September 12, 2020

This week in TV Guide: September 10, 1977

I don't know when the last time was that we looked at a Fall Preview edition. (It certainly would have been at least a year ago, for obvious reasons.) I don't have that many of them considering all the issues I've done here, probably because they tend to be more expensive than the normal weekly issue. But this one only cost a buck, and so here we are with a week full of premieres, specials, awards shows, and all other kinds of folderol.

Let's start with a look at the new shows, many of which premiere this week. It's probably a good thing to mention them here, because in the intervening 43 years some of then have barely been mentioned since. For instance, Monday gives us Lucan, the wolf boy played by Kevin Brophy, which airs only 11 times, although to be fair it was irregularly scheduled over a 16-month period. It shares a timespot on ABC with The San Pedro Beach Bums; they only manage ten episodes, even serving as lead-in for Monday Night Football. They're joined in failure by CBS's Young Dan'l Boone; even Rick Moses can't lead that show to the promised land opposite NBC's powerhouse Little House on the Prairie, lasting a mere four episodes. Don't worry, Dan'l; things get better when you grow up to be Fess Parker. The Betty White Show features a memorable lead in a memorable parody of an existing series (a police show called "Undercover Woman") but lasts only 14 weeks. And don't forget Rafferty, with Patrick McGoohan as a no-nonsense doctor who practices on CBS for 13 weeks. That's only one night out of seven; can there be much hope for the rest of the week?

Tuesday gives us a pair of dramas, The Fitzpatricks on CBS and Mulligan's Stew on NBC, the former runs for 13 episodes, the latter for only six. Rod Taylor stars in NBC's The Oregon Trail, which airs only six of its 13; that's followed by Big Hawaii with Cliff Potts, which manages to see nine of its 13 make it to the screen. Tony Roberts and Squire Fridell team up as laywers Rosetti and Ryan, but they can't appeal their six-episode cancellation with NBC. Redd Foxx ditched Sanford and Son in favor of an ABC variety show that doesn't last more than a month; meanwhile, at the retooled Sanford Arms, only half of its eight episodes see the light of day. Logan's Run, based on the sci-fi classic, runs out of steam after 14 Friday nights on CBS. And Saturday's responsible for We've Got Each Other, which is a nice thought, but what they really need is an audience, which they don't got, departing the mortal coils of CBS after 13 weeks. Lisa Hartman's Bewitched sequel Tabitha, like Lucan an irregularly-scheduled series, makes it through 11 episodes. The CBS sitcom On Our Own sounds as if it should be an abject failure, but to its great credit it survives the entire season.

After all that, you'd probably be justified in wondering whether this season produces any success stories, but let me assure you there are indeed. While We've Got Each Other might not have been a success, a glamorous, romantic cruise ship called The Love Boat  certainly was, running nine seasons plus a few specials, and those wacky highway patrolmen Jon and Ponch at CHiPs had a very successful six seasons. Soap, which debuts on Tuesday nights opposite CBS's One Day at a Time, runs for four heralded seasons; Carter Country, named after the new president, takes advantage of small-town Georgia for two seasons; Operation Petticoat, which at least has Jamie Lee Curtis for its inaugural season, also makes it to season two. And while The Man From Atlantis followed up four successful telefilms with a mere 13-week run, it's still fondly remembered by many sci-fi fans.

And then there's one of the best-remembered of the new series, which is also one of the most spectacular failures of the year. Why anyone at NBC would think that The Richard Pryor Show was a good idea is beyond me. Don't misunderstand; Pryor was one of the hottest comics around back then (no pun intended) and I always enjoyed him, but while five or ten minutes of Pryor on the Sullivan or Carson shows was hilarious, someone had to be on a bad trip to think you could give the edgy comedian an hour-long show and not run into 1977-type censorship controversies. The show started with an emasculation joke that I thought was kind of funny, but it's kind of hard to build a show around what you can't do. Today, things would be different; I suspect a Pryor show would be a big hit, especially on one of the cable networks. I don't blame Pryor for this; did NBC know what they were getting themselves into?

