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The Untold Truth Of The Ferris Bueller TV Series – Looper
The Untold Truth Of The Ferris Bueller TV Series - Looper,You've heard of the film, but did you know there was a "Ferris Bueller" TV series in the '90s? We take a look at the untold truth of the short-lived sitcom.

The Untold Truth Of The Ferris Bueller TV Series – Looper

The mere mention of Ferris Bueller evokes memories of Matthew Broderick’s infamous slacker extraordinaire in the John Hughes teen comedy classic. Even Broderick himself accepted that he would always be seen as the school-skipping teen. While a spin-off movie titled “Sam and Victor’s Day Off” is in the works — courtesy of “Cobra Kai” producers Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, and Josh Heald — another Ferris Bueller-related project was released four years after the movie.

Released in 1990, the “Ferris Bueller” TV show ran for 13 episodes across a single season. While not a remake or continuation, the sitcom takes place in its own unique vacuum but features many of the characters from the film. However, none of the actors from the film carry over. Instead, Charlie Schlatter, Brandon Douglas, Ami Dolenz, Richard Rehle, and Jennifer Aniston play the parts of Ferris, Cameron Frye, Sloan Peterson, Principal Ed Rooney, and Jeannie Bueller respectively.

The “Ferris Bueller” TV series failed to make a splash in pop culture as the film did, but it’s still a fascinating production to revisit since most people forget it even exists. After all, it was Ferris who once said: “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” So, let’s stop and take a look back at Ferris Bueller’s small-screen exploits. 

John Hughes had nothing to do with the Ferris Bueller TV series

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John Hughes defined a generation of cinema for moviegoers. From “The Breakfast Club” to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the filmmaker created the archetype for teen movies in the ’80s and early ’90s. As the writer, director, and co-producer of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Hughes played a major role in shaping the final film and was deeply invested in making his vision come to reality. So much so that Matthew Broderick revealed that the filmmaker and himself had their issues on set about his specific acting style.

Despite the occasional butting of heads, Broderick admitted how he and Hughes stayed in touch after the production and discussed the possibility of a sequel, throwing around a few ideas between them. However, what arrived next was the “Ferris Bueller” TV series — sans Broderick and Hughes. Despite conceiving the story and creating the characters, Hughes didn’t participate in the show at all — not even as an executive producer like some creators choose to be in adaptations of their works.

Instead, John Masius created the sitcom, serving as the showrunner for its sole season on air. Masius is better known for being the creator of the drama series “Touched by an Angel” and “Hawthorne.”

Charlie Schlatter thinks the series had the wrong writers

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“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” made over $70 million on a $5 million budget in 1986. These are the kind of numbers that make executives sit up and take notice, rubbing their hands at the prospect of making more money off the franchise. However, the people involved in bringing the story to the small screen underestimated the value of the team who made the movie and decided against bringing them on board. For Charlie Schlatter — the star of the sitcom — the series failed to click, not because of the lack of talent but due to the wrong people for the project.

In an interview with PremiumBeat, Schlatter explained how the pilot for “Ferris Bueller” broke the most-watched record for the time, though it quickly fell apart thereafter. “But it wasn’t very good,” he said. “We had good actors, good directors, and good writers — they just weren’t the right writers for this project. We needed to be doing what they were doing with ‘Parker Lewis Can’t Lose’ — when it ended, I had already emotionally moved on.”

Schlatter mentioned “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose,” which also debuted in 1990. The sitcom, which stars Corin Nemec as Parker Lewis, holds many similarities with “Ferris Bueller” as it also follows a popular teenager and his friends as they navigate high school and involve themselves in all sorts of tomfoolery. Unlike “Ferris Bueller,” though, “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” ran for three seasons.

Jennifer Aniston and Charlie Schlatter had a relationship despite playing siblings

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Before playing the affable Rachel Green on “Friends,” Jennifer Aniston secured a coveted role in the “Ferris Bueller” TV series. In the sitcom, Aniston plays Jeannie Bueller, Ferris’ antagonistic sister who isn’t a fan of how much attention her brother gets. Despite the sibling rivalry on screen, sparks flew between the pair behind the scenes.

Writing for GQ, Jim Nelson — GQ’s ex-editor-in-chief and a former assistant on “Ferris Bueller” — spilled the tea on what it was like working on the set. He revealed that Aniston was pleasant enough to work with and attracted a few admirers — namely her co-star and on-screen brother, Charlie Schlatter. “Everyone on set thought she was hot, including Schlatter, with whom she had a brief, torrid romance,” Nelson stated, “while playing, it must be said, his older sister.” Of course, there’s nothing unusual about romances developing between co-stars on set, regardless of which parts they play in the production. Their relationship was short-lived, however, and four years later Schlatter married Colleen Gunderson. 

