*The other reason being I don't have very many of them.
One way to do this is to look at what's new this fall. And that's quite an interesting exercise. See how many of these series, new for 1979, you recognize:
Hart to Hart (romantic mystery; Robert Wagner and Stefanie **sigh** Powers)
Out of the Blue (sitcom; James Brogan)
A New Kind of Family (sitcom; Eileen Brennan, Gwynne Gilford* and Rob Lowe)
The Associates (legal comedy; Wilfrid Hyde-White and Martin Short)
240-Robert (police drama; Mark Harmon, Joanna Cassidy and John Bennett Perry)
The Lazarus Syndrome (medical drama; Louis Gossett Jr. and Ronald Hunter)
Benson (sitcom; Robert Guillaume)
*Not to be confused with Glynn Griffing, former quarterback for the New York Football Giants, or Gwyn Griffin, author of An Operational Necessity. Or Fred Gwynne, for that matter.
Working Stiffs (sitcom; Michael Keaton and Jim Belushi)
Big Shamus, Little Shamus (family detectives; Brian Dennehy and Doug McKeon)
Paris (crime drama; James Earl Jones)
Trapper John, M.D. (medical drama; Pernell Roberts and Gregory Harrison)
California Fever (sitcom; Lorenzo Lamas, Jimmy McNichol and Marc McClure)
The Last Resort (sitcom; Robert Costanz and a large ensemble)
Struck by Lightning (sitcom; Jack Elam and Jeffrey Kramer)
A Man Called Sloane (spy thriller; Robert Conrad)
The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo (police comedy; Claude Akins)
From Here to Eternity (war drama; William Devane, Don Johnson, Barbara Hershey and Roy Thinnes)
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (sci-fi; Gil Gerard and Erin Gray)
Shirley (sitcom; Shirley Jones, Tracey Gold and Rosanna Arquette)
Eischied (crime drama; Joe Don Baker)
Now, the sad thing is that I remember most of those shows. Not all of them, mind you, but this was the second year back in civilization for me after having spent six years in the world's worst town, and I suppose I was gorging myself with television, good and bad.
|SOURCE FOR ALL: HADLEY TV GUIDES|
*The Lazarus Syndrome tried to sell us the idea that a man (Hunter) recovering from heart surgery would, in his effort to give his life meaning, take on a job as a hospital administrator. No stress in that, right?
I don't know how this season ranks in television's panoply; I suspect there have been worse, but I doubt that this one went into the Television Hall of Fame.
The miniseries is still all the rage, and the networks are lined up to give 'em to you. Unlike the days of Roots and Rich Man, Poor Man, however, the focus is on shorter, more concentrated stories, running for no more than two or three nights.* ABC gives us The French Atlantic Affair (which wasn't quite as bad as you might think, considering it featured Telly Savalas and Chad Everett) and Masada (with Peter Strauss and Peter O'Toole, which was quite good), while CBS gives us six hours' worth of Judith Kranz' Scruples. NBC, which was a pioneer in turning the miniseries into a weekly series, gives us The Gangster Chronicles, The Martian Chronicles, and The Convertible Chronicles. Wait, I got carried away with that one; it's actually The Last Convertible.
*The two-night ones used to be called "two-part movies."
It's too bad about the miniseries, a genre which in general I quite liked. Look at Rich Man, Poor Man, Roots and Holocaust - all memorable, ground-breaking series. But, as was the case with Who Wants to be a Millionaire, you invariably reach a saturation point where your lust for the dollar causes you to push things a little too far, and for the miniseries that might well have come when ABC did Washington: Behind Closed Doors in 1977. I don't think it's a coincidence that, two years after than series ran, the miniseries was on its way to becoming much, much shorter.
Back in 1979, the slack in network miniseries was being picked up by PBS, which still enthralled viewers with mammoth productions on Masterpiece Theater - Poldark (13 parts), Love of Lydia (12 parts) and The Duchess of Duke Street (15 parts) were the headliners. Alas, even PBS has given up the miniseries ghost nowadays, but that's not all it's missing.
***For some time, Wall Street Journal critic and blogger Terry Teachout has been critical of PBS' negligence of the arts. Even though PBS executives have admitted that they fall short in this area, those same executives have acknowledged, through their programming decisions, that they don't intend to do anything about it. As he recently noted, the network's 2014-15 fall schedule "includes no ballet or modern dance, no classic theater, no real jazz, no opera save for “Porgy [and Bess]” and no classical music of any kind." Such was not always the case, however, for the organization whose original mandate is "to enrich man's spirit." For the 1979-80 season, PBS's Great Performances show includes "a back-to-back production of Jean Cocteau's "The Human Voice" and a film of the Poulenc opera [La voix humaine] based on the play," a film version of Carmen directed by Franco Zeffirelli, Live From Lincoln Center performances by Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne, Metropolitan Opera productions from Verdi's Otello to Kurt Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahoganny, and anthology programs based on American short stories, including those of author John Cheever. Finding words to describe what has happened to PBS over the past 35 years that are also appropriate to a family blog escape me, but as culture has dumbed down, we see only too obviously how the nation's preeminent cultural medium has followed suit.
The NFL rolls out its new season, with what we today would call a "limited schedule." I mean, there are only 20 games scheduled in prime-time - the 16 Monday night games, plus four Sunday night specials that ABC plans to carry. Contrast that with this year's schedule, which includes games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday night virtually every week of the season - 50 games by my count. And to think - the Sunday night ratings in 1979 were poor enough that some people actually thought there was too much football on TV. Suckers.
