Monday, April 25, 2011

Madeline Kahn in Chameleon (1986)

Obscurity factor: 10+

One of my favorite performers is Madeline Kahn. She was the subject of the first post on this blog in The Dove. Her comic timing and delivery was second to none, and she was also a classically trained singer. Her film roles, beginning with my favorite film, What's Up Doc, were many, varied and always left an impression. She also left her mark in television, but never found success with her own situation comedy, though she tried twice, that I know of. Her first attempt was in 1983 with Oh, Madeline and her second was this series called Chameleon. In it she plays Violet, a girl who is chronically board with working. She takes and leaves jobs at the drop of a pay check. In this pilot, she's concerned about her mother, who she's afraid is being taken at a weight clinic. So, after abandoning her latest job at a vet, she attempts to get an egomaniacal consumer advocate (George Wyner) to investigate by hilariously bluffing her way into his office. The bluff doesn't work, but it's witnessed by the owner of the station (Henry Jones) who says that if she investigates the clinic herself and finds they're bilking the public he'll personally guarantee that they'll air it on the show. Will she land the job of her dreams?

Chameleon was a summer replacement series, and came and went very quickly. So few people remember it that it isn't even listed on IMDB. It's not available on DVD and to my knowledge, can only be seen on YouTube thanks to an upload by lobbiesforme. Above is part one of the pilot.

Obscurity factor: 10+ (not on DVD, largely forgotten, not listed on IMDB)


  1. For a variety of reasons, I didn't have a TV for most of the 1980s, but I've never felt I missed much ... until now! Chameleon is total news for me and I thank you for unearthing it.

  2. Wow! This is a real find! I remember "Oh Madeline," which I never missed. But this one I never even knew existed. To not even have an entry in IMDB is almost unheard of! And with a cast that included Ms Kahn, Nina Foch, and Henry Jones to boot! A lot of summer replacement shows in the 80s and 90s were put on the air without much publicity, as opposed to the 70s when they definitely got more of a push.

    I see this episode was directed by John Rich. What show didn't than man direct? Everything from "I Married Joan" to "The Dick Van Dyke Show" to "Gilligan's Island" to "The Brady Bunch" to "All in the Family" and so many others.

  3. Yes, it's nice to have this one as "our little secret." And what a great performance Madeline Kahn gives in it!

  4. I just found this show on IMDB, as an episode of a series called "Comedy Factory:"

    Here is a description of the show: "Unsold pilot scripts are performed each week by a repertory cast and guest star. In the second season only unsold comedy pilots were aired under this umbrella title."

    It looks like "Chameleon" never made it past the pilot, unless it eventually made it as a series.

  5. Hmm, Interesting. The blurb under the video on YouTube seemed to suggest that it was a series, but then it's not annotated, who knows?

  6. The opening pick-up music after the intro sounds almost identical to the 'Mamma's Family' (series) intro theme. LOL