Courtesy of RwTd09's YouTube channel, here's a video review of all 22 shows of the new season, which should prove I'm not making these up.

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Specials dominate the week's programming, starting with Saturday's Miss America Pageant (9:00 p.m. CT), broadcast on CBS for the first time since 1965. Phyllis George, Miss America 1971 and co-host of CBS's The NFL Today (fancy that!) joins Bert Parks in crowning Miss Ohio, Susan Perkins, as Miss America 1978. NBC, the spurned suitor of the pageant, counters with a Saturday Night at the Movies presentation of Dirty Harry, much more my style.

Sunday—well, Sunday seems to be nothing but specials, starting at 6:00 p.m. on WTCN with the final episode of Nixon: For the Record, the former president's series of interviews with David Frost. In this conversation, the two discuss the infamous 18½ gap in the White House tapes, Nixon's relationship with cabinet officers including Henry Kissinger and John Mitchell, the historic trip to China, and Nixon's last day in office. On the other hand, if you prefer fantasy to fact, then you'll want to follow this up with the dramatic conclusion of Washington: Behind Closed Doors (8:00 p.m., ABC), based on the best-seller by former Nixon henchman John Erlichman, starring Jason Robards as Richard Monchton as Richard Nixon, and co-starring every Hollywood actor looking for work, including Cliff Robertson, Stefanie Powers, Robert Vaughn, John Houseman, Barry Nelson, Andy Griffith, Harold Gould, and more. As I recall, Behind Closed Doors was ABC's first major miniseries after Roots, at a time when the miniseries was premium television, an invitation to print money. It aired, a la Roots, for six consecutive nights, but it sorely lacked the acclaim of the former.

To see the culmination of that acclaim, tune to NBC at the same time for the Emmy Awards, hosted by Robert Blake and Angie Dickinson. The Emmys were originally scheduled to air on May 15, in their traditional end-of-the-TV-season slot, but were delayed for four months due to an internecine dispute between the New York and Hollywood branches of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The show has continued in September ever since, but to me it makes a lot more sense to be shown when it did. Anyway, Roots comes to the show with an unprecedented 37 nominations, including all the nominees in the convoluted "Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series" category, and most of the nominees in the other miniseries categories. It wins six, including "Outstanding Limited Series." Again, if you're not interested in either political soap operas or awards shows, you might check out The Duke in Cahill, U.S. Marshal on CBS. And if the Emmys aren't enough for you, the third (and final) Rock Music Awards air on Thursday (8:00 p.m., ABC), with Peter Frampton and Cher doing the hosting duties.

Of course, what would a week of specials be like without the always-popular "making-of" documentary? In the days before DVDs and their extra features, these would pop up from time to time on the networks, especially when they had to do with movies that wouldn't be on TV for awhile. Hey, gotta find some way to capitalize on them, right? On Sunday at 8:00 p.m., CBS goes in-depth with a look at The Making of "The Deep" and the challenges of underwater filming. On Friday at 7:00 p.m., it's ABC's turn, witgh The Making of "Star Wars," "as told by C3PO and R2D2." It promises "incredible secrets," and who am I to argue with that? In case you're curious, and I was (either that, or I'm just trying to fill up the page), neither of these movies, when they finally made it to TV, were shown on the networks that broadcast these specials. The Deep eventually aired on ABC (with additional footage), and Star Wars was shown on CBS, after having made the run of cable and pay-TV.

