Coach (TV series)

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Coach
Coach title screen.jpg
Format Sitcom
Created by Barry Kemp
Starring Craig T. Nelson
Shelley Fabares
Jerry Van Dyke
Bill Fagerbakke
Clare Carey
Theme music composer John Morris
Composer(s) J.A.C Redford
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 9
No. of episodes 197 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Barry Kemp
Running time 24 minutes
Production company(s) Bungalow 78 Productions
Universal Television
Distributor NBCUniversal Television Distribution
The Program Exchange
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Original run February 28, 1989 – May 14, 1997

Coach is an American television sitcom that aired for nine seasons on ABC from 1989 to 1997. The series stars Craig T. Nelson as Hayden Fox, head coach of the fictional Division I-A college football team the Minnesota State University Screaming Eagles. For the last two seasons, Coach Fox and the supporting characters coached the Orlando Breakers, a fictional National Football League expansion team. The program also starred Jerry Van Dyke as Luther Van Dam and Bill Fagerbakke as Michael "Dauber" Dybinski, assistant coaches under Fox. The role of Hayden's girlfriend (and later wife) Christine Armstrong, a television news anchor, was played by Shelley Fabares.

Plot[edit]

In early seasons, Coach Fox continues to come to grips with the emerging womanhood of his "little girl", Kelly, now a campus coed played by Clare Carey, who enrolled at Minnesota State mainly because she wanted to be near her father. Kelly dated (and eventually married in the second season) theater mime Stuart Rosebrock (Kris Kamm), whom Hayden could not stand. Their marriage ended in 1991 after Stuart, returning from filming his own kids TV show, Buzzy the Beaver, told Kelly that he'd met another woman. While overtly supporting Kelly with her heartbreak, Coach Fox clandestinely couldn't have been happier to have "Stu" out of both of their lives. After graduating from Minnesota State in 1993, Kelly got a job at a major ad agency in New York. She was only seen in occasional guest spots thereafter.

Much of Hayden's coaching job, besides mentoring his players, was working with his defensive coordinator Luther Van Dam (Jerry van Dyke), a lifelong bachelor who often struggled with self-confidence, and special teams coach Michael "Dauber" Dybinski (Bill Fagerbakke), an ex-player at Minnesota State and a stereotypical "dumb jock" whose ongoing joke was that he had not yet graduated from Minnesota State despite being enrolled for several years (he would later graduate with three bachelor's degrees in physical education, business administration, and forestry without even knowing it until he got his transcript for that semester), but who would often surprisingly be of intellectual help to the team, usually learned from a class he was attending or because he was a fan of Nova. Another person Hayden could not stand was the ladies' basketball coach Judy Watkins, whom Hayden often got into prank wars with. His relationship with her was complicated by the fact that Dauber dated her until 1995, when she confessed to an affair after returning from a coaching job in Romania. Also seen throughout the run was Minnesota State athletic director Howard Burleigh (Kenneth Kimmins) and his nutty wife, Shirley (Georgia Engel), who were close friends with Hayden and Christine.

At the end of season 7, Hayden is offered a job with a fictional NFL expansion team called the "Orlando Breakers". Hayden agrees and takes his coaching staff with him for the final two seasons. The Foxes adopted a baby boy named Timothy (played by twins Brennan and Brian Felker). Many season 9 episodes focused on the couple's newfound joy of parenthood, as they had been unable to conceive a child together before they decided to adopt.

Origins[edit]

The series was originally intended to reflect the University of Minnesota, although the school would later retract its support. The creator and producer of the show, Barry Kemp, an alumnus of the University of Iowa, paid homage to his alma mater by naming the main character of Coach (Hayden Fox) after the University of Iowa's longtime football coach Hayden Fry. Many of the exterior shots of "Minnesota State" are actually of the University of Iowa, usually of students walking around the Iowa Memorial Union in downtown Iowa City. The screen shot when returning from commercial breaks is of the outside of the Hillcrest dormitory. There are also numerous shots of Quadrangle Residence Hall as well as the Field House, which once served as the venue for University of Iowa basketball.

