquette Show actually sustained healthy ratings for several years, before being cancelled midway through its fourth season, in the fall of 1996.