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We've got two of them on tap here, and Sports are big in this week's prime time scene as well. The NFL has yet to expand to 16 games, so their season doesn't kick off until next week; ABC fills the Monday Night Football gap with a season-opening clash between UCLA and Houston, live from the Astrodome (8:00 p.m.). It's a grim start to a grim season for UCLA; they lose this game 17-13, and wind up having to forfeit their seven victories after the season due to having used ineligible players. Tuesday and Wednesday, we have an unprecedented six hours of boxing, starting Tuesday on CBS (7:00 p.m.), with "Night of the Champions," headlined by Carlos Palomino defending his WBC Welterweight title, Danny Lopez defending his WBC Featherweight title, and the fifth professional fight for future heavyweight champion Michael Spinks. The next night at the same time, NBC counters with "A Night With the Heavyweights," featuring six of the world's top-10 heavyweights, including Ken Norton (#1), Jimmy Young (#2), Ron Lyle (#3), future champion Larry Holmes (#6), Howard Smith (#8, not to be confused with the newsman) and Lorenzo Zanon (#10). Even in the glory days of televised boxing, back in the 1950s and early 1960s, there were never back-to-back nights like this. (In case you're wondering, ABC isn't left out; Alfredo Escalera defends his WBC Junior-Lightweight crown on Wide World of Sports Saturday at 1:00 p.m. As I said, quite a week.)

A couple of other events round out the sports week; Notre Dame takes on the defending national champion Pitt Panthers in the season debut of ABC's college football (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.). The Fighting Irish win 19-9, on the way to winning the national championship themselves. The U.S. Open tennis championships finish up in New York, with the woman's final (won by Chris Evert) on Saturday (11:00 a.m., CBS), and Guillermo Vilas upsetting Jimmy Connors in the men's final (Sunday, 11:00 a.m., same network). It's not only the end of this year's tournament, it's the end of an era: after this year, the Open moves from Forest Hills to a monstrosity of a stadium in Flushing Meadow. The Minnesota Twins are along for the ride, with a trio of games against the Chicago White Sox that nobody cares about.

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I don't want you to think that everything this week is a special, but there are some returning shows with season premieres that you might think special. For instance, Happy Days (Tuesday, 7:00 p.m., ABC) expands to an hour as Fonzie heads to Hollywood, with the rest of the gang in tow; Cheryl Ladd makes her debut as the newest of Charlie's Angels (Wednesday, 8:00 p.m., ABC); Fish disappears on his retirement day at Barney Miller (Thursday, 8:00 p.m., ABC); and Wonder Woman expands to 90 minutes to celebrate its move to a contemporary timeframe and a new network (CBS, Friday, 7:00 p.m.). On The Rockford Files fourth-season opener (Friday, 8:00 p.m., NBC), James Garner's old Maverick buddy, Jack Kelly, joins in the fun when Rockford becomes the victim of identity theft. That's followed by Quincy at 9:00 p.m., and as the ad says, "The doctor is never at a loss for clues. . . or clients." And that's one of the problems I always had with Quincy: a coroner's clients are all dead. He's not a private detective!

We may not have the "NBC Week" of the old days, but the Saturday morning kids' lineup debuts on all three networks, and let's see what we've got. There are still a few old favorites around, like The Pink Panther, Superfriends, Archie, Scooby Doo and a new version of Mr. Magoo, but it's not the Saturday morning I remember growing up to.

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Finally, TV Guide's publisher, Walter H. Annenberg, has an article with a provocative title that seems particularly apropos for our times. It's called "The Cult of Vulnerability Endagers the United States," and it's about the need to recognize the dangers that America faces from abroad, but there are a couple of sentences that really seem to leap out. The "cult of vulnerability," according to Annenberg, looks to reduce defense spending and "sap our political strength to further their muddled ideas of social progress." Annenberg describes it as "a cult that has low regard for American traditions, that invariably criticizes our Government and our economic system," and that their attitudes are "broadcast by radio and television, printed by newspapers and magazines, believed by all too many citizens who are willing to let others think for them." Annenberg quotes historian Henry Steele Commager (who's written for TV Guide in the past) that "It is surprising we should be skeptical of a society that achieved a larger degree of political and social democracy, constitutional order, effective limits on the pretensions of government, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, civil liberties, popular education and material well-being than any other on the globe."