Ferris Bueller received a critical beatdown


“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” holds an 82% critical approval rating and 92% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, symbolizing how it’s a universally beloved movie by both reviewers and fans. The same can’t be said about the TV show, though, which meanders with a 10% critical approval rating. It also isn’t a case of the series aging well over the years and receiving a critical reexamination, as the consensus has largely stayed the same and most people view it as an unnecessary addition in the franchise.

Boston Globe let loose in its review of the sitcom, stating: “Broderick’s Ferris was the kind of high-schooler that other kids would want to hang with; Schlatter’s is the kind other kids would want to hang.” Yikes. While it was mostly lashing after lashing, “Ferris Bueller” received a positive review from the Los Angeles Times, as the publication found the show to be entertaining enough and Schlatter’s portrayal of Ferris to be slick and compelling even if it isn’t quite on the same level as Broderick’s version of the character.

The Incredible Hulk actor directed two episodes

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For many fans, the name Bill Bixby is synonymous with the 1977 superhero series “The Incredible Hulk.” On the show, Bixby portrays Dr. David Banner (whose first name is changed from Bruce in the comics) who turns into the lean, green, and mean gamma-fuelled monster known as the Hulk, played by Lou Ferrigno. While most viewers are familiar with Bixby as Banner, he also appeared in other notable TV productions such as “My Favorite Martian” and “The Magician.”

In addition to being an actor, Bixby directed numerous TV episodes for a variety of shows, including “Ferris Bueller.” The filmmaker helmed the second (“Behind Every Dirtbag”) and eleventh (“Baby You Can’t Drive My Car”) episodes of the series. One has to wonder if the ratings for “Ferris Bueller” may have improved if Bixby and Ferrigno cameoed and were allowed to “hulk up” and deal with Ferris’ foes on the show.

Richard Riehle hadn’t seen the movie before auditioning


In “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the Dean of Students, Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) serves as the main antagonist of the film. Rooney suspects Ferris Bueller is up to no good and wants to take him down a notch. For the TV series, Richard Riehle takes over the role of Principal Rooney, once again being Ferris’ primary foil here. Riehle is a notable and established character actor, having appeared in television shows such as “Better Off Ted” and “Grounded for Life,” and films like “Office Space” (which he stars in alongside his “Ferris Bueller” castmate Jennifer Aniston) and “The Fugitive.”

Speaking to The A.V. Club, Riehle revealed how the “Ferris Bueller” TV series marked the first time he auditioned to be a regular on a show. Surprisingly, despite the pop-culture euphoria over “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the actor hadn’t watched the film until he had a vested interest in the adaptation. “Up until then, I hadn’t seen the movie, but as soon as I got the audition, I saw it, and I really liked it,” he said. Riehle also added how watching the movie helped him to prepare since he didn’t feel overwhelmed stepping into the important role of Rooney for the TV show verison.

Teachers didn’t believe it accurately represented high school


Considering “Ferris Bueller” focused on Ferris and his teenage friends, high school features predominantly in the overall storyline. In 1990, teen shows were all the rage, with the likes of “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” complementing “Ferris Bueller” on screen. However, teachers of the era didn’t believe many of these shows reflected the actual high school experience.

Mike Morrill, a former teacher at Roosevelt High, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the shows of the time, believing many of them failed to address what the kids were actually concerned with. He explained how many of his students worried about their futures and not a lot of that was covered in the series that seemed to portray the kids as more vapid.

Discussing “Ferris Bueller,” showrunner John Masius explained how it was created and intended to be breezy entertainment from the get-go. “It’s a comedy — a teenage fantasy with adult sensibilities — and not to be taken as anything more than that,” he said. He also defended the protagonist, saying, “The show is not mean-spirited; Ferris cares about his friends, his family … He is a good person and he’s honest — he doesn’t take life that seriously.”

The cast thought there would be a second season of the Ferris Bueller TV series


No actor boards a TV show predicting it will be canned after a single season — especially if the show is based on an established property and features serious backing from the network or streamer. However, “Ferris Bueller” had the indignation of being canceled before its final episode aired. After a strong debut in August 1990, the ratings plummeted and the plug was pulled in December 1990. However, its final episode only aired in August 1991.

Speaking to Notre Dame Magazine, Richard Riehle discussed how he didn’t even get a call to say the show was done and had to find out about the termination through the grapevine. Turns out none of the cast was aware of it being in any danger of cancellation, either, as they went about their business as usual. “We didn’t even have a wrap party because everyone thought we’d be back after we shot our last scenes,” Riehle said. “But things change.”

