October 25, 2014

This week in TV Guide: October 25, 1980

It's one week until the Presidential election, and things are really heating up, with the biggest television event being a no-show in the pages of TV Guide.

We've previously looked at the controversies and difficulties surrounding the 1980 debates, and it wasn't until late in October (apparently too late to change this issue) that the one and only debate between the principal candidates, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, was agreed to.

The debate took place in Cleveland on October 28, one week to the day before Election Day, and it's said to have been the turning point in a close race becoming a landslide.*  Three things stand out from the confrontation: the President remarking on his conversation with his twelve-year-old daughter about nuclear proliferation, Reagan's response to Carter's accusations with the line, "There you go again," and the closing peroration in Reagan's final statement, in which he asked the voters "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"

*Which is another good reason not to have early voting - but that's another discussion for another day and, probably, a different blog.

The debate was one of the highest-rated television programs of the last decade, and the last time that the candidates of the two major parties would engage in, essentially, single-warrior combat.  I'm not exactly certain what it did to that night's broadcast schedule; a quick look at the listings suggests the biggest program that night was Bob Hope's two-hour election special, which may well have been interrupted for the debate and continued afterward.  In any event, it's likely that those high ratings were much better for the networks than anything they wound up preempting.

One other election note: there's a fairly extensive article with the three candidates (Reagan, Carter and Anderson) answering questions about television put to them by TV Guide.  The answers are about what you'd expect: Reagan and Anderson both think their campaigns have been, for the most part, covered fairly by the media, while Carter complains that the the press holds the incumbent's record to a higher standard than that of his challengers.  In response to a question about the predicted low voter turnout, Anderson makes a very interesting observation, that the more voters learn about candidates and officeholders the lower the turnout tends to become, though he thinks it more likely the fault of the candidates themselves than the coverage they receive.  When asked about their favorite shows, Reagan identifies news, sports, family programs and miniseries, Anderson watches news and public affairs shows, and Carter has very little time to watch anything.

***

I've written before about the complex relationship between boxing and television.  Over the years, we've seen boxing go from a thrice-weekly staple of prime-time television to a closed-circuit event in theaters and then, behind Howard Cosell, return to prime-time for big events.  This week's fight falls somewhere in-between: the network premier of the Larry Holmes-Muhammad Ali heavyweight title fight, which had been broadcast in theaters earlier in the month.  Broadcasts such as this still got big ratings, even though everyone knew the outcome, because relatively few had seen the fight in the theater, and only still photographs had been published prior to the telecast.

Ali, the man responsible for boxing's renaissance, was coming back from a two-year retirement after having won back the championship from Leon Spinks in 1978.  Holmes was considered the best heavyweight in the world, undefeated champion* since June of 1978; despite this, Ali appeared to have worked himself into good shape and a surprising number of experts gave him a good chance of regaining his crown.  In the event, the fight was a total mismatch, with Holmes dominating from the outset.  Ali's trainer, Angelo Dundee, tried to throw in the towel after the ninth round, and the fight was stopped after ten rounds, with Holmes far ahead on all scorecards.

*Of the World Boxing Council, which had stripped Spinks of the title for giving Ali a rematch rather than fulfilling his contractual obligation to defend his title against the number one contender, Ken Norton.  The champion of the World Boxing Association (the unbroken title line which passed from Spinks to Ali to John Tate) is currently Mike Weaver.  More about him in a minute. 

I'm not quite sure why the ABC advertisement talks about "The Controversy"; certainly there's no doubt that Holmes was winning the fight easily.  It could be the thyroid medication that Ali blamed in part for the loss (it supposedly helped him lose weight), or it could be the inability of the obviously dominant Holmes to knockout his idol - was he taking it easy on Ali in order not to hurt him*, or was Holmes perhaps not quite the big puncher everyone thought he was?

*Holmes appeared at the post-fight press conference with tears in his eyes over the battering he gave the former champion.

There's been some speculation that Ali was already suffering from Parkinson's disease at the time of the fight, based on Ali's reactions during the pre-fight neurological examination at the Mayo Clinic.  If this is true, as the author suggests, his ability to stand up to the beating he received from Holmes is particularly remarkable.  Here's the fight as broadcast; see what you think.


What's also interesting about this two-hour Friday night broadcast is that the lead-in to the Holmes-Ali replay is a live fight, the lightweight championship fight between James Watt and Sean O'Grady live from Glasgow, Scotland (where it was after 2:00 Saturday morning). Watt takes a fairly controversial victory, and here's the broadcast of that fight:


***

That fight was telecast on Halloween, and there's plenty of seasonal programming in store during the week.

