NBC Buys BBC's Stressed Eric

Dateline: August 6, 1998
Updated: August 22, 2000

In 1998, NBC, no doubt "stressed" by record low ratings that summer, made a deal to show Stressed Eric, an animated series first run on the BBC earlier that year. The six episodes were shown beginning August 12th each Wednesday at 9:30 PM (ET/PT) (ironically opposite Whose Line Is It Anyway? on ABC, another British import - is this the first sign of an "invasion"?). This is the first time for over 30 years that NBC have broadcast a prime time animated comedy since The Famous Adventures of Mr Magoo.

The series was created and written by Carl Gorham in association with Los Angeles-based Klasky Csupo (the animation studio that also makes Rugrats and Duckman). As seen on the BBC, Stressed Eric concerns a corporate drone and father, Eric Feeble, who leads an impossible existence. And to prove the point, at the end of every episode a throbbing vein in his forehead leaps out and throttles him. But that's about the extent of the jokes. Okay, some of it is funny, but Duckman tackled this same territory (single fathers living a hellish existence) but was much better and funnier. Clearly the BBC (and probably NBC) was banking on duplicating the success of The Simpsons.

NBC also hedged its bet by redubbing the voice of English Everyman Eric into an American, namely Hank Azaria (The Simpsons). But if there's one thing that's been proven time after time, it's that Americans don't want to watch losers on television. And Eric is a loser of epic proportions. He never gets a break. Everything that can go wrong in his life does. It's just depressing to watch. And, as I expected, NBC took it off after only a few episodes due to low ratings.

The BBC meanwhile viewed the whole thing a huge success and a second season went out in 2000.

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