Then, there's ABC's college football schedule. ABC was the only network to offer regular season games in 1979, and their schedule includes 13 national and 45 regional games. Today, between ABC, CBS, Fox, the ESPNs, CBS College, Fox Sports 1 and 2, and the regional networks, you can see practically that many games every week. They were all played on Saturday, too, except for Labor Day night and the odd Thursday/Friday games of Thanksgiving weekend. There were little more than a dozen bowl games, all but a handful being shown on the networks. (The remainder were broadcast on the late, great Mizlou network.)
Let's not overlook college basketball in the mix, though. Besides the NCAA tournament (expanding to an incredible 48 teams, not to be confused with the 68 that take part today), NBC offers 90 national and regional broadcasts starting on January 5. Would that the television season waited until then today - I daresay the average basketball fan has probably had access to that many games during the the season's first month. It was about then, as I recall, that the Big Ten Conference (which at the time only had ten teams) voted down a proposal to create a nationally televised Wednesday night Game of the Week. Big Ten teams only played on Thursday and Saturday (barring the rare Sunday afternoon game), the powers that be dictated. And anyway, who would want to see that much basketball?
Well, you get the point. I like sports as much as many people, and I like having a choice of which game to watch - but as Captain Kirk once said, "too much of anything, even love, isn't necessarily a good thing."
We've often discussed movies, and how the really big theatrical ones have more or less disappeared from over-the-air television. That trend, of course, had not yet appeared in 1979, and TV Guide critic Judith Crist brings us a hint of what we can look forward to: Annie Hall, Jaws, Looking for Mr. Goodbar and Benji on ABC, Coming Home, The Outlaw Josey Wales and Dog Day Afternoon on NBC, and Bound for Glory, House Calls, Silver Streak and Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown headlining the premieres on CBS.
Oddly enough, I think that Josey Wales is the only one of these movies I've actually seen, but I feel fairly confident suggesting that with the exception of Benji and Charlie Brown, all of these movies would have been edited, some more heavily than others, for both time and content. They all would have included frequent interruptions for commercials.
So I'm not always a curmudgeon when it comes to television.
Otherwise, we have more goodies to look forward to: Ira Angustain in a highly-praised performance as Freddie Prinze in Can You Hear the Laughter? on CBS this week; the same network will also have Lesley Ann Warren as the "stripper with a heart of gold" in Portrait of a Stripper, Scott Baio and Lance Kerwin in The Boy Who Drank Too Much, David Janssen and Susannah York as a policeman and nun finding love and murder in The Golden Gate Murders, Ed Asner and Meredith Baxter in the adultery drama The Family Man, and Tom Berenger in an adaptation of Pete Hamill's Flesh and Blood, as a boxer having an incestuous affair with his mother (Suzanne Pleshette). It's heavily edited from the book, although I doubt it would be today. Not to encourage that kind of thing, but if she was playing your mom, well...
NBC has O.J. Simpson in Goldie and the Boxer, and I don't know how I missed that one, nor do I understand why I didn't see Gary Coleman in The Kid from Left Field, Eric Braeden and Melinda Fee in The Aliens are Coming, Lee Meriweather, Loretta Swit and Janet Leigh in the plastic surgery drama Mirror, Mirror or Raquel Welsh in The Legend of Walks Far Woman.
ABC touts S.O.S. Titanic, which I did see (and forgot as quickly as possible), with the aforementioned David Janssen as John Jacob Astor, Valentine, with Mary Martin and Jack Albertson in senior citizen love, The New Season starring John Ritter as a track coach mentoring street kids, Cheryl Ladd as a child abuser in A New Start, and Tony Lo Bianco in a biopic of heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano.
I make fun of many of these (and even more I didn't list) because their very descriptions sound putrid. Some of them, such as Ladd's child abuser turn, sound like obvious Emmy bait. There might have been some good ones in there, but when you can't get past the title, it's kind of hard to find out, insn't it? Maybe some of you have seen them, and you'll be able to set me straight.
Finally, some notes from, you know, actual programming.
Saturday night is the Miss America pageant, live from Atlantic City on NBC. As is customary back then, the broadcast starts at 9pm CT, running for two hours. The redoubtable Bert Parks is the host, former Miss Americas Mary Ann Mobley, Dorothy Benham and Susan Perkins are the television hosts, and the winner is Cheryl Prewitt of Mississippi. According to the always-reliable Wikipedia, her husband's brother-in-law is televangelist Richard Roberts, who's father is the famed Oral Roberts. You can't make this stuff up. The Emmys air on Sunday night, hosted by Cheryl Ladd and Henry Winkley (and even without looking at the page I could tell you it had to be on ABC) and the big winners were Taxi, Lou Grant, Roots: The Next Generation, Carroll O'Conner, Ruth Gordon, Ron Leibman and Mariette Hartley.
So that's the kickoff of the 1979-80 television season. Loyal readers know in general my low opinion of this era of TV, which I think is best summed up in a pair of Letters to the Editor. Elaine J. Johnson of Wickenburg, Arizona says the thought of Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, The Love Boat and shows like them taking the high ratings makes her wonder "if we will be deluged with more of this type of show next season," and asks the networks to "serve up fewer giggle shows and more informative, family-type entertainment." Meanwhile, Judith S. Felton of Marietta, Georgia reminds us of Newton Minow's "vast wasteland" quote and wishes the networks "would realize that there are some adults out here who don't use TV as a baby sitter and who would like a little something to entertain us." Ladies, from 35 years in the future, I feel your pain.