On Tuesday night, CBS kicks things off with a three-hour condensed version of the original two-part Salem's Lot, starring David Soul.  NBC counters with a horror double-header, with The Omen on Wednesday night and it's sequel, Damien - Omen II on Thursday night.  The former stars Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, the latter William Holden and Lee Grant.  Judith Crist called them "dopey and pretentious."

SOURCE: HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION
If you want something perhaps a little less pretentious on Wednesday, CBS has its old standby, Bugs Bunny, in a "Howl-O-Ween Special," followed by Raggedy Ann and Andy in "The Pumpkin  Who Couldn't Smile."  What a sad story!  (Covered very nicely here by The Last Drive In.)  NBC's Real People follows suit with a ghost-flavored episode, including haunted houses and a medium trying to contact Elvis!  Thursday belongs to ABC, with "The Grinch That Stole Halloween," featuring Hans Conried taking the place of Boris Karloff, and "The Halloween That Almost Wasn't," with Judd Hirsch as Dracula.  Scary!

Finally, on Friday night, if the Holmes-Ali fight isn't creepy enough for you, NBC has a made-for-TV flick, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" starring Jeff Goldblum, not to be confused with the Fox series Sleepy Hollow, which doesn't star Jeff Goldblum.  The one show that's missing is the one I would have expected to see, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  Must have been on the previous week.

***

Some interesting Saturday matinee choices on local channels.  Superstation WTBS, dipping into the United Artists inventory, presents Stanley Kramer's apocalyptic On the Beach, based on Nevil Shute's brilliant novel, about which one of my colleagues has written here.  I have to admit never having seen the movie; something about the tone of it, I think; I was never able to get beyond "Waltzing Matilda" being used for the theme.  I've no doubt it's far better than the remake, though.

Meanwhile, KDLH, Channel 3 in Duluth, has the Oscar-winning foreign film Investigation of a Citizen About Suspicion, one of the great crime dramas of the '70s, with a touch of existentialism thrown in.  It's a grim story about a top Italian police inspector who murders his mistress and then plants clues to implicate himself, wanting to see how far he can get, confident that despite the evidence his fellow detectives will never dare to suspect him.  I saw this movie on television in the early '70s (a daytime matinee no less!), and even though I've only seen it once since then, both the title and the story have stuck with me since.  In a day when most of the Saturday afternoon movies are still either Westerns, schlock horror, adventure or comedy, these are two very unusual choices.

Also on Saturday, some more evidence that sports coverage in 1980 isn't quite the same as today.  WEAU, Channel 13 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, presents taped highlights of the Formula 1 Grand Prix of the United States, which had been run on October 5.  This is followed by NBC Sportsworld's presentation of taped coverage of NASCAR's Charlotte 500, held on October 5 as well.  Both of these events would be shown live today, but back then they were not only on tape, they were merely highlights.

Speaking of which, we have yet another tape-delay presentation of yet another heavyweight championship boxing match on tap as well, CBS's same-day coverage of the WBA title bout between champ Mike Weaver and challenger Gerrie Coetzee,  (I did warn you we'd get back to title fights, didn't I?) The fight was held earlier in the day in Bophuthatswana, South Africa* and recorded so it could be presented at a more suitable hour.  Weaver retains the title with a tough 13th round KO, and just to be fair here's the fateful moment as seen on Sports Spectacular.

*Try saying that five times fast.

a

***

Last but not least, a few tidbits from the rest of the television week.

The actors' strike has finally ended, which means some series are getting belated premieres.  Among the new shows to come in the next couple of months: Hill Street Blues and Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters on NBC, Magnum, P.I. on NBC, and Too Close For Comfort, Bosom Buddies and It's a Living on ABC.  The networks can't agree on when the new season starts, though.

Roger Mudd, the longtime CBS newsman who lost the replace-Walter Cronkite-sweepstakes to Dan Rather, has made the move to NBC, where he's expected to eventually take over for John Chancellor on the evening news.  He doesn't though, not really; after serving as co-anchor for awhile with Tom Brokaw, he winds up working on Meet the Press and assorted NBC newsmagazines until heading over to PBS and, later, The History Channel.