Reportedly, as early as October 1990, the writing was on the wall for the show, as speculation mounted that “Ferris Bueller” would be walking the network plank.

Ami Dolenz didn’t imitate Mia Sara’s Sloane Peterson

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According to Richard Riehle, Ami Dolenz wasn’t the first choice to play Sloan Peterson in the “Ferris Bueller” TV series. He couldn’t recall the other actor’s name he met at the reading but remembered how she looked exactly like Mia Sara, who portrayed the original role in the movie. Nonetheless, Riehle thought Dolenz did a great job as Sloan in this adaptation.

Much like Riehle and the rest of her co-stars, Dolenz’s performance would always be compared to her counterpart in the movie. However, she didn’t try to copy what Sara did before her. “I think I went a different direction,” Dolenz told Pop Geeks. “Of course I saw the movie. I loved it. It was a great movie, but I did try and make it my own a little bit more. I’m not quite sure what direction that was, but I worked with the actors and talked to the director and producers, and just kind of made it my own.”

After starring in “Ferris Bueller,” Dolenz appeared in straight-to-video films like “Tick” and “Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings” as well as TV shows such as “Rules of Engagement” and “Murder, She Wrote.” Dolenz is the daughter of the Monkees’ drummer and vocalist Micky Dolenz.

Jennifer Aniston channeled her Ferris Bueller character’s performance in another movie

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Out of all the actors to appear in the “Ferris Bueller” show, Jennifer Aniston stands out as the one who has achieved the most success. The setback of the series’ cancellation didn’t prevent her from becoming a television icon and a leading player in Hollywood for years to come. While the “Ferris Bueller” experience didn’t bring her the career boost she may have expected at the time, Aniston channeled Jeannie Bueller’s attitude into another later performance.

In the 2016 comedy film “Office Christmas Party,” Aniston portrays Carol Vanstone, the interim CEO of the company who threatens to lay off a large portion of the company and cancel the Christmas party. Clay (T.J. Miller) — the branch manager and Carol’s brother — concocts a plan to save the employees’ jobs and host the biggest Christmas bash ever.

Speaking to Vanity Fair, Aniston explained how she enjoyed playing the role and viewed a little bit of Jeannie in Carol. “I saw my character like a grown-up version of Jeannie from ‘Ferris Bueller,'” she said. “My character and T.J.’s character have this ‘Ferris Bueller’ all-grown-up type of a relationship. He’s always messing things up and getting away with it, while she never gets a break. She has a lot of resentment because of that. She’s constantly trying to prove she is better than him and everyone. That’s why she isn’t so nice and warm.”

Jennifer Aniston isn’t keen on a Ferris Bueller TV series reunion

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Jennifer Aniston and her “Friends” co-stars made headlines when they returned for the reunion special in 2021. After nearly two decades since the sitcom came to an end in 2004, they regrouped to give fans a slice of nostalgia and happiness to see them all together again on screen. Reunions and revisits aren’t unusual in the entertainment industry — particularly for sitcoms as they have very loyal audiences –  but don’t expect to see Aniston clamoring for a “Ferris Bueller” reunion anytime soon.

When stopped by Access Hollywood and shown photos of her time in “Ferris Bueller,” she joked around about her questionable fashion choices. After the reporter asked Aniston about the possibility of a reunion, the actor said: “That would be a really absolute no. I don’t think even half of those actors are even still in the business. Some of them have left and gone on to do other really wonderful, noble things.” She reiterated that it’s “a hard no” from her in terms of this ever happening.

Charlie Schlatter went on to become a superhero

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“Ferris Bueller” proved to be Charlie Schlatter’s first major role on TV. While the series failed to become a smash hit, it didn’t derail the actor’s career. Schlatter continued to find regular work, appearing in “Diagnosis: Murder,” “Touched by an Angel,” and “Police Academy: Mission to Moscow.” However, his biggest success came as a voice actor, starring in popular shows such as “The Fairly OddParents” and “Kim Possible.”

In addition, Schlatter provided the voice for the DC superhero The Flash on numerous occasions. He showed up as the Scarlet Speedster in “Superman: The Animated Series” and has continued to sporadically race in to voice the different iterations of the character in other projects such as “Justice League Action” and “The Batman.” He has also voiced The Flash and a handful of other characters in the “Lego Batman” video games.

How many other of Schlatter’s co-stars can say they starred in the “Ferris Bueller” TV series and went on to become members of the Justice League? Not even Jennifer Aniston can claim that.