The roller derby ain’t what it used to be on TV. One of the earliest and biggest hits for the struggling ABC network was roller derby which premiered in 1949 and managed to show up on pretty much every night of the week for the next two years. Roller derby was at one time as much a part of the fabric of television viewing as professional wrestling. While the 21st century has brought about a slump in interest–probably temporary–you can study these memorable appearances by the roller derby in TV series over the decades.
“Roller Girls” briefly gave the roller derby its own sitcom showcase in the late 1970s. The Pittsburgh Pitts were not the most creatively named sports showcase in history, but then again the Cleveland Browns have been going about their business with the most boring name imaginable for decades. Joanna Cassidy was the only roller derby girl to survive her sentence on this sitcom and go on to a much more promising career.
One of the most memorable appearances by roller derby on TV as well as one of the most memorable episodes of “Charlie’s Angels” was the infamous offering titled “Angels on Wheels.” Well, what else would you call a roller derby episode on “Charlie’s Angels” anyway? Only Farrah Fawcett-Majors took to the skates as all three Angels were called upon to investigate a mysterious death. Of course, if the Angels really wanted to investigate a mystery surrounding roller derby, they should have put their skills to use trying to find out exactly how scoring is accomplished.
King of the Hill
That mystery is touched upon lightly in the “King of the Hill” episode in which Peggy and her nice Luanne try their hand at making big money in the roller derby game. Turns out that the big money is all going into the hands of the male chauvinist pigs running the sport. So Peggy and Luanne come up with the idea for the roller derby girls to buy the team themselves. We never really do learn exactly how scoring is accomplished in roller derby, but Luanne’s husband-to-be Lucky does an admirable job trying.
More murder in the roller derby. Fake psychic detective Shawn Spencer can’t go undercover as a roller derby team member so that jobs goes to his police detective girlfriend. This particular visitation by the roller derby to a TV series features probably the most imaginative title: “Talk Derby to Me.”
Not just one but two different “CSI” TV shows found murderous gold in the roller derby. “CSI: NY” offer a story of a roller derby girl whose death came from inside out rather than the trampling she took. Down Miami, the roller derby queen never even makes it out of the locker room before she’s in need of forensics. How boring is that?