SOURCE: HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION
Charles Kuralt is taking over the weekday CBS Morning News as an expansion of his Sunday Morning program.  As I recall, the name changed each day: Monday Morning, Tuesday Morning, etc.  It lasted until 1982 (Kuralt was joined by Diane Sawyer in 1981), and it was probably the best of the morning news incarnations that CBS has tried over the last 35 years.

As a side note, I've always had an affection for WCCO, the CBS affiliate in the Twin Cities, the only one of the four main channels to remain stable in network affiliation over the years, and the last to get rid of its local kids' shows.  I've also complained, however, about their long-standing habit of preempting CBS' Sunday morning religion/culture block (Camera Three, Lamp Unto My Feet and Look Up and Live) in favor of Bowery Boys movies, not to mention how they frequently refused to air the weekday CBS morning news (which often wound up onChannel 9, the ABC affiliate).  Now, in this issue, I'm finding that WCCO doesn't carry Captain Kangaroo in the mornings, either.  Too busy airing Phil Donahue.  Remind me again what it was I liked about WCCO?

You might have noticed that this week's cover is another work of art by Al Hirschfeld, whom I wrote about here.  One of Hirschfeld's endearing traits was working the name of his daughter, Nina, into each of his portraits.  Can you find it this week's cover?

And about that cover: it's for an article on James Gregory, who plays Inspector Lugar on Barney Miller.  I know several people who absolutely love that show, but I was never really a fan.  The cast and stories were good, for the most part, but I think the weakest link in the show was Hal Linden himself, which can be a problem when you're talking about the star of the series.  Never really cared for Linden as an actor, and in Barney Miller I thought he played the role too broadly at times, as if he were still on the stage rather than in the intimacy of television, but since I'm likely in the minority on this I'm probably wrong (except to me).  It finally got to the point where I couldn't really appreciate the program because of his presence.  The other characters were great, especially the late Steve Landesberg as Dietrich, and I'd probably accept the viewpoints of many former policemen that Barney Miller was the most realistic cop show on TV.  As for who should have played the sane voice in a squad room full of loonies, I don't know.  Any ideas?

12 comments:

  1. Is that Nina's name written at the bottom of Hal Linden's hair? I only remember Hal Linden from Animals Animals Animals which was played in Australia from time to time as an after-school series - probably to give Skippy re-runs a rest! My friend and I (being very mature 8-9 year olds) couldn't stand the female singer they used to have and we'd turn off anytime she appeared. We probably thought her warblings were better suited to our younger siblings not such "mature" viewers as us.

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    1. I believe that is indeed it! A very clever (and talented) artist.

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  2. Ah, I LOVED it when TV Guide would use illustrated covers! That set them apart, made them more unique compared to other magazines at the time. So, of course sometime (in the 1980's I think) they eventually phased out the use of illustrated covers for that of photos. usual dull, head shot photos. (kind of like how movie posters have gone from a unique look to just head shots of actors).

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    1. Yes! No question that the covers from that era are superior to those today. Put it in the category of, say, The New Yorker, a comparison which TV Guide was not averse to cultivating.

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  3. Not much I can add this week ...

    You might recall that a few weeks I mentioned Peter S. Fischer, whose recent entry into book writing includes a memoir, Me And Murder She Wrote.
    Among Fischer's other series was Blacke's Magic, the series Hal Linden did after Barney Miller.
    Much of what Fischer writes about actors he's written for consists of expansive praise, particularly for Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach, Peter Falk, Harry Morgan (from Blacke's), and a number of others.
    Hal Linden doesn't come off quite as well.
    No spoilers - get Fischer's book (Grove Point Press, or get it from Amazon) and read it for yourself. Very much worth your time.

    For Television.AU:
    That girl singer on Animals Animals Animals that you disliked so much was Lynn Kellogg, who was semi-famous at that time as the only member of the original cast of Hair who didn't participate in the famous all-nude scene on stage.
    The Animals show is about her latest listed credit that I know of; she'd be about my age now (mid-60s), so she probably just aged out of her career (it happens).

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Mike. Does sound very interesting - I'll have to look for it at Half Price as well.

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  4. Just cannot imagine how many times at 7 AM in the morning that you could imagine Abblasen six days of the week. Until the turn of the century, the "CBS News Morning" opening sequence stayed the same, and its use for all six days was reflected in the opening animation. Don't think Charles Osgood or Wynton Marsalis, both associated with the show today, could imagine that now. Since the turn of the century, the opening has been changed twice, to eliminate that relic in favour of its present sequence (though that was changed in 2009 after the show's change to high definition), and the Abblasen recording is no longer the Baroque style, but has been held by former NBC late night musicians Doc Severinsen and Wynton Marsalis, long after they had been let go.