To this, Annenberg says, "We can, while honoring our traditions and taking pride in our Nation's achievements, still recognize our failings and strive to correct them in an intelligent, responsible manner. We can, if we look to the past to give us confidence in the future, eliminate the inequalities that remain in our society and pursue solutions to the other problems that face us." Annenberg doesn't deny that problems exist, but that the solution is to reform things, not replace them. And in the face of threats from foreign powers, he wonders why we don't hear more about them on the network news. "Can they be too busy blaiming blackout looting on flaws in our society, or condemning the CIA for errors long since corrected?" Annenberg concludes with an ominous caution. "The cult, the manner of thinking that finds nothing right about our society and nothing wrong about helping unfriendly countries gain real or potential power over us is strongest in the area where it can do the most harm—in broadcast and print journalism." I won't trot out that old line about how the more things change, but as the pages of TV Guide frequently remind us time and again, we seem to face the same problems over and over, without ever learning. Rita Mae Brown called that the definition of insanity. Perhaps it's just business as usual. TV  


  1. I wouldn't mind finding some old episodes of San Pedro Beach Bums someday.

  2. I really liked the series Rafferty at the time and watched it every week. I was a big fan of Patrick McGoohan.

  3. This has to do with Washington: Behind Closed Doors, and an Incredible Coincidence that calls itself to mind:

    As circumstance would have it, W:BCD was recently released on a legal DVD by the good folks at Acorn.

    Today (Saturday) I took it down from The Olde DVD Wall and gave it a preview (it's six feature-length TV-movies; I'll have to plan out the full viewing slate).
    As we all should know, W:BCD is based on John Ehrlichman's roman a clef about his old gang at the Nixon White House, with names changed to turn it into a game show.
    When ABC bought it and turned it into a miniseries, they gave it to two writers, David Rintels and Eric Bercovici, who took Ehrlichman's disenchantment with Nixon and ramped it up to the n+1th degree - but that's another story ...
    What I'd forgotten in the 43 years since its original airing was one particular bit of casting:
    "Elmer Morse", the J. Edgar Hoover cognate here, was played by Thayer David.
    Also in 1977, Mr. David had starred in ABC and Paramount TV's Nero Wolfe pilot film - you know, the one based on The Doorbell Rang, in which Hoover and the FBI figure prominently (if not favorably).
    The Wolfe pilot and W:BCD had to have been in production in close proximity to each other, something that ABC had to be mildly aware of at the time.
    I was aware of the Wolfe pilot (I read about it in TV Guide's Teletype), and was really looking forward to it; seeing Thayer David playing J. Edgar (sort of) in that same time frame ... well, it only made me want to see the pilot more - and made the disappearance, and posthumous reappearance in '79, all the more frustrating for me.
    Ah well ... now both the Wolfe pilot and Washington: Behind Closed Doors reside in The Wall, to be reviewed at my leisure - So There Too!

    More later, maybe ...

  4. "Lucan," "Logan's Run" and "Tabitha" all received DVD releases, so there was a belief that some people would still be interested in them!

  5. That episode of Happy Days where the Fonz and the Cunninghams goes to Hollywood would be very notable. The actual reason for the cast going to California was that a talent scout looking for the next James Dean set up the Fonz for a screen test, only for the studio wanting to sign Richie up as the All-American apple pie type. However, that is not what was notable.

    The notable part of this 3 episode arc is one of the subplots. This deals with the Fonz being dared to water ski over an area inhabited by a shark. As you guessed it these were the "Jump the Shark" episodes in which Fonzie jumped over the shark with the actual jumping concluding the following week.

    For a show to "jump the shark" means that the show's quality starts to go downhill by subjecting the series to gimmicks and events that make a show become irrelevant to audiences. Many people have said that these episodes of Happy Days were the episodes that signaled a deterioration of quality. I kind of disagree. I always thought the show went downhill once Ron Howard (Richie) left for directing in 1980(season 7) Still others say that the show had gone downhill once Paramount started to film before a live audience (originally Happy Days used a single camera format the first and the bulk of its second season before converting to a multi-camera/ laugh track format. Regardless, the show was on the air for another 7 seasons.

    Also of note, these episodes shoe the beginnings of one Chachi Arcola (Scott Baio) as first a recurring, then later, an established character of the show, for what it's worth.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!