Cast[edit]

Principal cast[edit]

Actor Role Years
Craig T. Nelson Hayden Fox 1989–1997
Shelley Fabares Christine Armstrong 1989–1997
Jerry Van Dyke Luther Van Dam 1989–1997
Bill Fagerbakke Michael "Dauber" Dybinski 1989–1997
Clare Carey Kelly Fox 1989–1994
Kris Kamm Stuart Rosebrock 1989–1991
Kenneth Kimmins Howard Burleigh 1989–1997
Georgia Engel Shirley Burleigh 1989-1997
Katherine Helmond Doris Sherman 1995–1997

Recurring roles and guest stars[edit]

Family connections[edit]

  • Nanette Fabray, Shelley Fabares's aunt, appeared as Christine Armstrong's mother, Mildred, in four episodes.
  • Mike Farrell, Shelley Fabares's husband, appeared as Jeffrey in one episode.
  • Noah Nelson, Craig T. Nelson's son, appeared as Kevin, the biological father of the baby whom Hayden and Christine Fox adopt, in two episodes. He also appeared as Minnesota State football player Cody Wilson in one episode and as a delivery boy in another episode.
  • Dick Van Dyke, Jerry Van Dyke's brother, appeared as an uncredited extra in one episode as one of Luther's distant relatives.

Setting[edit]

Minnesota State University[edit]

The fictional Minnesota State University was intended to reflect the University of Minnesota and its team the Golden Gophers, but the University of Minnesota withdrew its approval. At the time, no school was named Minnesota State University, but since then two schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System have renamed themselves such: Minnesota State University, Mankato (formerly Mankato State University) and Minnesota State University Moorhead (formerly Moorhead State University), in 1999 and 2000, respectively.

Cast of Coach in Seasons 8 and 9 (left to right): Kenneth Kimmins, Shelley Fabares, Craig T. Nelson, Bill Fagerbakke, Katherine Helmond, and Jerry Van Dyke

During the course of the show, Minnesota State is never mentioned to belong to any college football conference. The Screaming Eagles were mentioned to play big-name schools like Michigan State and Tennessee, but other fictional schools, such as Western Colorado, are also mentioned. This could imply that Minnesota State acts as an independent in college football. The Minnesota State Screaming Eagle school colors of purple and gold are also the colors for Minnesota State University, Mankato and the Minnesota Vikings. The University of Minnesota has school colors of maroon and gold. The location for the fictional Minnesota State University is never established. In the intro of the show, the magazine on which Coach Fox is seen says Chattanooga U. It is not located within the Twin Cities. Outdoor shots of campus and stadium were filmed at Kinnick Stadium at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, where creator Barry Kemp went to college. In several episodes, Hayden Fox refers to visiting Christine in the Twin Cities, and it is evident that he is maintaining a long-distance relationship.

The Coach opening theme by John Morris, which also served as the Minnesota State Screaming Eagles school song, bears more than a passing resemblance to the Minnesota March authored by John Phillip Sousa. In the early 90s, the producers of the show held a contest to have a real college marching band record the theme song for the show. The contest was won by the Iowa State University Cyclone Football 'Varsity' Marching Band, and their recording was used as the theme until the series ended. The Iowa State University Cyclone Football 'Varsity' Marching Band was also shown in the opening sequence of the show.[1][2]

In the 1993–1994 television season, Hayden Fox led his Minnesota State Screaming Eagles to victory in the Pioneer Bowl, held in San Antonio, winning the national championship. In real life, Florida State won the national championship that season. The Alamodome opened in May 1993, in time for the real-life 1993 football season. However, the first Alamo Bowl and Pioneer Bowl games had not been played yet. Also, the real-life Pioneer Bowl is not even an NCAA Division I game but rather a postseason game played between the champions of two Division II conferences whose members are all historically black schools. Footage from the 1993 edition of the Wisconsin vs. Minnesota rivalry game played in the Metrodome was used for the actual game to represent Minnesota State and the fictional West Texas University (not to be confused with the real West Texas A&M University or Texas Western College, now known as UTEP). Al Michaels provides the commentary during the game.