    In Charleston, the CBS affiliate (WCSC) is in that "loyal affiliation" group. The NBC and ABC affiliates were swapped in 1996 as part of a corporate move in the 1994 Realignment.

    But the Cheatham Compromise was needed because of a threat in our home market (Columbia) after the CBS affiliate (WLTX) after management made moves preparing the station to leave the network for United Paramount Network, initially picking up a secondary affiliation to air Star Trek: Voyager and other UPN programming, primarily on weekends when no programming was on CBS, though they had to move it around because of college basketball and secondary national divisions in NASCAR (the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series was part of CBS heavily on weekends from 1996 until 1998, though Talladega's Cup date in 1997 was included when it moved to October). Had CBS not gained the AFC deal in 1998, WLTX probably would have left for UPN, which bought the Eye in 2000 eventually. Had WLTX defected for UPN full-time, CBS would legally be shut out and not have been available in the market. Mayor Martin Cheatham was angry after the cable company dropped the Charleston ABC and CBS affiliates, which were more popular than the Columbia ones; the ABC affiliate would carry ABC programming and not be pre-empted for ACC basketball during the season (in fact, Dale Earnhardt Snr's 75th Cup win was not broadcast locally because of ACC basketball until less than 100 laps remained).

    Once CBS regained the NFL, that still mattered; WCSC, not being within the 120km radius while WLTX was inside the radius, was free to air a national game, while WLTX has severe broadcast restrictions (the NFL restricts broadcasts in secondary markets and stations that penetrate within 120km of a stadium). And loyalty was a bigger effect, as two of WCSC's personalities are now immortalised in the current facility. Many Charleston medical facilities are located on Charlie Hall Blvd, named for the personality who was the first to appear in 1953, and died in 1997 following surgery while he was still employed by the station. As WCSC was in the process of moving to the West Ashley area, the station was able to have the primary road to the station renamed for Hall. The studio was named for newsman Bill Sharpe last year to celebrate 40 years, and he is still doing the Noon, 4, and 5 PM news -- the 5 PM broadcast is 90 minutes. The fact that WLTX had walking papers still affects generations today.

    Of course it was far different. The 1980 USGP was the last to come from Watkins Glen. The National 500 on two-week tape was far different because earlier that year, the World 600 did not air to its conclusion because of network rules similar to Prime Time Access that forced CBS off air before the race came to its conclusion -- where the two-time incumbent champion was dethroned in a furious last lap -- it would be 25 more years before a driver won three in a row.

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    1. Good background, Bobby. And a pity about Watkins Glen, isn't it? That was a wonderful place for the USGP - not that I'm complaining about COA, which is not that far away from us!

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  5. I seem to recall that WCCO did carry the 60 minute "Morning" program during the years Charles Kuralt was hosting. I believe it aired from 7:00 - 8:00 AM and then "Donahue" followed at 8:00 with "Hour Magazine" at 9:00. When CBS once again panicked over the lagging ratings of the weekday version of "Morning", they replaced Charles Kuralt, brought in Bill Kurtis, retitled the program as "The CBS Morning News" and expanded it to 2 hours. WCCO carried that version from 6:00 - 8:00 AM when it was being fed live to the eastern time zone affiliates. For a period of about 2 months during the spring of 1982, the CBS program rose up to 2nd place as NBC's TODAY program was going through some troubles with it's new team of Jane Pauley, Bryant Gumbel & Chris Wallace which premiered in January of 1982. Wallace was eventually dumped from the program and went on to work various assignments within NBC News, including as host of "Meet the Press".

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    1. Yes, they did - I believe 'CCO aired the live East Coast feed at least some of the time (in this TV Guide at least), which put it on at 6am - an hour earlier than most of the other affiliates in the Central time zone. That gave them an hour for their local news and Alice (which they preempted for Hour Magazine before Donahue came on.

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    2. Yeah, I remember watching "Alice" at 7:00 AM before heading off to the bus stop for school. Do you recall the 2nd half hour taken up by a 30 minute syndicated talk show, hosted by Charlie Rose? I think this would've been sometime in the late 70's to early 80's, before the Kurtis/Sawyer newscast?

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    3. Yes, I just saw that Charlie Rose show somewhere in some issue, and I can't remember where. But yes, as I recall it was in the general timeframe that you mentioned. I'll update this if I can find out more.

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And now for something completely different.