Orlando Breakers[edit]

In the 1995 season, Hayden Fox gets a chance to fulfill his ultimate dream and become the head coach of an NFL team. He accepts the head coaching position with the (fictional) expansion team the Orlando Breakers, owned by recent widow Doris Sherman (played by Katherine Helmond). Sherman, however, is more interested in making money off of the team as well as gimmicks (such as asking if Hayden would like to coach a basketball team she was thinking of buying after selling the Breakers and trading away their first-round draft pick for a pair of cruise tickets) than she is in letting Coach Fox guide the Breakers to success on the football field. Nearly the entire crew from Minnesota State followed Fox to Orlando, including Luther and Dauber, who remained his assistant coaches. In the final season, Hayden is able to coach the Breakers to a wild card spot in the NFL Playoffs but loses to the Buffalo Bills in that playoff game at Buffalo.

The name Orlando Breakers was a salute to the defunct USFL and the Portland Breakers, New Orleans Breakers, and Boston Breakers. The Breakers themselves were a parody of the fellow Florida-based Jacksonville Jaguars, who, like the Breakers, joined the NFL in 1995 as an expansion team and made the playoffs their second season as a wild card team and, like the Breakers, played the Bills in their first playoff game. (Unlike the Breakers, the Jaguars came out victorious, 30-27, eventually losing to the New England Patriots 20-6 in the AFC Championship Game.) In addition, an episode of Coach in which Sherman tries to move the Breakers to Los Angeles has shown to be a bit of foreshadowing for the Jaguars long after the series ended, as the Jaguars have since been mentioned as possibly moving to Los Angeles due to poor attendance in Jacksonville, Florida.[3][4] Another tie-in between the Breakers and the Jaguars was that the very first game the latter played in, the 1995 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game (against their expansion brethren the Carolina Panthers), aired on ABC, the same network as Coach.

Series finale[edit]

The final episode of the sitcom, entitled "Leaving Orlando", aired on ABC on May 14, 1997. The final scene in the final episode featured the whole cast thanking the audience for nine years of the show, with cast member Jerry Van Dyke denying the series ending, thinking the show must go on. But the cast and director finally tell Van Dyke that the show is truly over, with Van Dyke still denying the show's finale: As the lights go out, Van Dyke mumbles, "I'm still coming to work on Monday."

The final episode also includes an epilogue showing that Hayden retired from coaching and moved back to his cabin in Minnesota to raise his son. Dauber succeeded Hayden as the head coach of the Breakers, winning back-to-back Super Bowl championships and going on to join the Monday Night Football announcing team after his retirement from football.

Syndication[edit]

In the United States, reruns currently air on the ReelzChannel as well as in local syndication in select cities and on Deja View and Comedy Gold in Canada. Reruns have previously aired on WGN America, USA Network, and TBS.

Television ratings[edit]

Season TV Season Ranking Household Rating
2 1989–1990 #18[5] 15.65[5]
3 1990–1991 #18[6] 14.24[6]
4 1991–1992 #10[7] 15.38[7]
5 1992–1993 #6[8] 16.29[8]
6 1993–1994 #6[9] 16.39[9]
7 1994–1995 #53[10] 10.5[10]
8 1995–1996 #15[11] 12.37[11]
9 1996–1997 #64[12] 8.1[12]

Awards[edit]

Scheduling conflict with Monday Night Football[edit]

For season seven, ABC aired original episodes of Coach on Monday night, before Monday Night Football, as part of a football-themed night. This was successful on the United States east coast, where MNF games aired from 9:00 pm to 12:30 am, local time. However, on the west coast, MNF games aired from 6:00 pm to 9:30 pm (with possible overtime), leaving some Monday network programming with no time slots. During this interval, the show was aired at unusual hours on the west coast. For instance, Seattle ABC affiliate KOMO aired new episodes of Coach on Saturday afternoons (coincidentally, ABC also aired college football games most of the time on Saturday afternoons). Some fans have cited this time-slot displacement on the west coast as a reason for low ratings in season seven. Coach was moved to Tuesday nights the following season (which, as noted above and possibly not coincidentally, resulted in a bump in ratings returning Coach to the top 20).

DVD releases[edit]

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released the first four seasons of Coach on DVD in Region 1. Two different versions were released of the first season: a regular edition and a limited edition which featured special packaging (a playbook).[13]

Universal Pictures UK released season 1 on DVD in Region 2 on August 7, 2006.[14]

DVD Name Ep# Release date
The First Season 13 June 13, 2006
The Second Season 20 May 15, 2007
The Third Season 22 February 19, 2008
The Fourth Season 21 March 15, 2011

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]